All digital information sources, available at the speed of light over global networks, are converging on, and available, through the Web at an exponentially increasing rate. There is a corresponding increase in the need for instructors who can structure the information glut that is the Internet into a form that makes sense to learners. This task is anything but new to instructors. Learners come to educational institutions because of faculty’s ability to structure information into forms useful to students. Most of the courses ever offered to students already exist in the printed form in libraries and other reference sources. Why don’t more students involve themselves in a self-study program? Perhaps it is because humans need, a community in which this chaos called the information age can be ordered in ways that are useful and make sense to them.
Many educators believe that it is time for a response to a changing definition of teaching and learning. Driven by the information explosion, an education system that prepares a student for a single career is outmoded. “Graduates need to have acquired skills, such as critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, and effective communication, along with abilities, such as the ability to find needed information and the ability to work well with others (Twigg, 1994).” The Pew Higher Education Roundtable’s, To Dance With Change (1994) contends, “The danger is that colleges and universities have become less relevant to society precisely because they have yet to understand the new demands being placed on them.”
How can educators adequately respond to these new demands from society? The Pew report directs educators’ attention to the new electronic superhighway. The report claims the Internet may turn out to be the most powerful external challenge facing higher education. Graves (1994) calls for
“. . . strategic experimentation with alternative models of instruction. The goal should be for the instructor to help the student learner when help is most needed. With the assistance of computer and video networks and technologies, this interaction can happen outside the typical class lecture period or tightly scheduled office hours. We must utilize this flexibility to discover models of instruction more appropriate to the emerging Knowledge Age than to the receding Industrial Age.
Educators are beginning to examine the expanding educational potential of information technology for a solution to the demand for more accountable and cost-effective instructional programs.
To ensure that all of the above happens in the context of ‘good practice’, this project presents a process leading to the development of World Wide Web based instructional modules focused on the needs of an Adult Basic Education student.
- The first step is a literature review of instructional design philosophy and theory that attempts to respond to the needs of a life long learner. What do curriculum theorists and practitioners say about designing instruction to meet the needs of such a learner?
- The second is an examination of the fit of design theory with current instructional practice in the ABE classroom. What elements of the above are ABE instructors already implementing in their curriculum? How can technology assist and enhance current instructional patterns?
- Third, from this review of theory and practice will come the design framework to plan and pilot the development of information technology based instructional modules.
Offered here, then, is an extension to the traditional educational technologies of chalk and talk, a synthesis of theory and practice in instruction and technology. This synthesis will offer a way to extend the instructor’s influence outside the confines of a classroom. Electronic learning webs will provide faculty with a vehicle with which they can structure information in ways that, for the adult learner, information can become knowledge.
Next — Theoretical Base