The multidisciplinary team approach to course development If development is team-based, the professor is asked to attend at least four meetings, so as to be able to provide direction; this also ensures that communication is efficient. After this, a graduate student provided by the faculty member may attend as co-manager in place of the faculty member. Documentation paperwork, beginning with the first meeting, guides the team through a standard set of planning documents including proposal, content outline, flow chart, and detailed storyboards. An instructional designer from the College of Education is responsible for helping team members create these necessary documents; the documents will save valuable production time later. IS Lab graphics experts work with the instructor to create a series of graphics that communicate visually what the course is designed to do. Typically, a student from Fine Arts or Architecture creates a series of three sketches, and the professor then chooses one line of development. An programmer, usually from Computing Science and Engineering, works with the artist to create the website. Interactive elements are brought in as needed. All graphics must work in harmony; motifs are chosen to reflect the personality of the instructor as well as the nature of the course, for the course is in some sense a creative work, and the professor creating the course stands in the relationship of artist or writer to those who access the course (Maddox, 1996).
We view these initial meetings as an opportunity to learn the answers to questions that we ask in order to improve our work. The early meetings also provide an opportunity to help the professor understand the nature of the procedures used. We take the time to explain professional development methods (such as timelines and storyboards) to the professor. We ask where professors heard about the Lab; this enables us to plan for future information dissemination about Instruction Support. We discuss evaluation procedures, suggest collaboration in research, and explain backup procedures. We also ask the professor for the primary reason for creating a web course or web supported course. The answer to this question helps us direct development and enables us to predict what sorts of courses we need to prepare to develop. For example, a number of faculty members have come to us because they teach very large classes, and feel that they need new means to make information accessible; for this group, we may suggest posting presentation slides, lecture notes, and syllabi. A second group of faculty members may wish to create a course for faculty development or funding reasons. A third group is interested in the concept of web instruction and wishes to try out new ideas; for this group, we can investigate the pros and cons of those ideas and ways of implementing them. Other faculty members have been particularly interested in experimenting with interactivity, so that small groups can collaborate or so that members of a small course can work closely together.
The software method and the multidisciplinary team approach each have strengths and weaknesses that must be taken into account when choosing a method for a particular course. The advantages of a multidisciplinary team are that this method (a) provides for maximum individualization, (b) provides for maximum configurability, (c) can lead to a course that is professionally developed and of the highest quality in every area, (d) consists of well-integrated modules connected via good navigation design, (e) allows easy access to the visually impaired and others who use a text reader and/or speech software, and (e) can contain any element desired, as long as it is possible and there is sufficient time. Disadvantages are that (a) this method is time-consuming for all, including the professor; (b) if the professor is not a committed member of the team, expectations may be unreasonable; (c) if one team member leaves or graduates, it may slow down production, as the replacement will need time to become a member of the team.