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Computer Delivery of Educational Material

by Ron Kurtus (revised 26 February 2001)

There is an educational movement toward e-learning or online learning. This can be done as a supplement to a standard class, or it can be a stand-alone form of education.

There are various methods to deliver education to learners. One of the most exciting method uses computers as the delivery media. It is important to be familiar with the different ways that instruction can be delivered over computers, as well as to know how to prepare your material for that delivery.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.



Types of computer delivery

The delivery of instructional material and information through a computer has two major goals. One is that it can either replace a textbook using online documentation. The other goal is to replace or supplement the instructor using computer-based training (CBT), web-based training (WBT), or Intranet-based training. A third form—online help—is a combination of the two.

Online documentation

Textbook or written class material can be replaced by online documentation, available on disk or downloaded from the Internet. A distinct advantage of delivering educational material this way is reduced costs. Textbooks can be very expensive.

Many commercial software manufacturers have replaced written documentation with an online version. The most common program for distributing online documentation is Adobe Acrobat. Online documents can look just like the hardcopy document, but they can also include hyperlinks and jumps.

A major disadvantage of providing class material this way is the difficulty in reading extensive material off the computer monitor.

Computer-based training

The delivery of education  material in the form of a CBT can replace classroom instruction. A CBT is often used when workers must be trained in distance locations or when students want to learn at home. It requires the learner to have access to a computer with a CD-ROM player.

Web-based training

WBT is providing training over the World Wide Web. It has the advantage of keeping the material completely up-to-date. On the other hand, it is not as reliable nor does it allow for the multimedia features that a CD-ROM CBT allows.

Intranet-based training

Using a school intranet for training has the advantage over WBT because of the increased bandwidth, speed, and reliability. It approaches the possible sophistication of CBT. It has the same disadvantages as a standard CBT.

Online help

Most commercial software applications have a form of online help. Some of it is very good, including online tutorials and excellent explanations. Online help can also be used as a form of computer-based training as well as to supplement standard documentation or textbooks.

Preparation considerations

In preparing material for delivery through a computer, the teacher, developer or instructional designer must realize that the student will be reading material off a computer monitor, as opposed to a textbook. Also, audio and video material is limited due to bandwidth and storage capabilities. On the other hand, graphics, illustrations and animations can be used more effectively than in other media.

Although online documentation is often a direct copy of a textbook, in developing a CBT or WBT sentences and paragraphs in their written material must be shorter than in a text book. But yet they should not be as casual as in the spoken word. Lessons are usually shorter than in a classroom setting, because the lower attention span of a learner on the computer.

CBT and WBT can be used in conjunction with a textbook or online documentation.

Summary

Delivery of instruction over a computer is an exciting new method. Care must be taken in developing the instructional material to take into account usability factors of viewing on a monitor.


Use good tools to help students learn 


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