Challenges of Online Instructional Development
Some years ago, e-learning was a new term for many people. Yet in recent years, distance education has changed dramatically from being non-technological to technology-supported and, finally, to technology-based. Numerous applications facilitating the development of e-learning now exist; estimates suggest that more than 250 commercial Learning Management Systems (LMS) are currently available (Carabaneanu, Trandafir, & Mierlus-Mazilu, 2006). Although the rapid development of technology has promoted the diversification of e-learning applications, it has also created new challenges for educators and instructional designers.
The lack of pedagogical consideration of early web-based instructional tools inspired much criticism of these products (Bonk & Dennen, 2003). Some scholars (Gregory & Glenda, 1998) point out that the educational experiences of most higher education instructors did not include discussions of learning theories, thus jeopardizing the effectiveness of the web-based lessons these instructors develop. Moreover, even if instructors are familiar with learning theories, they often lack the technological skills necessary to create effective web-based instructional materials (Chou & Tsai, 2002; Koehler, Mishr, Hershey, & Peruski, 2004). Caplan (2001) argues that an online course development team should have the ability to fill five major roles: subject matter expert, graphic designer, instructional designer, web developer, and programmer. The difficulty of addressing such new challenges gave rise to online course development tools, which helps instructors lacking technical expertise to create web-based courses.
Researchers recognize that instructors may have to expend significantly more time and effort to adapt their traditional classroom teaching styles to an online environment. Compared with traditional course instructors, online instructors must spend more time designing and developing new courses (Haugen, LaBarre, & Melrose, 2001), though they require less time to prepare for courses that have already been developed (Conceicao, 2006). DiBiase (2000) contends that the effectiveness and efficiency of an online course is related to “the amount, and the quality, of the instructional design and development effort that produced it” (p.19), thus emphasizing the need for more convenient e-learning development tools to facilitate this process.
In addition to the above challenges, those who wish to use these tools must consider whether systems produced by different vendors are compatible in terms of supporting web-based materials, and they must also be knowledgeable about the storage and accessibility of content in older formats.