Monday, August 30, 2010

'Evaluate this' exercise - Online Information Literacy modules

Module 3: Business Report -

The use of the module in my work situation
A module covering this content could be of great use in Alex’s organisation as effective business writing is a key competency for many employees. In saying that, many of are beyond first year polytechnic levelso the language and approach would need to be refined in order to better appeal to our employees. Lisa’s situation is very different, she has never had to write a business report, so this module was a complete learning curve, however she agrees with Alex in saying that the language and approach would need to be refined for a beginner as well, as it was very wordy and not always easy to follow.

The look and feel and is it 'fit for purpose'?
The first screen gave a great impression of polished module that would be interactive and informative. Navigation is simple with the use of back and next arrows. Alex found the size of the module onscreen slightly off-putting as she has a widescreen monitor and the actual frame of the module was quite small. Lisa found the font simple and easily read which is good because there is so much content to cover. She felt the module could benefit from including more interactive tools or activities.

Alex liked the overview map and the road sign theme used, however expected to be able to jump to parts of the module from it but wasn’t able to. She would have preferred a different approach to the instructions overview and timing as it felt like forever getting through them.
Using the green arrows along the bottom of the screen enables the user to move through the pages but also go back to a section if needed. The left hand menu allows you to navigate around the module as you wish, however, Lisa felt providing sub-headings (on the road signs) would be a better approach. Both of us believe it is important learners have options to work with and aren’t locked down by pathways through a module.

Alex didn’t like the terminology ‘Look at the topic’ – she felt it didn’t really feel like the right title and it was confusing as it went on to an example topic, so wasn’t sure if this was part of the module or not. The user had to go all the way back to the overview to remind them what they were doing. The actual performance of the module was quite slow and a couple of clicks were required to get anything to happen. Lisa felt there was an overload of information for this part of the module, often having to click back through screens several times to remember information she had already read and to clarify understanding.

Overall Alex was not entirely convinced that this is an ideal method for teaching or learning about business report writing. She believes there are definitely basics that can be covered, but there was so much reading and so little activity that learners can become overwhelmed and slightly bored. Lisa agrees there is far too much reading in the module which is discouraging. With the inclusion of activities Lisa believe learners would retain higher levels of engagement and interest from the user. With this kind of content a blended approach may be a better option with learners providing samples of their writing for maybe peer review and discussion with the module focused on covering just the bare basics. It may work well for the audience that it’s currently pitched to, but it would definitely be too long and involved for many learners.

What sort of changes would you make if customising the module?
As discussed Alex would shorten and provide some kind of fast track for advanced learners. If learners can prove they have the skills then why not just work at honing them. Lisa felt the content wass also a little basic, so would complete a needs analysis/scoping exercise prior to redevelopment, and that a first time user could also benefit from a needs analysis, seeing what they do and don’t know.

Alex would build the menu on the module itself – which is here personal preference as she didn’t really notice the menu off to the side until late in the module and was frustrated by tying to navigate between sections. Lisa found the menu first off but felt it was not highlighted and so could be easily missed, and agrees that it could be included in the module itself.
Alex fundamentally disagrees with any one should ever try and complete an hour of online learning in one sitting – it’s not realistic or valuable learning. She would break the module up into possibly three twenty minute or four fifteen minute bytes. Learners would have a much better experience and be able to retain more from short bursts of learning spread out at their discretion. From Lisa’s experience,she agrees that teaching and learning in short bursts equals success.

Other comments
Alex feels she may be a quite an intense evaluator of online modules as she has built many and is extremely passionate about their design and content structure. The Business Report module had a lot of really great content and obviously a lot of time and effort went into it but generally she feels with online modules less is more. Lisa agrees, less is more, and as a first time user and newly learning how to evaluate online modules, she found the content informative but much too much to take retain in one sitting, especially within the timeframe given (one hour). Breaking up the module into shorter bytes is much more realistic.

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