Mini Project 1

Maria Roges
Keith Feiring
Peter Ferioli
 

July 4, 2002

Selecting Software for online course delivery:


Our group focus is identifying and selecting software packages used for online course delivery. These packages provide the online learning interface, and are critical to the success of an E-Learning web site.  We chose software packages as our issue because it is relevant to all of us. Keith is a teacher, Maria is interested in technical training, and Peter is interested on the impact of new federal education initiatives on E-Learning software selection. Knowledge of available software packages may be immediately applicable to all our jobs. We are all in the position of potentially being asked to recommend ways of setting up, improving, or working in the distance-learning environment.

In developing this presentation our group’s common issues centered around online communication.  We had issues with timing our communications across time zones, collaborating, meeting deadlines, refining our topic, and agreeing to what the assignment specifications were.  Using too many sources to communicate; multiple e-mails and discussion board threads, made communicating chaotic at times. One thing we learned is the importance of setting up adequate rules for working and communicating together


 

Presentation of our Findings
 

E-Learning web sites share basic “components.” These “components are supported by  software-based “elements.”   Over the last ten years an industry has developed that provides all of these “components and elements” in a package:  Online Course Management Software , or OCMs. A web-search for OCMs retrieves a site listing 56 reviewed OCMs and another 56 that are pending review![i]  We classify OCMs into two varieties: Turnkey Software Packages and Multiuse software that has been customized. We list some of their common software features, and provide links to web sites that review multiple products and their features.

 

Some common software requirements of E-Learning sites are listed in Table 1 as Basic Components. In addition we have listed the Software elements that support the Basic Components. The information presented in the Table was compiled referencing the Blackboard Instructor Manual, observing  various e-Learning software, using our personal E-Learning experiences, and from available web information about our issues.  Table 1 presents our findings,

 

 

Table 1 Basic Components of E-Learning Web Sites and Supporting Software Components
 

"Basic components" of an e-Learning web site

Announcements

Communication

Course Information

Assignments

Course Documents

Staff Information

 

Software elements that support the "Basic components"

The basic web shell

Site navigation component

Secure login with passwords

Help & technical support access

Ability to send & receive e-mail

Ability to read & post messages to discussion boards

Upload to, store and share files on a server

Create forms to store and retrieve data

Ability to create web pages for many purposes, such as; display assignments & tasks, for student homepages, for student roster and other uses

Welcome & Announcement pages

Calendar

User directory & address book

Create & view Group Pages

Instant Messaging

Chat

Virtual Classroom

Testing or assessment application

Grade complier application

Web broadcast

 

 

The OCMs that we explored fell into two categories; Complete turnkey packages, and Multiuse software customized to create a distance-learning web site. The features of each, along with examples, are given in Table 2, below. 


Table 2 Basic Categories of OCMs

 

Turnkey Software Package - High End

A main characteristic of a High End Turnkey Software Package is that it is set up on a campus wide basis by the IT department and Administration. Central control of this type of package is in the hands of the IT department and Administration. It represents a sizable commitment to cost, training and usage as a delivery vehicle of distance learning

 

Upsides of choosing an OCM for a course developer include that little or no programming knowledge is required, as most include menu-driven application interfaces for creating course features. The component email, bulletin board, delivery, and other subsystems of a single OCM will integrate well with each other.  Most popular OCMs also automate many administrative/tracking tasks.

 

Downsides include the limitation of tasks to menu constraints, which means that implementing additional functionality requires using other programs that may not integrate well with the OCM.  Initial costs may be very high, and an institution will become dependent on the vendor keeping up with advances in technology, and new standards. 

 

Examples of High end turnkey packages include Blackboard 5.0 , and Web CT
To see comparative reviews of  high end turnkey packages click the link below:

http://www.edutech.ch/edutech/tools/grid_e.asp[ii]

Turnkey Software Package - Low End

A  low-end turnkey package shares many of the high-end package characteristics. However, it is meant for a different audience. In this following illustration it is meant to be implemented by a single classroom teacher working with her students.  IT and Administration are not needed with this package. The following link is takes you to such a software package along with information about schools that use it.
My School On Line. COM  http://myschoolonline.com

Multiuse software customized to create a distance learning web site

Microsoft FrontPage is powerful web site creation software that falls into the Multiuse software category. It can function in many forms. One form is in creating a distance-learning web site. The following paragraph and link takes you to a FrontPage distance-learning web site.

CERRO COSO COMMUNITY COLLEGE
Cerro Coso has used Microsoft FrontPage to create and manage content and Microsoft Windows NT® Server and Internet Information Server (IIS) to provide the infrastructure for its distance learning program.  In just a year and a half, Cerro Coso Community College has expanded from 17 online courses with 800 enrollments, to 50 online courses with 2,400 enrollments and 12 online degrees. More at:
http://www.microsoft.com/education/?ID=fpCcerrocc
 

Also called authoring tools, these software packages are the tools that function as filters creating the languages HTML, DHTML, JavaScript, and Java, which make up Web environment in general.

Some other examples include Macromedia’s DreamWeaver, ColdFusion and Homesite.

 

In less than one year, a three-person development team produced five academic programs, totaling 1000 hours of coursework, using Macromedia Dreamweaver, Generator, and Flash.

Royal Roads University
http://www.royalroads.ca/

 

 

References

 

[i] http://www.c2t2.ca/landonline/

Bruce Landon, Online Educational Delivery Applications: A Web Tool for Comparative Analysis, Centre for Curriculum, Transfer and Technology, Mount Allison University, Canada, July 2002 update

[ii] http://www.edutech.ch/edutech/tools/grid_e.asp, Edutech, Distance Learning and Higher Education, Center for New Technologies and Teaching, University of Fribourg, Switzerland, February, 2002