Friday 16 April
Accommodating learner needs: the guiding principle behind designing e-learning materials
Ruth Trinder (Vienna University of Economics & Business Administration, Austria)
- Track: Computer SIG.
- Style: Talk.
- Focus: experienced and inexperienced audience; adult teaching.
Report by Geoff Taylor, Computer SIG Committee member
Ruth presented a set of educational Web-based materials called Online English Mentor () that she had designed/developed for her employer. These materials were developed as supplementary e-learning resources for students of business English in a tertiary educational context. The pedagogical rationale for the design of the materials was hammered out during her PhD studies into e-learning.
Ruth was project Coordinator. She had two content developers and two programmers, as well as three other contributors. It took a year to develop the materials for first year students, nine months to develop for the materials for the second year.
Ruth demonstrated the overall design of the materials, and a range of study and practice facilities, including interactive exercises. She showed how the design had been improved for the second year material, primarily using the criteria of user feedback.
The material is in use by students at the university. The question was, how much use did it get? It seems that there was a marked increase in use by learners of the second year material. The reasons for this were mainly extrinsic to the design and content of the e-learning materials.
Ruth summarised learners' perceptions of e-learning:
- choice of time, place, pace
- individualised instruction
- immediate feedback
- testing of knowledge
- computer-based (some learners are not keen)
- physical complaints (eyestrain, headaches)
- no oral interaction
- Internet connection problems
The closer the correlation between online and class materials, the more use online materials are likely to get.
Ruth drew the short straw with regard to timing, this talk occupying the penultimate slot of the last day of the conference. Only half a dozen people attended, including two Computer SIG Committee members.
This was a pity, as:
- the e-learning materials on which the talk focussed were clearly well-designed and effective
- the talk was well-prepared and succinctly delivered
- despite lack of a live Internet connection, the guided tour of the material was effectively delivered using local files on the speaker's laptop