Streamlining procedures Streamlining goes hand in hand with technological sophistication (Porter, 1997) and is necessary if the level of sophistication is to be maintained. One means of allowing the Lab to remain dynamic in the face of changing technologies, numbers of users, and levels of user ability, has been the Lab’s relationship to other areas within Instruction Support. Large projects may require support from staff members in production areas. Similarly, Lab staff members initiate, evaluate, and test new ideas in a development environment; successful initiatives and ideas are then moved to a production environment as projects grow. This streamlining procedure ensures that Lab staff are then free to begin new initiatives. With web course development we focus on finding ways to streamline procedures while maintaining high standards in terms of interface design, programming issues, web tenets, instructional design, and learning theory, while allowing maximum individualization for/ input from professors. This balance ensures that we keep current with information and with demand. A far as possible, web course development falls within a set of overarching ideas, philosophical and instructional. This set of standards frees staff developers to experiment and bring in new ideas so long as the ideas remain within this set of guiding parameters. For hyperlinked examples, see the website at http://is.asu.edu/aect/multi/ . The guidelines are as follows:
1. The professor is an integral part of the design team, not just the subject matter expert.
2. Development should provide for maximum reusability of procedures, templates and tools developed for web courses. Any such products developed for a course should be designed so as to be easily configured for other courses.
3. We attempt to apply principles from communication, learning theory, commercial multimedia/video production, and distance learning.
4. We value content first, using technology only where it is appropriate.
5. We seek to design for all users. We value the accessibility standards developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (1998). The electronic medium can provide disabled students with a chance to use their abilities and creativity (Barnette, 1994) if developers adhere to those standards. Whenever possible, we use multi-platform solutions; we keep file sizes and screen sizes to a level that as many users as possible can view; we use few passwords, preferring to share information when possible; and we attempt to use good HTML so as to be viewable everywhere.
6. Those using the lab resources are asked to give back to the Lab in some way. Often a professor places a graduate assistant or student worker in the lab.
7. Whenever possible, standard multimedia documentation procedures are used. We encourage professors to make plans with us for both formative and summative evaluation.
8. We pay particular attention to visual communication in interface design. This is an aspect of web course development that many course designers have been slow to take into account. This may be because interface design is not seen as being particularly important by professors who are used to considering only content when designing a face-to-face course. Many web courses are consequently still content-only, or use standardized icons for navigation that are the same across courses. It is our belief that visual communication interface design does indeed have a counterpart in the face-to-face world. The classroom itself is, after all, an interface (Jonassen, Davidson, Collins, Campbell & Haag, 1995). Students learn in an environment with which they interface using all senses. One course may take place in a large mediated classroom with projection screens; another may take place in a small room with rows of desks. Ignoring these aspects of the environment produces difficulties for those attempting to learn or teach via the web (Fleming, 1998; Mandel, 1997). Sensory cues are bound up with their learning and help students remember what they have learned.
9. We also pay particular attention to navigation issues. Confusing interfaces slow down the student, who will have to adjust to the interface before learning can begin (Fowler, 1995; Galitz, 1997). Commercial websites and television may be perceived of as noise-free by viewers, since research is used to produce the optimum visual environment. Students have become accustomed to receiving information in a particular format, and information given in another, less professional mode may be difficult to remember. This is not to say that educators need to become entertainers. Educational television uses the design principles of commercial television, and thus successfully transmits content. Web courses need similarly to investigate how information is transmitted in the commercial world, in order to avoid distracting users.