A large number of instructional design decisions need to be made during the design and production of a Computer Assisted Learning (CAL) package. Some of these decisions may be explicit but others can be implicit and the designer should consider possible underlying assumptions to make the most informed decisions. This paper explores some of the instructional design principles which should be considered during the development stages.. the nature of the knowledge to be taught; the pedagogy which supports the instructional strategies and the learning strategies to be selected; the instructional sequencing; the experiential validity; the value of errors; aspects of motivation; the degree of structure and learner control; the accommodation of individual differences; and the development of cooperative learning. The project Producing Literacy Materials to Meet the English needs of Remote Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders and funded by the Department of Education, Employment and Training as part of the Australian Language and Literacy Policy is evaluated with hindsight, according to the principles outlined above.
This paper discusses and analyses the dimensions of interactive learning systems identified by Reeves (1992). In conclusion, a checklist of design questions relating to the DEET literacy project is developed which can be applied to future projects.
This project, part of the Australian Language and Literacy Policy, funded by DEET, focused on the production and trialling of interactive learning materials to teach literacy through the concentrated language encounter, underpinned by the concept of cultural relevance (Gotts 1992). Integrated curriculum materials, including computer assisted learning packages, video tapes and booklets were produced for five topics, in response to a needs analysis conducted at remote communities in northern Australia, including Bamaga and Mossman in north Queensland, Broome and Fitzroy Crossing in Western Australia, and Numbulwar, Yirrkala and Nhulunbuy in the Northern Territory.
In the development of the computer assisted learning materials for the DEET literacy project, there was a conscious decision by the team of course writers to build on existing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander learning processes, thereby embracing the constructivist end of the continuum. The main learning characteristics identified by Harris (1985) were observation and imitation, personal trial and error, real life performance, mastery of context specific skills, and orientation to persons.
In interacting with the materials, it was important that learning would be more a construction of knowledge rather than an absorption of knowledge; that knowledge would be more dependent on what the students already knew and would be used in situations that had real life meaning for them. Such situations had already been identified during the needs analysis, and included medical and health issues, legal contexts, finance and loans, social security and purchasing goods.
Consequently for each of the identified contexts, CAL packages were integrated with video tapes and printed books in an attempt to provide real life contexts for the literacy skills to be learnt. Learners would be able to observe and imitate the language on the videotape; the CAL packages would enable learning through personal trial and error, and the use of examples coupled with immediate feedback would encourage mastery of the skills; and the use of Aboriginal and Torres Strait actors and voice overs would help the learner orient to persons with whom they were comfortable.
For the courseware to be based upon these principles, there had to be more to the program than just clicking to continue and choosing a number of textual alternatives. In the package Dealing With Social Security, the students are presented with interactions which check their knowledge of the common terms used on forms such as "next of kin", "marital status", etc. The next segment then presents a blank Social Security form where they have to enter their own personal details - information which can then be printed out and kept as a useful reference which clearly matches the terms against the correct information required.
During the trialling of the materials however, this more open ended approach did not work so successfully in the Language and Law package where students were presented with a video clip of a policeman. The policeman asks questions (Are you Sam Paulio?) and makes statements (You're under arrest; get in the back of the van). The students are asked "What would you do?" (in this situation). This proved too difficult to answer, perhaps too hypothetical, and there was confusion while some ignored the whole idea, and continued on with the next segment. Consequently, during the rewriting following trialling, this was altered to include an Aboriginal voice imitating the appropriate answer.
The choice of voice was carefully considered but there was some dissension of opinion among course writers whether to use a Standard Australian speaking voice as a model, or whether to use a culturally familiar Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander voice. It was observed during trialling that the use of Torres Strait Islander voice overs had a great impact on the Torres Strait target audience, giving the message value and relevance. However, in the Language and Law package, an alternative of Aboriginal English translation was included during the questioning and courtroom scenes, but participants avoided this and during rewriting the option was eliminated.
A strategy which supports the use of voice throughout the packages is the experimentation with QuickTime video clips. The videotape previously set the context; video segments were then taken from the five contexts and integrated with the computer packages so that students had an opportunity to interact with the individual parts which made up the whole. These interactions included matching written words to the spoken word, selecting the appropriate answer to the question asked, demonstrating comprehension of the video segment by answering a series of questions with yes/no and true/false answers, and sorting a selection of video segments into the correct sequence.
During trialling, it seemed that the key motivator for students was the high level of interactivity of the packages - interactivity that required them to use problem solving techniques. The package Language and Healthy Foods was found to be too easy and boring for many of the students as interactions mainly asked them to click and drag items into a space, or click on textual features for more information. In contrast the crossword puzzles contained in Language and the Law proved to be very popular with some higher level students only wanting to attempt just the crossword section.
The scaffolding and coaching are represented on CAL by the use of Help and Hint buttons which allow the students access to further teaching points before initial or second attempts are made to answer the questions. Further support is given via the Glossary buttons to look up unfamiliar words, the Go Back button which allow the student to review a section again, and a Replay button which enables the student to hear a voice repeated.
Courseware developed for the literacy program is based upon the principles that knowledge learned in a context of use is much more likely to be used in that context and others of a similar nature. Consequently Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. in the videotape, are shown interacting successfully in the specified contexts, modelling the literacy skills of speaking, listening, reading, writing and critical thinking. During the trialling many participants became very excited at recognising the actors from the video, on the computer screen.
They had followed "Sam" through his arrest, questioning, release on bail and appearance at court (Language and the Law) and now felt part of his world as they interacted with the package, solving problems and learning language in context. Furthermore, the situated learning presented in this package enables the learner to apply his knowledge to similar contexts. For example, during the watch house segment, "Sam" is released on bail. However, several options such as detained in custody, remanded to appear in court, etc, were also explained, enabling the learner to explore the option which nay have red meaning to him, in a similar situation.
During the development of the literacy materials some attempts were made to include examples which allowed students to make incorrect responses. In the package Dealing with Social Security, the students me shown a variety of scenarios, using QuickTime which result from a student's choice of response, with no judgement being made. However, true learning from experience, where choices are treated as an "error" from which valuable lessons can be learned, have not been explored. Observations made during the trialling process have prompted the team of RATEP to further explore the value of errors in learning, and ways in which this can be incorporated into future packages.
One particularly appropriate comment was that it provided a "good example for them young people" when it came to know how to get a loan. Many Islander families buy cars and boats and do so with the assistance of loans through institutions such as banks. This means that the choice of area upon which to focus the package, and the skills highlighted in that area, is of real relevance when seeking to provide support for an indigenous group as they struggle with "kole man's ways" (Gotts, 1992).
Earlier CAL material developed by RATEP displayed a high level of structure, with quite tightly prescribed pathways demanding that the student work through the package in a particular sequence, with little opportunity to choose a starting point of their own. For example, Topic 1 had to be completed before Topic 2 could be accessed, and in some packages there was no way to jump out of a lock step sequence, once the student was in the program. The navigation system designed for the literacy project is refined from earlier systems and offers students a range of options within the package. Students are able to. select which sections of a topic they wish to investigate; exit the chosen section at any time; replay the last voice over; go back to the previous screen; print out any screen at any time; replay the video clip, and look up unfamiliar words in a glossary.
However, having made a choice and chosen a particular section, the students are then expected to work through and complete that section. This is a deliberate choice made by the designers, as the adoption of complete free choice may, as Reeves (1992) explains, end up with students becoming confused or losing track of what is going on. The title of the section currently in use forms a clear heading at the top of the screen to further reduce the feeling, of being "lost in hyperspace".
During trialling of the packages with the target audience - adult Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders from remote areas with little or no computer experience; participants were able to very quickly use the menus and buttons to focus on the sections with the most relevance to them, and in a short time were able to move around the package with ease and confidence. However experiments with navigation since the completion of the project have shown that a greater degree of flexibility is possible.
There is now the option, in newly developed packages for students to identify their progress within a section, and to move backwards and forwards throughout the material quickly and in smaller "chunks". In hindsight this would have proven a great motivator to the target group for the literacy project, particularly in the package Language and the Law, in which many participants wanted to access the crossword only, but were unable to do so without going through a whole section, beforehand.
For a group of teenage boys in Arnhem Land (Northern Territory), the package on Language and the Law motivated them enough to find out what happens when boys end up in the watch house. Although this group had very little English and had never used a mouse before they doggedly worked through the materials, using context clues to understand the language and enthusiasm for the new and exciting medium to complete the package. In contrast, a group of women with high literacy skills and familiarity with computers worked much more quickly and easily through the same package, deriving most of the challenge from tackling the crossword section.
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|Do the students get a chance to construct their own knowledge?|||__|__|__|__|__||
|Do the students have a chance to choose their own goals?|||__|__|__|__|__||
|Are the students able to think about and use their own experience?|||__|__|__|__|__||
|Do the students engage in problem solving?|||__|__|__|__|__||
|Do the students have opportunities to learn through trial and error?|||__|__|__|__|__||
|Are there opportunities for the students to observe and imitate language?|||__|__|__|__|__||
|Is feedback given that encourages mastery of skills?|||__|__|__|__|__||
|Is knowledge presented in a context of use?|||__|__|__|__|__||
|Is risk taking encouraged?|||__|__|__|__|__||
|Is the material culturally appropriate?|||__|__|__|__|__||
|Does the navigation system encourage learner control?|||__|__|__|__|__||
|Is the amount of interaction high to maintain interest and motivation?|||__|__|__|__|__||
|Has the material meaning for the learner?|||__|__|__|__|__||
|Does the material move from the familiar to the unfamiliar?|||__|__|__|__|__||
|Is the learner able to make decisions about which sections to study and which paths to follow?|||__|__|__|__|__||
|Does the material encourage cooperative learning?|||__|__|__|__|__||
|Do the interactions enable the students to learn from their errors?|||__|__|__|__|__||
|Is accommodation made for individual differences?|||__|__|__|__|__||
|Is the navigation flexible enough for students, so that they can move freely back and forth?|||__|__|__|__|__||
|Authors: Leanne Kruger and Alison Gotts|
Cairns College of TAFE, PMB 1, Cairns, Qld 4870
Tel: 070 507 584 Fax: 070 312 972
Please cite as: Kruger, L. and Gotts, A. (1994). Instructional design principles for CAL: Asking the right questions. In C. McBeath and R. Atkinson (Eds), Proceedings of the Second International Interactive Multimedia Symposium, 254-259. Perth, Western Australia, 23-28 January. Promaco Conventions. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/iims/1994/km/kruger.html