Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of e-Skills and Lifelong Learning

Developing Web-Based Learning Resources in School Education: A User-Centered Approach

Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of e-Skills and Lifelong Learning

Developing Web-Based Learning Resources in School Education: A User-Centered Approach

Article excerpt


The potential added value of Web-based learning (or similar designations, such as "virtual learning", "technology-based learning", or "online learning") compared to teacher- and textbook-based instruction lies in helping learners to acquire the right knowledge and skills in order to function as active, self-reflected, and collaborative learners (Govindasamy, 2002; Hamid, 2002). However, this cannot be realized without a change from learning environments in which the teacher and the textbook structure the learning process, towards learning environments in which the students themselves control, under the guidance of the teacher, the order in which they learn and perform activities based on their needs (Erstad, 2006; Wilson, 1998). Web-based learning resources (WBLRs) have the potential to support a learning environment in which students explore knowledge and enhance their learning (Combes & Valli, 2007). To realize this, the development of WBLRs needs to be user-centered. User-centered design is an approach that puts the intended users of WBLRs at the centre of its design and development (Winograd, 1996). In school education, students are considered as the most important users of WBLRs, in addition to teachers as guides and facilitators of learning.

The remainder of this article is structured as follows. First, the paper undertakes a literature review to provide an understanding of the concept of WBLR, on the one hand, and development issues of WBLRs, on the other hand. Second, concepts of usability are analyzed, and a definition of pedagogical usability is proposed. Third, the paper outlines a user-centered development approach to WBLRs. An application example of the approach is then presented. This is followed by the evaluation of the approach. Finally, some remarks on further work conclude the article.

Research Goal

This work is the second major part of a research project that aims to develop and evaluate WBLRs in school education. The first part of the work aims to review the literature to develop a framework of critical elements in WBLR evaluation (Hadjerrouit, 2010). A brief summary of the evaluation results are described in the section "Users' Perceptions of WBLRs."

The aim of this paper is to propose a user-centered approach to the development of WBLRs, along with the study of three WBLRs to report on critical elements in the development of WBLRs. Traditionally, user-centered design is defined as an approach to software design that grounds the process in information about the users of the software product. User-centered design processes focus on users through the analysis, design, implementation, and evaluation of the product (Winograd, 1996). Basically, user-centered design focuses on technical usability as defined by Nielsen (1993, 2000). Technical usability is a self-evident requirement, but it is limited when it comes to the development of WBLRs because it does not emphasize pedagogical usability, which is of crucial importance in school education. Hence, developers of WBLRs need to incorporate pedagogical considerations in the development process. It is also important to identify the users of WBLRs and the conditions under which they use them. The major users of WBLRs are school students, who use the resources to achieve learning goals under the guidance of the teachers. They use them under classroom conditions and within the school context.

Literature Review

The Concept of WBLR

A closer look at the research literature shows that the concept of WBLR is similar to the term "Web-based learning tools", also referred to as "learning objects", found in Kay and Knaak, (2005, 2008) and Kay, Knaak, and Petrarca (2009). The term is defined as "interactive Web-based tools that support learning by enhancing, amplifying, and guiding the cognitive processes of learners." Moreover, WBLRs include the main features of the term "Web-based learning application" that is defined by Liu & LaMont Johnson (2005) as instructional content or activity delivered through the Web that teaches a focused concept, meets specific learning objectives, provides a learner-centered context, and is an individual and reusable piece. …

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