Conducting Needs Analysis in Preparation towards the Development of Electronic Self-Instructional Materials (e-SIM)

Conducting Needs Analysis in Preparation towards the Development of Electronic Self-Instructional Materials (e-SIM)

Haziah Jamaludin (Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia), Hairani Wahab (Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia) and Suzana Hamzah (Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-198-6.ch003
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The focus of this chapter is on the evaluation of the existing printed materials provided to learners of a distance learning program. From the learners’ feedbacks the existing gaps between the information presented in their self instructional material (SIM) and the learners’ requirements for effective learning were identified. The chapter’s particular emphasis is on identifying the elements that could be enhanced to improve learning and teaching using the unique attributes of online learning technologies. Elements like updateability of content, hypertext, hyperlinks and automatic feedbacks were found to be the factors that were needed by the learners which could not be available in the printed SIM but could easily be integrated into the e-SIM. Information retrieval modes like browsing and searching available on the internet is an important element which the learners could not easily access from the printed SIM.
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Print based self instructional materials (SIM) have been a popular learning tool and found to be an effective way of delivering instruction for distance learning. However, with the introduction of more practical-based, science and technology courses the approach has its shortcomings and in recent times alternatives have been sought. With the advent of the internet and the World Wide Web many institutions have made a move towards e-learning. Since then institutions of learning have devoted time and attention to increasing their effectiveness but most have largely focused on the technology rather than the pedagogy and the quality of the material that is presented on the web or the courseware. One of the largest distance education provider, the Anadolu University of Turkey found that transferring a text-book based self-paced learning system into computer-supported learning system was not an easy job and required a thorough planning (Aydin, Mutlu & Mclsaac 2007). To create high quality e-materials, a combined effort among the content providers who could be the teachers/lecturers also termed as the Subject Matter Experts (SME), the Instructional Designers (ID) who are familiar with the pedagogy of teaching over the internet, and the technology experts who create and develop the design. Preparing material for e-learning is different from writing lectures or text books. The process of designing electronic materials is not as simple as just converting the lecture notes into a digital component and referring to it as electronic materials for e-learning. It requires a rigorous process of analyzing the learners’ needs, analyzing the current situation before embarking upon the design and development as suggested in most instructional design models like the ADDIE and ASSURE model. The analysis phase, though one of the most essential phase that marks the beginning of the project rarely receive much attention. It is the spearhead of the designing process. However, highlights are generally endowed on people who are more excited to view the innovative designs and demonstration on latest developments in the technology.

The e-learning model for the distance learners (e-PJJ) at University Technology MARA (UiTM) is a blend between the traditional face to face modes with web supported learning through its learning management system (LMS) named as i-class. i-class is the platform for interaction and discussion with the instructors, peers and ideally complementing the normal face to face lectures with online support. The students are also provided with self-instructional-materials (SIM) to enable them to study on their own. Currently, the students meet the lecturers five times a semester and they depend a lot on these meetings and the SIM for their learning. In view of this situation, the institution requires the students to shift more towards online learning. In order to attract them towards online learning the materials provided in i-class have to be upgraded and enhanced. Currently the materials uploaded usually consist of lecturers’ notes or power point presentations. They are individually prepared based on one’s initiative and capacity as a learning facilitator or a resource person. Here, a learning facilitator’s contribution could only be viewed by his/her students only. This limitation is a waste and this approach lack standardization. As a consequence, the institution has decided that all materials in i-class should be managed by a centre with a budget allocated for the development of electronic SIM (e-SIM).

In developing the electronic content, criteria such as the quality and learner usability have to be taken into consideration as we do not want to develop materials which the learners find it of no use or not user friendly to them or the teachers. However, literature on the first step, that is, on the analysis conducted prior to the design is rather scant. Few projects really deliberate on need analysis compared to course evaluation even though both analytical processes should be of equal importance. For the purpose of this chapter, the focus is given on the needs and wants of the online students to shed lights on the direction of development of e-SIM.

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