Self Instructional Web Based Learning Environment

Janak Sodha

University of the West Indies

The subject of this paper is to present an innovate self-instructional learning environment based on use of Internet technologies. Student feedback was used to assess the stylistic differences experienced between the web based self-learning environment and that of traditional face-to-face lectures in a lecture theatre.

The creation of the self-instructional learning environment requires two phases. The first phase is to create interactive web based lecture notes which not only help to stimulate a student's learning experience, but more importantly, attempt to truly educate as oppose to merely providing information to a student. Interactivity being the key ingredient to capture the student interest, and to help the student gain a better understanding of the material. Some of these interactive features are as follows:

(a) Interactive online tutor: Solving tutorial questions is an essential part of the learning process. To encourage and help students attempt tutorial questions, an interactive online tutor based on javascript image roll-overs is created as follows. For a given question, three images labelled "Hint 1", "Hint 2", and "Answer" are presented to the student. A hint or the answer is revealed by moving the mouse pointer over the corresponding image. To encourage a student to work out the full solution, the complete solution is not available, even if all the hints are revealed. Any given hint is typically the information which would be provided to a student who requested help from a lecturer.

(b) Self-assessment questions embedded within a lecture, which also provide feedback to the student on why a particular answer is incorrect.

(c) Cartoon type animations which help to clarify a given concept.

(d) Java applets. In particular, general purpose applets which can be controlled using Java Script.

(e) Pop-up windows which provide in-depth explanations. The explanations are typically the result of student feedback, via a truly anonymous feedback form that does not require the student to have an email address.

The second phase is to develop a virtual personal tutor, who guides the student through the interactive web based lecture notes. The solution, which is simple and elegant, is as follows. The lecturer "walks-through" a given lecture using a personal computer and a web browser, providing commentary using a screencam software. Thus, the voice and video screen signals are fully captured. The student is thereby placed in a virtual environment where the lecturer personally goes through and comments on all the lecture material, and the corresponding interactive features. This environment is essentially equivalent to a situation in which the lecturer presents a lecture using an LCD projector in front of the students. There are of course several advantages and disadvantages between the real and the virtual environments, which will be discussed in the full paper.

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