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Online day software design

Intellipro, the developer of the Online Day materials, had already applied their web-based course management system to college courses in disciplines such as finance, math and science. The Online Day course in psychology was Intellipro’s first venture into developing course materials in the humanities or social sciences. This is an important consideration for several reasons in thinking about how digital materials are best presented for teaching in the different disciplines. First, the examples given for the instructors to learn how to set up a course were all from science and math courses. Because social science instructors usually have less computer expertise than their counterparts in math and science, cogent examples are important to understanding how the software works. The psychology instructors would have been better served with more instructions and cues within the interface to guide them through the process of setting up their courses.

Instructor module not intuitive

Several instructors commented that the course management software was not intuitive. Ken noted that the students did not seem to have any trouble navigating the program. However, he experienced some minor problems using the menu when he was setting up the course. “From the instructor’s perspective, the menu was hard to follow. In fact, I had to consult with tech support quite often to figure out exactly how I could get to what I needed when I was setting up the syllabus.”

In the same vein, Nancy found setting up the course bewildering. “I actually looked at it, and then gave up pretty quickly when it wasn’t extremely intuitive. I’m not a computer person, so if it’s not ‘push this button to do this,’ I’m lost.” Nancy talked about running into difficulty early in the process of setting up the course:

I think I even had trouble figuring out if I had registered for the course. It was telling me I needed to register again. It’s like, I thought I did that. It seemed to me in my ideal world it would have had, kind of like Blackboard does, “This is your course. Click on this. These are the little icons that you can use for the course. This is the discussion board, this is the, you know, the course documents, push here to upload.”

Nancy was already familiar with Blackboard, and expected other course management software to operate in a similar way. When she realized how different it was to set up the Online Day website for her class and how time-consuming it would be to learn, she confided, “There’s that crunch of all the things that you’re doing in addition to your teaching, and so I just didn’t take the time.”

Learning with words or numbers?

An underlying difference between social science courses and math or hard science courses is that the subject matter is based on thoughts and ideas expressed in words rather than numbers. An example of the problem of fit for the website with humanities and social science courses was the built-in test bank and automatic grading component.

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Source:  OpenStax, Faculty use of courseware to teach counseling theories. OpenStax CNX. Oct 14, 2009 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11130/1.1
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