advantages of time zone independence and that, once developed, it can be reused much more easily than the synchronous or classroom versions, with a knowledgeable facilitator to replace or assist the instructor. There is also the pedagogical advantage that students have time to think about points made in class and their contributions ( Laurillard D. 1993), as well as to relate what they learn to their jobs. The opportunity to pursue the HCI course's delivery via LearningSpace provided us a point of departure for examining asynchronous distance learning, as well as the LearningSpace tool. Further, this opportunity enabled EDS' training organization a basis upon which to evaluate Web-based education. To our use of LearningSpace, we brought extensive expertise with Lotus Notes/Domino development, traditional classroom teaching, and synchronous distance learning ( Neal 1997, Neal 1998a, and Neal 1998b).
LearningSpace includes five modules, a schedule, a repository for course content, a threaded discussion area, personal home pages, and tools used by the instructor for creating and grading exams. We intentionally strove to use all of LearningSpace's capabilities in order to fully experience its potential as a course delivery mechanism. As part of our preparation, we took Lotus Education's LearningSpace classes to ensure that we leveraged the tool as much as possible. While helpful, especially since we hosted the class internally and provided all technical support, these classes focused on the mechanics of using LearningSpace rather than on strategies and methods for developing course materials for an asynchronous-learning environment. Contrary to our expectations, our professional networks and pertinent newsgroups yielded sparse information that guided our course design and content development efforts.
Although we had taught HCI many times previously, we found that preparing an asynchronous class was a different and difficult process. We learned that asynchronous distance learning classes are often developed by teams, in which instructional designers, multimedia specialists, and technical experts obtain information from subject matter experts. This has advantages over our approach since it narrows each contributor's focus; we had two people playing all roles as well as providing technical support. Planning and developing the class top-down necessitated having a clearer picture of the class activities -- as translated into LearningSpace -- than we started with. We worked instead in a more linear fashion, developing content while planning what the student interactions with the material and each other should be like in order to create an engaging