This course is scheduled to be designed in the summer and taught and evaluated in Fall 2006.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Research and Content Development

I have concentrated most of my week in reading the next few chapters of the Baehr book.

I had already considered the following information:

Baehr argues that a web site must be designed for the needs to the user:
1. pages must be able to stand alone
I have decided to put all information about certain content on one page. The left navigation will be repeated so that users can move to different pages in the particular unit from any page. The top navigation will allow them to move to any particular unit from any page.

2. content flexible and readable across broad user habits, browsers and system settings
The content text will be easily printable and accessible on any computer.

3. pages read in non-sequential order
Pages will be able to be read in any order and the student will be able to navigate to any page within the unit. Links which take the user to external sites will be opened in new windows so that the student will always have the course page available.

4. content must be chunked
I will keep this in mind as I write content for my students. I have also designed the site so that the content does not extend from one side of the screen to another. I know that I dislike sites which have text covering the whole width of the screen because it is easy to lose track of the line. I consider myself a pretty proficient reader and if I have problems reading lines that are that long, I'm sure others have the same problem. I have included the center column for the content information. It will cover about half of the screen so that users do not have to read from one side of the screen to the other.

5. chunks liked via "associative relationship"
As I work on the content pages and activities refer to previews units, I will add navigation links to take the student to the particular page. Because I want to keep the units separate, I will provide students to a way to return to their original page by having the link open in a new window.

6. provide meaningful labels
I will provide meaningful labels that students are likely to have heard used in other classes. I will also provide a video overview of the website to orient the students who may be unfamiliar with specific terminology and its function. I will repeat the labels at the top of the pages so that navigation will be clearer.

7. multimedia and audio allow user to visualize concept and interact with content
The multimedia components that I will be adding to the page should fulfill this requirement.

Users dislike:
1. excessive scrolling
Because students do not like scrolling, for longer pages I will provide links to content chunks within one page. I need to go back and add the return to top link so that students don't have to scroll up when they are finished with a particular chunk.

2. longer chunks of text
As I write the content, I need to be especially careful about the size of the chunks. All literature recommends 5-7 chunks per section.

These are the principles that I considered when designing the course shell:

Principle: Discernment of Depth
Baehr argues that elements on the screen become visual elements which tell the user how the site is organized and thus provide contextual details. Once the user is familiar with the context, they will turn their attention to the content.

It was important to me to keep the context similar throught the site so that the user would not have to restrategize for each particular unit. I also wanted for all the global/overall unit information to be visible on the screen. What I think will be most important for them will be the supplemental media resources and the deadlines. What will be useful will be the information found on a specific page.

Principle: Fixation solves a problem
The user will seek elements which help solve a specific need
I think that the media resources will fulfill this. The search engine can also help.

Principle: Vision is selective
Users focus on examing specif chunks of text or graphics to determine what they mean and how they can be used

Because the context will be the same in all the units, the student will know from unit to unit what to expect from the site. He will also know what are of the page he must focus on to get the information he needs.

Principle: Shapes are concepts
Shapes provide meaning and suggest function to users and help them make decisions about navigation and strategies for filtering information.

Since shapes are concepts but I have to extra careful about images (WebCt already has them), I decided to use color to help for the shapes to help the students navigate. I have the blue navigation bar to the left will take students to other pages relevant to the unit and the orange navigation to the right will help them navigate within one page.

Principle: Complete the incomplete
User construct a meaningful whole picture of the site. Users "think visually, spatially about the meaning, location, and function of content to help act, read, and interpret content."
Because my navigation structure repeats througout the site, I think it will be relatively easy for students to get a whole picture of the site using the components I have provided.
Content Analysis
The content of the site will be organized by units. Each unit will have specific content.
Media resources will be the first component. Media will be either video or audio which will supplement the text information provided on the pages or will provide additional instruction.
Reading resources will provide students will links to reading materials and instructions for the units readings.
Grammar resources will be links and instructor produced resources to help students with grammar questions. I will be adding video tutorials in this section to target weaknesses which I see in several students.
Site map--I need to add a site map so that students can see a one page structure of the course with links to relevant pages. This will need to be updated as new material is added. The site map will part of the main template page.
Web search--I have a basic keyword search but haven't been able to make it work. I have to trouble shoot that. I also have to see how that work within WebCt.


Blogger Rich said...

Nice points, Janie, from Baehr's book.

- pages must stand alone

- content should be flexible

- pages should be read nonsequentially

- content should be chunked

- chunks should have a meaningful relationship (done typically with a navbar)

It's clear that your design is developed with these things in mind.

8:12 AM  
Blogger Rich said...

Janie--I reviewed your multimedia work at Nice work. I like that your reading there is slow, and you walk students through your course very well. The video is very clear. It's organized. It's paced well. Might point out toward the start of the first video you share that students can pause, rewind, watch again if something is unclear, etc.

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