Arshad Omari, Department of Library and Information Science, Edith Cowan
University, Bradford St, Mt Lawley 6050, Australia. Phone +619 370 6459
Fax: +619 370 2910 Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgHome Page:
Arshad Omari [HREF 2]Keywords: WorldWideWeb, Multimedia, Tertiary
Education, Instructional Design, Teaching, Learning
The World Wide Web is a popular and useful instructional medium for a number
of reasons. It is easily accessible, it supports flexible storage and display
options, it provides a simple yet powerful publishing format and a means
to incorporate multiple media elements. Interestingly, instructional effectiveness
is not a proven characteristic for World Wide Web courseware and in many
instances delivery via the WWW can impede rather than enhance learning when
compared to conventional publishing forms. The purpose of this paper is
to consider design aspects that can help to improve the instructional effectiveness
of teaching and learning through the WWW.
Learning through the WWW
The hypermedia format used by the WWW has received wide acclaim and its
potential as a learning tool is derived from the nature of the learning
that it supports. It facilitates student-centred approaches creating a motivating
and active learning environment (Becker & Dwyer, 1994). It supports and
encourages browsing and exploration, learner behaviours that are frequently
associated with higher-order learning (Thuring, Mannemann & Haake, 1995).
The nature of information organisation in hypermedia appears to closely
mimic human memory, and retrieval methods closely resemble human thought
processes. Hypermedia facilitates a very natural and efficient form for
information retrieval (Dimitroff & Wolfram, 1995). These and other advantages
offered by the medium have created considerable enthusiasm among learning
theorists and teachers, towards the WWW and hypermedia as a learning tool.
But as with all instructional technologies, potential and reality are frequently
Hypermedia materials themselves do not teach but provide a medium that with
appropriate use can support learning (eg. Eklund,
1995 [HREF 3] ; Alexander,
1995 [HREF 4]). Learning is achieved through a process of constructing
knowledge. When a learner is confronted with new knowledge, the learner's
intentions, previous experiences, and metacognitive strategies are all essential
elements in determining what becomes of the knowledge (Reeves, 1993). The
effectiveness in any learning environment is based upon the types and levels
of cognitive and metacognitive activity engendered in the learners. It is
now widely accepted that learning is enhanced by active environments in
which students have cause to be engaged in processing personally relevant
content and to be reflective during the learning process (Jonassen, 1994).
How this can be achieved through the WWW is the focus of this paper.
Factors influencing the effectiveness of the WWW as an instructional
Learning is a process that is influenced by, and results from, the interaction
of three areas of influence: agent, activity, and world (Lave & Wenger,
1991) Other writers, for example, Brofenbrenner (1979) provides similar
descriptions for these influences such as person, process and context approach
(as cited in Ceci & Ruiz, 1993). In terms of the instructional design for
interactive multimedia programs, we have found a framework of three mutually
constitutive elements: the learner, the implementation and the interactive
multimedia program to be useful in describing the roles and responsibilities
within the learning process. The three elements correspond to the role of
the teacher, learner and the materials themselves, in the instructional
setting. When this framework is applied to the design of WWW multimedia
materials, key factors and strategies for each of the elements can be identified
(Figure 1). While the factors for learner and implementation are quite consistent
with other interactive media, within the WWW materials there are a number
of important and unique attributes that can be considered.
Figure 1: Consitutive elements of effective WWW learning environments
Designing WWW Documents
Print-based instructional materials have served well in the past in support
of student-centred independent learning. In recent times, the move to computer-based
learning environments has been taken to improve the perceived interactivity
of the materials. There are unique advantages among print and computer-based
materials and the WWW appears to provide a means to make the most of the
opportunities afforded by each. Some critical considerations in designing
electronic instructional and informational materials include organisation,
orientation, navigation, presentation and interactivity.
A problem facing the WWW designer is choice of the strategy that should
be employed to organise the material. While hypermedia describes a particular
type of learning environment, there are several forms of exposition that
assume this title (Gillingham, 1993). The different forms of hypermedia
can be described through a continuum describing the nature of the linking
involved. At one end of the continuum, the links are minimal and simply
act to connect nodes in a specified sequence. This form of hypermedia closely
resembles conventional text and is referred to as linear. In its use, the
learner is encouraged and in most cases compelled to follow an instructional
sequence planned by the instructor. In hypermedia environments, there is
potential to create materials with varying degrees of linearity. Further
along the continuum, the links tend to form a hierarchical structure, giving
learners more freedom in the choice of path through the materials. At the
extreme, hypermedia can provide a totally unstructured learning environment
with multiple links between associated nodes. In this environment, learners
are free to move between associated nodes through referential links and
very little structure is imposed and in evidence.
The choice of information organisation for WWW materials depends on the
nature of the intended learning outcomes. Jonassen, Mayes & McAleese (1993)
provide a useful guide for selecting the form of hypermedia most suited
to the nature of intended learning outcomes by suggesting instructional
strategies against knowledge acquisition aims (Figure 2). When the instructional
forms of the different forms of hypermedia are matched against the continuum
describing instructional strategies, it is evident that when the materials
seek to develop students' initial knowledge, for example, facts, procedures
and rules of discourse, linear linking is an appropriate hypermedia form.
For this type of learning, it is appropriate to create materials with a
strong structure that present information in a planned and considered fashion.
In using these materials, learners are required to follow an instructional
sequence set by the teacher. For higher levels of knowledge, for example,
developing an understanding of concepts and principles, the less structured
hierarchical and referential linking are more appropriate. In such instances,
students are guided by such factors as their prior knowledge and readiness
to assimilate new material. When building on an existing knowledge base,
learners can benefit from the freedom to browse and explore, to inquire
and seek responses to their own questions rather than following a pre-determined
path of instruction.
Figure 2:A continuum of knowledge acquisition and facilitative
One of the major problems reported with the use of hypermedia as an instructional
form when compared to print materials, is the orientation of the learner
within the learning environment. Orientation describes the means by which
users are able to identify their current position in the system, how they
achieved that position and how to return to a previous position. Disorientation
is a problem which is frequently observed in studies of hypermedia users
and a problem which significantly limits instructional outcomes (eg. Gay
& Mazur, 1989; Collis, 1991). Electronic learning materials can easily conceal
much of the information they contain and it is important in the design process
to provide the learner with a means to orient and move freely within the
A number of strategies are available to the WWW developer to aid orientation
within learning materials. These include:
Placement cues In linear sequences, the use of bars or graphs
are commonly used to indicate the distance and placement of the learner
in the instructional sequence. These bars are created as graphical elements
and are interspersed within the text to provide visual cues. An example
of visual cues to aid orientation can be found in WWW documents where information
layers are provided for navigation purposes, for example, documents from
Courses [HREF 5] .
Hierarchies and Indices These structures provide access to
the information nodes within a system together with an overall structure
for the learner that is reinforced as nodes are selected and viewed. The
use of frames and targetable windows provide a means for materials to continually
display these structures as content is selected and accessed. A number of
tutorial guides on the WWW provide good exanmples of this feature, for example
Semantic Nets Learning can be enhanced when connections and
associations between related information are recognised and made specific.
The use of image maps as tools by which information nodes can be accessed
and selected provide a linking structure and reinforce associations and
connections between the contained information as well supporting learner
orientation. The CNN
Newsroom [HREF 7] uses a concept map as alternative means to seek links.
It is important when designing for the WWW to employ standard and intuitive
ways to move between nodes. Conventional instructional materials require
few operational skills on the part of the learner while WWW materials employ
many functions and features that can distract learner from the task at hand.
It is important in designing materials to minimise the negative impact of
poor interface design. When learners are compelled to think and consider
how an interface operates when undertaking a learning task, their attention
is split and the mental effort required to attend to information from multiple
sources lessens that which can be applied to the actual learning task (Chandler
& Sweller, 1991). At the same time, if learners are not comfortable with
the system, its instructional advantages can be lost (Gray & Sasha, 1989).
There are a number of guidelines suggested by authors which can act to minimise
the amount of mental and cognitive activity associated with controlling
the interface. Brooks (1993) suggests a need for simplicity and consistency
in design. When screens change, the only things that change should be the
information to which the learner is being directed. Buttons and controlling
features should remain in the same place and should be intuitive rather
than clever in their design. Typographic clues, colour changes and unnecessary
graphics all have the potential to distract and should be used sparingly.
In terms of text display, distinct guidelines exist to guide hypermedia
development (eg. Hartley, 1987; Wynn & Herrington, 1995).
Critical aspects in WWW content presentation are the text structure and
its readability. Coherence in text is assisted by the use of a well-defined
structure and appropriate cues (van Dijk & Kintsch, 1983). Readers find
coherent and well-structured text easier to read than that which is ill-structured
(Gillingham, 1993). Structured text provides information in a sequential
fashion with elements such as overviews, and a consistent format to which
subsequent text can be added. The following paragraphs describe some useful
strategies that can be used in developing hypermedia that lead to well structured,
coherent and readable texts.
Text Structure Text structure can be aided by the use of cues
and overviews (Thuring, Mannemann & Haake, 1995). The use of indices and
tables showing the structure and relationship between nodes is a useful
strategy for this (Dee-Lucas & Larkin, 1995). Many systems use nets to demonstrate
the structure and organisation of information and to aid learners in gaining
a sense of global structure.
Readability The readability of a document is a measure of the
ease with which a reader is able to comprehend what is being read. There
are a number of ways to increase readability of the printed text At the
surface level, difficult terms can be linked to nodes that provide further
explanation and description, for example, clicking on a word to find its
meaning. As an aid to increasing understanding of deeper meaning structures,
literal and inferential questions can be placed with paragraph summaries
to help the learners to reflect and consider what has been read. While these
forms of cues can also be provided in some ways with conventional materials,
they can form a natural part of a hypermedia system readily available to
those students who seek to employ them while providing no distraction to
those who do not need them (Higgins & Boone, 1990).
FragmentationA number of studies have revealed that fragmentation
of information and learning material occurs when it is presented as discrete
elements. Fragmentation results in a lack of associative and interpretative
contexts and can create a document that appears to the user as a series
of discrete rather than coherent information elements. There are several
ways to overcome the possibility of learners perceiving fragmentation in
a hypermedia system. Most links in hypermedia serve two purposes: to show
a relationship exists between two nodes and to provide a path between them.
Horney (1993) suggests there should be some distinction made in these two
tasks. When links show the form of association they represent as well as
providing the means to traverse, navigation is enhanced as an associative
context for linked nodes. New nodes can be shown in concert with their predecessors
thus establishing a coherence and semantic relationship enabling a common
mental representation by the learner (Thuring, Mannemann and Haake, 1995).
Paraphrases and summaries also enhance learning by helping to reduce the
fragmentation caused by the division of the content into hypertext nodes
(Blohm, 1982). The Contents
Page from the Third Interactive Multimedia Sympsium [HREF 8] demonstrates
how fragmentation can be controlled by appropriate indexing methods.
The term, interactivity, describes the forms of communication that a medium
supports enabling dialogue between the learner and the instructor (Jonassen,
1988) and is an important attribute of technology-supported educational
environments. With computer-based learning environments, communication between
instructor and students are constrained by the technology. The intelligence
of the technology is used in place of the instructor and exchanges are made
between the learner and the programmed instructional system. The interactions
in electronic learning environments are able to enhance learning through
the feedback they provide and the context and purpose they are able to encourage
Most writers agree that clicking on paths and navigating through a WWW instructional
sequence is not representative of interactivity. Until recently, interactivity
has been difficult to achieve with WWW documents with most attempts making
creative use of limited opportunities. Some strategies that have been used
successfully to create the essence of interactivity in WWW learning materials
include the provision of model answers and e-mail communications. More recently,
other forms of interactivity have come to be supported by WWW documents.
The use of Common Gateway Interface (CGI) scripts at the server enables
designers to create forms within documents by which learners can enter responses
and receive programmed feedback. This feature has been used widely in the
creation of multiple choice and short answer tests which can be automatically
marked and has the capacity to support record-keeping for more advanced
New developments in client-side processing applications have led to enhanced
interactive capabilities for the WWW . The advantage of client-side processing
is that learners can receive immediate feedback to interactions. For example,
the Java application supports many forms of interactivity and the continual
release of plug-ins such as Shockwave (for Director) now support quite sophisticated
processing of learner actions and responses. Our own home page the
infob@Rn [HREF 9] demonstrates use of Shockwave as a navigation aid.
Designing Learner Roles
There are many ways in which the role of the learner can be varied within
an instructional setting to influence and enhance learning outcomes. Critical
dimensions drawn from our previous work with situated learning in multimedia
environments appear to have direct relevance in this area (eg. Herrington
& Oliver, 1996; Herrington & Oliver, 1995). The following list describes
student behaviours that can be considered and planned in the process of
designing the WWW materials.
A majority of contemporary computer-based learning reflect the belief that
the interactions will, and should be, made by a single user. However research
studies (eg. Del Marie Rysavy & Sales, 1991) have shown that there are clear
educational advantages to be derived from collaborative activities among
students. The implications of this for WWW materials are that interactions
and activities that engage higher-order thinking and critical reflection
need to be included and opportunities presented to enable group and team
work. The communications component of the WWW provides unique opportunities
to enable forms of communicative and collaborative activities among networked
Computer-based learning programs frequently subdivide skills into small
sections which are then taught systematically in a logical order. This often
results in the processes requiring little thought as the students can deduce
the answers correctly from the preceding section without a real understanding
of the subject. Students know information must be relevant because it is
in the same section. There is no need for reflection. More effective environments
require students to reflect upon a much broader base of knowledge to solve
their problem. The simple fact of being adjacent to a particular topic would
be no guarantee that the information is relevant to the problem. In order
to solve the problem or complete the task, the student would be required
to reflect upon the whole resource by predicting, hypothesising, and experimenting
to produce a solution. The increased use of hierarchical and referential
links and associations in documents reduces the linearity of the instructional
pathway. Activities that encourage reflection and metacognition through
increased levels of learner control can assist students to focus more attention
onto their own thought processes (Collins & Brown, 1988).
Most computer-based learning programs are designed to be used quietly with
the learner selecting, pointing and clicking in silence. Being able to speak
the vocabulary and tell the stories of a culture of practice is fundamental
to learning (Lave and Wenger, 1991) and yet the use of many WWW documents
allows the knowledge to remain tacit. More effective learning environments
ensure that the resources are used within a social context with students
working in groups, discussing the issues, reporting back, presenting findings,
interviewing and debating the issues to ensure that students have the opportunity
to articulate, negotiate and defend their knowledge. The use of e-mail and
other communicative activities supported by the WWW provide opportunities
for articulation enabling tacit knowledge to be made explicit (Bransford,
et al., 1990; Collins, 1988; Collins, et al., 1989).
Planning Implementation strategies
The third constitutive element of an effective WWW learning environment
is the role of the teacher and the procedures by which the learning materials
are implemented. Our previous work with situated learning environments in
interactive multimedia suggests the following strategies as powerful adjuncts
to enhancing teaching and learning with the WWW:
Coaching and scaffolding
Coaching describes the action of the teacher in providing guidance and help
in a learning setting while scaffolding represents the support provided
in the form of skills, strategies and links that the students are unable
to provide to complete the task. Enhanced achievement is obtained when the
strong support is provided initially (the scaffolding) and then gradually
removed as the student becomes able to stand alone (Collins, et al., 1989;
Griffin, 1995; Harley, 1993; Collins, 1988; Young, 1993). Many designers
of WWW instructional materials attempt to create documents that are self-contained
resources that include everything the student needs to learn a particular
topic. However, there are many individual learner characteristics that cannot
be accommodated in a single WWW document.
There have been some attempts to create intelligent systems for the WWW,
for example, adaptive hypermedia (
Eklund, 1995 [HREF 3], but currently this role is still best performed
by the teacher. The teacher's role in coaching, observing students, offering
hints and reminders, providing feedback, scaffolding and fading, modeling,
and so on, are powerful enhancements to any learning situation. The implication
for the instructional design of WWW materials is that the teacher's coaching
role needs to be acknowledged and addressed, with suggestions and strategies
planned and taken for implementation with students. Much of this planning
is independent of the actual development of the WWW materials
Measures and assessments of achievement and outcomes from instructional
settings play an important part in the teaching and learning process. Frequently
with computer-based learning, assessment measures bear little semblance
to the environment in which the learning has taken place. Young (1993) suggests
that 'assessment can no longer be viewed as an add-on to an instructional
design or simply as separate stages in a linear process of pre-test, instruction,
posttest; rather assessment must become an integrated, ongoing, and seamless
part of the learning environment' (p. 48). The implications of this for
instructional design are that some thought should be given to designing
assessment which is concerned with the process as well as the product of
involvement with the learning program.
The enhanced interactive capabilities of the WWW provides the means for
assessment of student learning to extend beyond conventional essays and
examinations. McLellan (1993) points out that more reliable assessments
can take the form of evaluation measures such as portfolios, summary statistics
of learners' paths through instructional materials, diagnosis, and reflection
and self-assessment. Much of this can be achieved and supported through
appropriate design of WWW documents and learning materials.
Summary and Conclusions
There are many factors which influence the learning that will be achieved
from the use of computer-based learning materials such as CD-ROM based multimedia
and materials designed for the WWW. Currently most attention in the design
of WWW learning materials, and multimedia, seems to be in the planning and
development of the materials themselves. While this is an important activity,
it must be accompanied by consideration of two other factors in the learning
process, the learners themselves and how the materials will be implemented.
The purpose of this paper has been to demonstrate that the learning achieved
through use of the WWW depends not only on the quality of the learning materials
but also on the ways they are used by the learners and are implemented by
the instructor. We cannot judge potential learning by the consideration
of any of these factors in isolation. The best WWW materials can be completely
ineffective when used in the wrong contexts and with inappropriate implementation.
Potentially poor materials from a design perspective can be greatly enhanced
through clever and innovative use.
At Edith Cowan University, we are employed in a number of WWW courseware
delivery projects. In the development stages of our WWW instructional materials,
we try to consider not only the content to be delivered but also appropriate
learner activities and support and implementation strategies. We are building
on the experience gained through many years of CD-ROM based multimedia development.
We believe that in the future most multimedia used in higher education will
be delivered through networks and platforms such as the WWW and that research
and development in this area is very important. We hope next year to be
able to present some papers describing in detail WWW materials designed
and delivered using the principles discussed in this paper.
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http://liswww.fste.ac.cowan.edu.au/Staff/ron.htm/ - Ron Oliver's Home
http://liswww.fste.ac.cowan.edu.au/Staff/arshad.htm/ - Arshad Omari's
- Eklund, J. (1995). Cognitive models for structuring hypermedia and implications
for learning from the World Wide Web. In R. Debreceny & A. Ellis (Ed.),
Ausweb95: Innovation and Diversity, (pp. 111-117). Ballina, New South Wales:
http://www.scu.edu.au/ausweb95/papers/education2/alexander/ - Alexander,
S. (1995). Teaching and learning on the World Wide Web. In R. Debreceny
& A. Ellis (Eds.), Ausweb95: Innovation and Diversity, (pp. 93-99). Ballina,
New South Wales: Norsearch Limited.