Theory Supporting Design Guidelines for Web-Based Instruction

Theory Supporting Design Guidelines for Web-Based Instruction

Dorothy Leflore (North Carolina A&T State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2000 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-878289-59-9.ch006
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More and more universities are turning to Web-based instruction in order to accommodate a larger student population. Much of the coursework available online follows the traditional packet type system that has been available for printed correspondence courses. The major difference has been synchronous and asynchronous communication, not just between the instructor and students but among the students. However, learning can be enhanced if attention is given to how the material to be learned is presented and how students are required to interact with and interpret the material. Learning theories can be used to provide sound guidelines for designing a variety of presentation modes and student activities online. Examples provided later in this chapter come from an on-line course in Learning Theories at North Carolina A & T State University which was designed and taught by Karen Smith-Gratto. A primary theory to consider is Gestalt theory because the main focus of Gestalt theorists was to explore perception and its relationship to learning. Smith-Gratto and Fisher (1998-99) stated “The screens rely heavily on the ‘visual perception’ of the learner” (p. 3). Consequently, the Laws of Perception should be the foundation for visually designing and evaluating the Web-based instructional page. Some of the Laws of Perception that would be beneficial in designing Web-based instructional pages are figure-ground contrast, simplicity, proximity, similarity, symmetry, and closure. In addition to the Laws of Perception, Gestalt theory can also provide guidance in the development of activities for students to engage in during the Web-based learning experience. While modern cognitive theory is in some respects an outgrowth of Gestalt theory, there are differences that can be exploited to provide additional approaches to Web-based instruction. There are several approaches from cognitive theory that can be used to help design what appears on the Web-based instructional page and help design student interactions. Cognitive mapping or webbing, concept attainment activities, and use of motivational graphics, animations and sounds are ways that cognitive theory can substantially contribute to the instruction. In addition to Gestalt and cognitive theory, constructivism can be drawn upon to create Web-based instructional activities that require students to approach learning in different ways. Guidelines for developing Constructivist based activities require that students be given active and engaging tasks that require more than minimal intellectual involvement. Examples of such tasks include student development of models and metaphors to explain what they are learning. Students can be provided with demonstration simulations that are not explained. Students are then required to explain what happened within the demonstration and construct definitions and explanations based upon what they observed. In addition to these types of activities, students can be required to participate in on-line problem solving activities both alone and with other students.

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