native - developing CBT the web way
IN THIS SECTION WE
EXPLORE just what you can expect to achieve developing WBT with generic web design tools.
In practice this will depend on how deep into the technology you are prepared to go.
At the first level is straight HTML, coded directly or developed using a what you
see is what you get (WYSIWYG) editor like Microsoft FrontPage or Macromedia
basic but, make no mistake, this is programming. Modifying page templates that include
3. Database and Java programming
At the third level you could be interacting with databases and other programs held on the
web server, typically to manage student records. Although some of this can be accomplished
using ready-made routines, this is essentially programmer-only territory. You may also
want to develop more complex forms of interactivity that are beyond the capabilities of
help of a Java programmer.
Lets see what you can accomplish at each level for each
of the main components of a WBT course:
You are unlikely to have to go beyond straight HTML to achieve what you
want here. Using text, tables, images and simple animations you can put across most
learning material. And should you need and have the bandwidth to allow audio, video or
more complex animations (in Macromedia Flash or Shockwave formats, for example), you can
insert them into HTML pages directly without a great deal of technical knowledge.
Again, most navigational functions can be achieved without undue effort in
HTML, which is hardly surprising as navigation is central to nearly all web applications.
By creating links from text and images, you can provide the user with menus, indexes, help
pages, glossary entries and buttons for moving between sequences of pages and between
hierarchical levels. Only the most sophisticated interfaces may require some additional
Fig 5: This interface incorporates a
wide range of navigational features including help and glossary systems, module and topic
level menus and controls for moving between pages and levels. Constructed with HTML and a
A simple multi-choice question, where each selection leads to unique
feedback, can be constructed with ease in simple HTML. However, unless you utilise frames
(where more than one web page can be displayed in the browser at the same time), the
feedback will appear on a separate page. I would certainly recommend the use of frames for
question and answer routines, to enable the feedback to appear alongside or underneath the
question (see fig.1).
Again, with simple HTML you can build
true-false questions and, with image maps, questions in which the user clicks on hotspots
within a picture. Other question types text or number input, ordering and matching
input, you need to employ web form elements such as text boxes, drop-down lists, radio
buttons and check boxes and these cannot be controlled adequately in simple HTML. Still,
you can obtain templates for all of these question types and, with a little care, modify
the code to suit your particular needs.
Some forms of interaction, such as drag and drop or complex
simulations, are not really feasible using standard web tools. Here you will need the help
of an authoring system or maybe a Java programmer to get the job done.
A wide range of standard web tools can be adapted to facilitate
communication between tutors and students. Email can be used to accomplish much of what
you need, and with email attachments, students can submit assignments for review by
You may also want to create a simple web site
for use by all the students following a particular course. This could include student
contact details, papers, news, links and access to WBT modules and discussion forums.
Going a little further, with tools like Microsoft NetMeeting,
you can organise synchronous communication for online discussions and lectures. All of
which is possible without the use of specialised online learning tools.
What HTML is not good at is maintaining records of student progress. Even
With a little more work you can store student
records locally using cookies (small data files held on the users hard
securely and permanently on a central computer, you will need the help of a web database
programmer. Interfacing with your organisation's training records system is yet more work.
Fig 6: This progress report has been created
using a cookie and some
some database programming.