In September of 1988, the Newfoundland
and Labrador Department of Education implemented a program of distance
education for rural high school students. The main purpose of this initiative
was to provide access for students in small schools to secondary level
courses that were important for post-secondary admission but were difficult
to offer in rural schools due to low levels of student enrolment. Over the
next decade, this program would grow from the initial Advanced Mathematics
1201 course to include eleven different courses with almost 900 rural
students (Brown, Sheppard, and Stevens, 2000).
period would also see advances in information and communications
technologies, with various distance education programs in Newfoundland and Labrador
keeping pace with the introduction of asynchronous and synchronous web-based
distance education. These web-based programs led to the recommendations of
the Ministerial Panel, which called for the creation of a new virtual high
school for the province (Sparkes and
Williams, 2000, p. 65). In 2001-02 the Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation (CDLI) began its
implementation year with ten courses being piloted in the ten school
districts. The courses themselves were primarily text-based with some images.
Only a select few of the courses contained any multimedia or audio
components. After the pilot phase the CDLI began to expand its course
offerings, where at present it offers twenty-seven different courses, with
another eleven courses currently in development.
In this qualitative interview study, I considered
the characteristics of effective web-based design for secondary school
students within the CLDI based upon the perceptions of teachers and course
developers. The data collection process involved one 30-60 minute telephone
interview with each individual from May 2004 to September 2005. To secure
research participants, I e-mailed twenty-four e-teachers (eight of which were
also developers) and four course developers (four others were not contacted;
three having retired from teaching and the fourth=s e-mail address is unknown). Five of these
individuals agreed to participate: three course developers and two
individuals who were both course developers and e-teachers.
John was one
of the original developers and was perceived as one of the stronger course
developers until accepting a new job with the understanding he would not seek
to be seconded by the CDLI.
Norman, one of four original developers who went on to be an e-teacher, has
also developed sections of two other courses and is teaching a second
web-based course. Bill, about to begin his
thirtieth year of teaching this September, is another of the initial
developers with the organization for the past three years as an e-teacher.
Cliff spent twenty-nine years in the classroom before retiring, during
which time he also spent about a decade on the provincial Government=s curriculum committee creating the course outcomes
for new curriculum, textbook, and course materials selection for his subject
area. He is in the process of designing his first course for the CDLI. Also
developing his first course, Sam is a principal of a small, rural school,
where he has taught in almost every subject area at every grade level, even
though he is trained as a Science teacher. Prior to becoming involved with
the CDLI, he had been active in distance education, both as a school-based
supervisor of distance education students and a teacher in the former
In addition, there was also an administrator with
the CDLI interviewed. George has been involved in distance education
in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador for the past decade and a half;
first as a distance education coordinator in a rural school, then as an
instructor and content developer, and later with a web-based program; making
him a natural choice to fill one of the administrative positions in the CDLI.
After having analyzed the data using the constant
comparative method, a form of inductive analysis (see Barbour 2005a;
Barbour2005b), I was open to alternative methods of data analysis that might
confirm, deny, or add to the insights that I had already gained. According to
the National Science Foundation, Aqualitative researchers tend to gravitate to the study of phenomena
that are undertheorized or outside of the scope of existing theory. This
attraction derives in part from a concern for the inadequacy of existing
theory, but also from a desire to advance new theories and an interest in
critically evaluating the tenets or assumptions of widely held explanations@ (Ragin, Nagel, and White, 2004, p. 11). However,
Kramp (2004) argues that Aas a qualitative
research method, narrative inquiry serves the researcher who wishes to
understand a phenomenon or an experience rather than to formulate a logical
or scientific explanation@ (p. 104).
Further in their own outline of the scientific foundations of
qualitative research, Ragin, Nagel, and White (2004) suggest that one of the
techniques that can be used to accomplish this advancement of new theories or
critical evaluation is narrative analysis because it Aoffers an important way to gain a more holistic view@ (p. 14). Supporting this belief, Cortazzi (2001) states
that narrative analysis is useful for Asystematic interpretations of others= interpretations of events@ (p. 384). Narrative analysis is also useful because
that the nature of an event or belief is not to be fund in the event or belief
itself, but in the relationship of the event or belief to a broader
interpretive framework@ (Ezzy, 2002, p.
95). As Shank (2002) suggests Astories are about meaning, and qualitative research is a systematic
empirical inquiry into meaning@ (p. 147).
In addition, Kramp (2004) suggests that Anarrative inquiry assumes >personal involvement= as the very condition that makes it possible for
you, as researcher, to gather and interpret narratives of participants in
your study@ (p. 114). This
is supported by Marshall and Rossman (1999), who suggest that narrative
analysis Arequires a great
deal of openness and trust between participant and researcher@ (p. 122). As a former teacher in Newfoundland and Labrador
and having been involved with the CDLI during that time, I knew and was known
by all but one of the participants. As such, I accepted these suggestions
that a narrative analysis of the interview transcripts may offer a more
complete or at least different view of the data.
Czarniawska (2002) suggests that there is no one way to conduct a narrative
analysis, so I selected the Labov model (see Labov, 1972, pp. 362-370) as a
way of organizing a series of narratives from the six interviews. The
following are excerpts of some of the narratives from each of these six
participants, outlined using the Labov model. In most instances, I have
selected stories that are representative of the types of stories that were
common among the participants.
The first story that I have selected comes from the
interview that I conducted with John.
Table 1 B Problem of keeping students= attention when using primarily text
Umm, thinking along the same framework, umm, things you=ve seen developed, reviewed, can you
give an example of, of what you think was something you have seen that=s a really ineffective lesson? Things
that if you could change you would?
Ineffective lessons, (pause B 1 second)
and I, I know that there is some there for me for 1204. Some
lessons that were ineffective were ones where students had to do
investigations and, umm, I pretty much said to them AWell, (pause B 1 second)
explained well in your book, so go, go to the book and do it.@
Interviewee: I don=t know how effective that would be, I
think you=re, you=re just telling the student that, ahh,
yah, the book is fine here, go to it. I don=t quite think that students got much out of those
lessons and I would assume for the most part, ahh, they were probably
skipped. Umm, (pause B 1 second)
umm, something else that I, I have found to be, ahh, (pause B 1 second)
ineffective, (pause B 2
seconds) umm, let me think, umm, I find a lot of the, like the, there does
tend to be a lot of, of text on these sites and this comes true in, umm,
in, (pause B 1 second)
definitely in the math where, where there is a lot of text needed,
but sometimes its too much and I find the science has a lot of text as
students just get bored with a lot of text. They need more interactivity.
They need something to keep their interest or else it=s just as well you did up textbooks and
sent them out, naw, it=s just as well
you took these things, printed them off, put them in a book, sent them out
and say AHere go
read them.@ Without
the interactivity, ahh, a text-based lesson is just, is just, there=s no advantage to having it on the web.
The only advantage is I suppose the cost of production. Ahh, you don=t have to print it and send it out
Interviewee: So, ahh,
sometimes, like the text just gets to, ahh, just too thick and, mmm, mmm,
more interactivity definitely needs to be built into it.
The issue of students= use and interest
in text-based material was a common theme in each of the interview
transcripts, as almost all six participants talked about the lack of
motivation provided by streams and streams of textbook-like content simply
being placed in a web format. This theme is clearly illustrated in the story
as it is told by John, where he describes the students getting bored with
only textual information and suggested that interactivity or anything that
can make it more than just a textbook on the web.
This theme of the perceived frustration that
students have when they encounter text as a part of their web-based content
is also illustrated in this story from Norman=s transcript.
Table 2 B Using visuals in place of text
Interviewer: Okay. (pause B 5
seconds) Alright. Umm, thinking about yourself as a, as a course developer.
developing a lesson, what are the things that are in the back of your mind,
in terms of I want to make sure that I have these things in (pause B 2
seconds) pretty much everything I design because I know that they=re useful to the students?
Interviewee: [O.C. The interviewee begins the response in a
definitive manner] Definitely, ah, visuals
Interviewee: umm, I think that, ah, by providing students a
visual cue with the written information it does provide a connection for
them, (pause B 1 second)
and, obviously those visual cues should be representative of the
text-based material. (pause B 1 second)
And, then, as I=m going
Interviewee: I=m not
trying to re-write a text, ah, rather what I=m trying to do is I=m trying to draw them, ahh, to
understand or to lead [O.C. The interviewee stresses the word Alead@] them to
an understanding of certain content, whether it be through real-life
examples, ah, or, er, maybe setting up a scenario whereby then they would
follow through with that scenario to, ah, to develop an understanding of a
Interviewee: Various things that can be down there, er, but
visuals are, are in my mind something very simplistic and something that is
very easy to incorporate, but yet, ah, it does provide a connection there
between the, the written text, and then of course the, the, that, that
visual. Also, video clips, anything that=s interactive, things that are, especially in
the two courses that I=m teaching
with the, ah, economics, (pause B 1 second) there=s got to be a lot of real-world
examples. So, I do provide a lot of external links, whereby students can
actually go out and actually see what=s
happening, ah, with regards to those specific contents whether it be
something in, in the marketplace, ah, whether it be through business
development, looking at case studies enter, of entrepreneurs, and what they
have gone through, ah, for example, challenges [O.C. The
interviewee stresses the word Achallenges@] (pause B 1 second)
is one of the concepts, ah, that is looked at with regards to
developing a business and what do entrepreneurs have to overcome in order
to be successful.
Interviewee: And by providing students with real-life
examples through video clips, through readings, ah, you know, and, and, and
connections to those things, ah, I find it very effective.
In this story, Norman
also identifies the students= lack of interest
in reading text online as a complication. In the evaluation portion of his story,
begins to describe a way to deal with this complication to make the web-based
content more useful to students. In addition, Norman also describes other strategies that
can be used by course developers to make the material more than just a
textbook on the web. He indicates that video clips and the use of external
links to expand the information available to a student from a single source.
This concept of providing insight into how the
web-based content could be designed in a way that would make it more
interesting for the students was something that four of the six participants
described in narratives. Table 3 provides one such example from John=s transcript.
Table 3 B Building in interactivity in place of text
Interviewer: Okay. Umm, think about the, the, the distance
education materials, you know the courses that, that you=ve created, that you=ve reviewed, that you=ve seen, can you describe what you
think is, is one example of something that you=ve seen that you think is a really good
example of something that would be really effective for the students?
Interviewee: Ahh, there was this one in the physics course
I saw where students were given, ahh, a Flash demo, and it had to do with, (pause
B 1 second)
I can=t remember
exactly the lesson, it had to do with force and momentum I do believe and
what they were talking about was crumple zones in cars and (pause B 1 second)
in the interactive demo they had two cars, and one was like a 1960 car,
which was made primarily of steel and other was a, a new car made primarily
of plastic and of course and as we all know, new cars have what we call
crumple zones on them.
Interviewee: So what happens is you, you, in this Flash
demo you end up crashing both cars (pause B 2
seconds) and of course the one without the crumple zone, the 1960 car, I
mean there is hardly any damage done to the car and in the new car, the one
with the crumple zone, the car almost demolished, even though both are sent
in at the same speed.
when you put a passenger in the car, the one that has no a crumple zone the
driver takes all of the force and he goes flying, where the one with the
crumple zone the force is, is, is deflected a lot into the car, so the
driver doesn=t get as
Interviewee: I remember watching and saying I, I could see,
you know, how students could really learn from this cause it was something
that was directly related to the curriculum, it was showing them exactly
how it works andY [O.C.
announce system begins to play in the background.] Hold on a
sec please Y [O.C. School=s public
announce system finishes playing.] And it was, you know, it was showing
them something that unless they, that would be very hard to demonstrate in
Interviewee: ahh, I, I=ve seen
similar things tried to be done with, ahh, oh I
remember, those, ahh, air cars, but it, it never
really worked quite as well. Very, very well done
In this narrative, John describes the use of a Flash demonstration
that was both interactive and something that would not be available to the
students outside of a simulated environment.
Sam provides another example of how to make the
asynchronous content more interesting to the students in one of his
Table 4 B Building in interactivity in place of text
Interviewer: Thinking about the stuff that you've developed
so far and for that matter the stuff that you've seen in the existing
course, um, think about one lesson that you can think of that would, or you
think is really effective with the students.
Interviewee: Ah, okay, pause, okay, and your questions is.
Interviewer: Describe it to me.
Interviewee: Okay describe it, well there=s one lesson I did which involved the
process of digestion, now again I'm surmising that it would be effective
but obviously there=s no
student has taken it as of yet. So, this is new material in fact this will
be the first time this course is available through CDLI.
Interviewee: So again, so it=s only my assumption that it will be effective,
I think it will be, but again with all teachers, when the students actually
take it I maybe wrong. I mean lord knows I=ve been wrong before and I'll be wrong in the
future but, the thing about this lesson in particular, what I've done with
this one is looking at the digestive system and the process of digestion
there is a QuickTime video in there that summarizes the whole process.
Interviewee: I think that=s very important, students can obtain a lot of
information from the video, obviously its much more interesting for a
student to see an interactive video which is moving with color flashing and
sound on the screen then it is reading about it, and I certainly believe
that the more interaction the student has the better it will be.
Interviewee: Ah, this lesson again like I said
incorporates that QuickTime video built in to it, there is a description of
digestion which is again the same process but explained slightly different
with a little different slant, ah and again I think that=s a big thing there, in fact I would
think that lesson itself will be, well done and well received. in terms of
the activity section, there is a couple of worksheets that I have built in
for them to download, print and work through, and again in going through
the test yourself question, again all this is done based on the assumption
that the students will actually do the material, I mean but that as you
know from teaching, you can't always guarantee that.
Interviewee: But I feel fairly confident that if a
student works through that lesson as intended it be done, they should come
away with a very strong understanding of that process.
In this narrative, Sam describes how he used a video to describe a specific
process to the student. This video provided an audio description, along with
accompanying images to further illustrate the process. The use of this video
was supplemented by traditional notes and student activities that the
students can elect to use in addition to or in place of the video. This use
of multiple ways to deliver the information provides students with choice as
to how they will access the information, with the hope that they will use as
much of it as they need in order to understand the process. Similar ideas
about using interactivity were also described in narratives from
Norman=s and George=s transcripts.
Another way to keep students= interested in the web-based content was outlined in
this narrative from Norman=s transcript.
Table 5 B Making the content personally
relevant to keep students= interest
Interviewee: To draw them in more, umm, (pause B 2
seconds) I=m of the
mind, I guess Mike, that, ahh, I don=t think
that everything needs to be flashy, [O.C. The interviewee
stresses the word Aflashy@] if the
student want to learn, if you provide the information, and you prov, you
provide it in a, in a fairly [O.C. The interviewee stresses the
word Afairly@] interesting
way, now I don=t mean all
text-based. (pause B 1 second)
But if you do provide it in a fairly interesting way and provide
some motivation, (pause B 2
seconds) then, ahh, you know, they=ll usually
take it upon themselves to, to move ahead with it.
Interviewer: Okay. Can you describe to me what you think
would be a fairly interesting way then? (pause B 2
seconds) Cause you said not sort of flashy, with all I guess the bells and
whistles, but you said not text-based.
(pause B 4
Interviewer: Can describe what it would look like? (As
interviewee says - For exampleY)
Interviewee: Yeah, sure. Like, if you=re looking at the development of, ahh,
okay, say in the biology for example, (pause B 2
seconds) talking about, ah, biomass and talking about food webs and, ahh,
things like that.
Interviewee: Sure, you can simply provide them and say AOkay, you know, this organism, ah, sits
at this level in the pyramid, ahh, you know this is where most of the
biomass is.@ and, you
know, you can show the structure itself.
Interviewee: Now, most
students can get that from a text (pause B 1 second)
and, ah, they see the images and so on there,
Interviewee: [O.C. The interviewee=s speech begins
to speed up, as if he is more excited or interested] but if you
can provide them with something a little more sustentative and relate to
where they are. (pause B 1 second)
So, if for example, ah, if it=s a
Newfound, a student in Newfoundland and Labrador, you would use organism
that would reside in the province themselves and provide that structure and
then with that structure you could also provide examples of, say the
amount. [O.C. The interviewee=s speech
returns to normal] So, if you=re looking at, ah, the actual biomass, at the
lower levels we know that of course, that you=ve going to have mostly your herbivores and
things like that, that are, that are, you know, basically eating up the
vegetation and these sorts of things. (pause B 2
seconds) As you move up the, the food chain, ahh, then you=re going to have, you know, your
tertiary, your higher order organisms that are going to be feeding on lower
order organisms, but the amount of the biomass obviously is going to be
decreasing as you go up the pyramid. So, what you could do is you could
simply just provide them with a visual showing that as you move up the
pyramid, the amount of, ahh, biomass that=s there is going to be decreasing as you go
through. So, it can be something as simple as that (pause B 2
seconds) and it would, you know, I guess, guess basically build upon, one
upon the other.
Interviewer: Okay. So, it=s not so much, (pause B 2
seconds) umm, how you present the content, it=s more the type of content you present, trying
to make things local to the student?
(pause B 2
Interviewee: Yeah, it, I, I think it=s, it=s a, a combination of a number of things. But
I, I think that trying to be too flashy, ahh, really may [O.C.
The interviewee=s speech
slows down in a deliberate manner] distract actually from the lesson
itself (pause B 1 second)
and students may miss the message by, (pause B 1 second)
you know, simply just because they want to look at this or hear
something, [O.C. The interviewee=s speech
returns to normal] ahh, or look at a particular video clip or,
you know, move something around, you know, as fast as they can to see a car
moving or, or, whatever.
Interviewee: Ahh, all those things are great, but I think
that there is certainly a balance there that should be, you know, looked
In addition to using various devices that are offered by the
technology to engage students, Norman
suggests in this narrative that by providing material that is familiar to the
students. A focus on content that is locally sensitive to the context of the
students= lives allows the
students to make individual connections to content that touches them, making
it personally relevant. By making the content personally relevant, it becomes
easier for the students to understand and incorporate that content.
Bill also relates a narrative of his own that
describes how in the course he designed he tried to provide the students with
opportunities to personal the material themselves.
Table 6 B Making the content personally relevant to keep
Interviewer: in dealing with the, the selection of topics,
you mention that the familiarity with the, the, the topic was important.
Umm, is that something that you, ah, ah, tried to include in, in, in your
Interviewer: That they would (pause B 1 second) know
things about, things that they would have personal connections to?
Interviewee: Yah, yah.
(pause B 1 second)
Interviewer: Okay. (pause B 1 second) UmmY
Interviewee: [O.C. Interjects quickly]
But, but you try and balance as well, you, you want students to get out of
themselves as well.
Interviewee: Like I said, but it=s the, ah, (pause B 1 second) ah, (pause
B 1 second) ah, (pause
B 1 second) you know,
students were looking a lot at their own lives, their own communities
Interviewee: And trying, a lot, a lot of it was the
process, a lot of the activities are a process of looking at themselves and
seeing that there are a lot of things in their own lives worthy of
Interviewee: And, ahh, (pause B 1 second) ah, yeah
so, so, (inaudible word or two) activities, ahh, are we asking
students to look at themselves (pause B 2
seconds) and discover what=s there,
so they have the, the topics in their own, their own experience.
Incidentally, ahh, ahh, you know, for a lot of students, it=s, some students find it a lot easier
to just be given a topic (pause B 2 seconds) and told
to that it, (laughs) they might curse the topic, but then, to have
to try and look at themselves, and, and, and find those topics, (pause B 1 second) that=s often very difficult.
Result and Coda
Interviewee: Anyway, that=s off, that=s a little tangent.
In this narrative, Bill describes a process that he includes in his
courses to have students looking inward. This process is designed to achieve
the same goals that the local content described in Norman=s narrative, that is to allow the students to make
the content personally relevant to them and give the a
better opportunity to remember that content.
Along a different theme, Cliff=s narrative discusses how he feels courses should be
designed for students based upon their ability levels.
Table 7 B Designing for the average and below average student
Interviewer: As you=re designing your, your, your courses
or your course sorry, as you=re
designing the lessons in there, what=s the one
thing in, that you=re keeping
in mind for your own course, that you=re trying
to put into every lesson?
Interviewee: Umm, (pause B 3
seconds) the idea that, umm, (pause B 2
seconds) umm, the students are still students (pause B 1 second) and, umm,
and we shouldn=t assume
that they=re all
Interviewee: Therefore, umm, using some of the
traditional ways of making sure that they are doing what they=re supposed to be doing
Interviewee: And it=s much better to shoot, I think, for the
average and below average student and, (pause B 1 second) umm,
having enrichment for the brighter ones, the self-motivated ones, but
making sure that the average, the below average student is
Interviewee: There=s a
structure in place that guarantees they=re doing their
The basic theme behind Cliff=s narrative is that the students of above average ability will find a way
to be successful in the course regardless of how it is designed. However,
students who are of average ability or below average ability tend not to
possess the skills that will allow them to achieve success in any situation.
Therefore it is important that course developers design their courses so that
these students will be able to succeed. In this narrative, Cliff was probably
the most direct when it came to the type of student that the web-based
content needed to be designed for, although this theme was also discussed by
John, Norman, and Sam.
Continuing the planning theme, a narrative from
George=s transcript also
describes an aspect of planning important for course developers to consider
when getting ready to design their courses.
Table 8 B Importance of planning in designing web-based
Interviewer: If you were, had to give a developer, new
developer that was coming online, just one piece of advice about designing
web-based lessons for high school students, what would it be?
Interviewee: Ah, Mike, you=ve just asked the easiest question I=ve ever had asked of me (interviewer
laughs) because I can give a definite answer on that. (pause B 3
seconds) It is this, [O.C. Interviewee speaks in a very deliberate
manner] do not attempt to write anything, do not attempt to construct
anything, until you have designed your project out from end to end, from
start to finishY
Interviewee: Don=t construct a single item until you have designed
your learning resource project out end to end, from start to finish. So you
have to now the entire scope and sequence of what you plan to do before you
do any portion of it. [O.C. Interviewee returns to normal speech
pattern] Ah, we found this time and time again, umm, (pause B 2
seconds) we=ve been
pushing this pretty, pretty much since the get go and, ah, we found (pause
seconds) every time, every project that we=ve done affirms this as being good guidance.
Interviewee: Look if you fail to do this, here=s what happens. The, the instructor, I=m sorry, the instructional designer,
er, or I should say this, the content developer wants nothing other than to
get in there and get on with it. (pause B 2
seconds) The problem is, is that for the web, if you get in there and get on
with it and make a misstep, you know, miss something important, undoing
that mistake usually means changes that peculate right through the web of
work that you=ve
constructed. So, undoing you=re
mistakes is horrendously [O.C. Interviewee stresses
the word Ahorrendously@] difficult.
thing is that when you take the time to lay your project out from start to
finish, the chances are you will confer with other people and that means
that you will add layers [O.C. Interviewee stresses
the word Alayers@] of, of
important content, layers of important, umm, (pause B 2
seconds) modifications [O.C. Interviewee stresses
the word Amodifications@] and alternatives
to your project that would not otherwise have been there if you did not
take the time. Now of course, last of all, from a time management
perspective it makes a hundred percent sense, (pause B 1 second)
you know, ah, before a project is started, ah, both me who=s job is it to manage these projects
and then the instructional designer who=s job it is to do it, (pause B 1 second)
know the ground rules.
Interviewee: So, I know
what to expect, (pause B 1 second)
the developer [O.C. Interviewee stresses
the word Adeveloper@] knows what
to expect. And Mike (pause B 1 second)
I could not emphasize that point too much and you can see my point.
In this narrative, George emphasizes the importance of planning prior to
the beginning of the development process. While planning was an indirect
theme that was common during the interviews from each of the five individuals
that had actually developed courses, the CDLI administrator George was the
only individual who described the planning process as a narrative that I was
able to fit into the Labov model.
While narrative analysis was an alternative method
in which to analyze the data generated from this study, it may not have been
the most suitable. In describing the type of interview questions that she
utilized, Kramp (2004) states Amy interview prompt B >Tell me about a time you were aware of your students= stories of learning= B was an
invitation to each participant to construct a narrative detailing the particularities
of this experience and contextualizing them in a specific time and place@ (p. 114). Given the fact that this study was not
designed with narrative analysis in mind from the beginning, many of the
question prompts from my own interview protocol were not conducive to or
limited the participants= ability to tell
their own narratives. In many instances, it was the question prompt itself
that formed the abstract portion (and one some cases the orientation portion
as well) of the Labov model. In other instances, the questions allowed the
participants to describe hypothetical stories, which due to the fact that
they hadn=t occurred would
not contain a result or coda portion of the Labov model.
The two question prompts that appeared to have the most
success with generating stories that would fit into the Labov model were: ADescribe a web-based lesson you feel that was
particularly effective?@ and ADescribe a web-based lesson you feel that was
particularly ineffective?@ It was from
these two prompts that the detailed examples provided by Norman and John in
Tables 1, 2, 3 and 4 emerged. However, possibly due to the nature of the
questions as well as perhaps the nature of the participants, the responses of
Bill, Cliff and Sam were particularly difficult to fit into the Labov model
because of their choppy speech and non-linear discussion of ideas.
However, during the process of analyzing the data
using a form of inductive analysis, I was able to generate seven guidelines
for courses developers to follow. These were Awhen designing web-based content for secondary
school students, course developers should:
prior to beginning
development of any of the web-based material, plan out the course with ideas
for the individual lessons and specific items that they would like to
keep the navigation simple
and to a minimum, but don=t present the material the same way in every lesson;
provide a summary of the
content from the required readings or the synchronous lesson and include
examples that are personalized to the students= own
ensure students are given
clear instructions and model expectations of the style and level that will be
required for student work;
refrain from using too much
text and consider the use of visuals to replace or supplement text when
only use multimedia that will
enhance the content and not simply because it is available; and
develop their content for the
average or below average student.@ (Barbour, 2005b)
In the narratives that have been outlined, there is a great
deal of fidelity between the themes of their stories and this list of seven
guidelines. For example, George=s
story in Table 8 provides us with a great deal of description and rationale
for the inclusion of the first guideline.
would be how the learning object described in Norman=s
narrative outlined in Table 5 is an example of the third guideline. The
notion of taking a concept from science, such as biomass, and simply using
examples of insects and animals that the students would be familiar with to
assist in both their understanding and interest in the web-based content.
Bill=s narrative in
Table 6 about the using events from their own lives or their own communities
as a writing prompt is an example how to design activities for the students
to complete as a part of their web-based content that is in line with the
third developer guideline.
just about every participant, and illustrated in John=s (Table 1) and Norman=s
(Table 2) narratives above, is the fifth developer guideline. The fact that
students= tend not
to spend a lot of time reading text-heavy web-based content was a theme that
was generated from the inductive analysis. However, John=s definite comments
regarding the fact that it is just as well to give a student a textbook if
all the web-based content includes is text and more text were not reflected
in themes that were generated by the inductive analysis. Nor was the logical
progression of alternatives to using text that Norman presented in his narrative.
narratives from John (Table 3) and Sam (Table 4) are similar illustrative
examples of the sixth guideline: only use multimedia that will enhance the
content and not simply because it is available. In John=s story, he describes how
a simply learning object created with the software program Flash could
provide the students with an experiential learning instance that simply
accomplished in a text only environment. Sam=s
story, on the other hand, describes a specific example of how he was able to
use a QuickTime movie to get across information to the students instead o
subjecting them to additional amounts of text-based information.
narrative outlined above was from Cliff (Table 7). In this story, Cliff is
quite blunt in expressing his opinion on which groups of students he should
be targeting as he designs the web-based content for his course. The specific
target groups that Cliff references in this narrative are in line with the
final of the seven guidelines for course developers. Finally, it is
interesting to note that I was unable to locate any narrative that would fit
the Labov model which corresponded with the second or fourth guidelines that
were generated through the inductive analysis of the same data.
analysis that was undertaken generated stories that had a great deal of
fidelity with the thematic guidelines that had been generated through the
inductive analysis. What this narrative analysis has added to this particular
study is a more complete view of some of the developer guidelines. In
that each story has a point of view that will differ, depending on who is
telling the story@
(Kramp, 2004, 108) allows for a variety of examples from the various
experiences in their different subject areas. In particular, these examples
from many of the stories provided specific examples in which future
practitioners can use to base their own interpretations of the guidelines.
in the previous section, a serious limitation of this analysis is the fact
that the study was not designed with the use of this methodology in mind.
Specifically, the questions that formed the semi-structured interview
protocol were not designed to allow the participants to tell stories from
their course development experience. Instead, these questions were largely
designed to allow the participants to express opinions and insights that they
had gained from their experiences, which for the most part did not lend
themselves to the narrative model selected.
On a personal note, although this
analysis only revealed a richer description of five of the seven guidelines
that had been generated using the inductive analysis, as Shank (2002) reminds
us, Ait is important to use research to understand the nature of research
[and] it is equally important to keep in mind that our growing understanding
of narrative can be used to expand our understand of the research process@ (p. 157). As a relatively novice
qualitative researcher, this desire to consider the data in an alternative
way provided me with an opportunity to utilize a method of qualitative
analysis that I would probably not have used in other circumstances. The
opportunity has also afforded me the opportunity to see the importance that
stories can serve in providing richer descriptions of themes generated from
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