Strategies in the Development of an Educational Web Site: The Case of the REA (Renewal Energy for All) System in Korea
Okhwa LEE <email@example.com>
1. The Web as an instructional medium. The systematic approach of instructional design (ID) has been applied for many years to the development of educational materials; it can also be applied in this new medium. The World Wide Web has been very popular among educators due to the following reasons:
Although we often use the Web as an instructional medium, we do not know how to design the navigation, menu, and contents. This paper will discuss how to develop an educational Web site based on the experience of the development of the REA (Renewable Energy for All) system in Korea.
2. Development of REA. Four steps of the ID approach were applied in developing the REA system:
3. Analysis of survey. The survey was conducted in order to determine whether and how the Web is an effective medium in learning about renewable energy and to develop strategies of designing navigation paths, using examples for gender differences. The responses on the survey forms collected from secondary and primary school students need to be studied to answer the following questions: When selecting a menu, do students choose the content in order? If so, what causes them to choose such a path -- the title of the submenu or the placement of the submenu on the frame? Are there any gender differences in selecting contents based on preference? Will there be any differences between boys and girls in choosing frames? How well do students learn the content when they learn through the Web? How well do students use the menu?
4. Suggestions for further development. A multimedia educational Web site is good, but a multimedia database can provide an even richer knowledge base for experts as well as parents, teachers, and students. Developing multimedia databases requires a lot of money, energy, and manpower. If this development can be conducted among international professionals, we can share invaluable resources. Participating countries can get together to set up the framework of the raw materials and the DB environment. Another suggestion for using the renewable education system is to conduct project-based school activities. The Internet-based Web can provide a rich educational environment. Web-based instruction (WBI) has three instructional models: communication tool (international exchanges), information collection, and problem solving. Each type can have various subtypes of instructional models. Educational Web sites should be designed and developed based on instructional strategies.
For the development of educational materials, systematic approach of instructional design (ID) has been applied. The World Wide Web has become drastically popular among educators due to the following reasons: the Web is multimedia based, it's easy to maintain instructional materials, it's an efficient method for communication, it's cheap to deliver, and it's an effective tool for collaboration.
Although we use the Web as an instructional medium often, we do not know how to design the navigation and design the menu and contents. This paper will discuss how to develop an educational Web site based on the experience of the development of the REA system in Korea.
The most popular instructional media have been the printing media. As technology has progressed, so did the instructional media: radio and audiocassettes and TV and videotapes. Computer-based electronic gadgets are the next-generation instructional technology. Although printed materials including books are still used widely, they have some limitations. Recently the telecommunication technology applied with computer technology has shown its great potential as an instructional medium. The benefits of applying a Web environment for educational uses are as follows:
The REA system was designed in the Web environment (Netscape 4.0 version) and Oracle. The target audience of REA is public, which, by its definition, is people with the intellectual ability of 6th or 7th graders in reading and comprehension skills. Since the goal of this educational system is to promote the awareness of the newly developing or developed technology of the renewable energy in Korea for our next generation, Korean examples and cases are focused on in the process of design.
The design followed four steps:
REA consists of two major parts: reference and the courseware of six renewable energy areas. Designers aimed for easy navigation to keep users on track by providing the information where the present page belonged. Of course each page is provided with the icon of the hyperlink connection at the end of the page which takes the user to the page by double clicking. Also, navigation icons are displayed in three different frames on each page so that users can always have the map of where they are.
In the reference section, 'what is renewable energy?', 'on-line help,' 'bulletin board,' 'terminology,' 'related sites,' 'statistics,' and 'multimedia database' are provided. 'What is renewable energy?' explains the need for the R&D of renewable energy and the concept of alternative energy and connects users to the six areas of renewable energy section. 'On-line help' provides information about how to use the REA system and who can use the REA system, purposes of REA development, the copyright, and introduction of the authors. 'Bulletin board' is an open place where the readers and webmasters can exchange ideas, questions, and answers. For school use, this function can be the major service for the two-way interaction. 'Terminology' provides explanation for the unusual or important concepts for all the renewable energy concepts in plain language, although each section of renewable energy also contains the terminology explanation. 'Related sites' connect readers to the home page where information related to the renewable energy is carried. International organizations' research labs are the major targets. Since REA is focused on the Korean case, these related sites can show the diverse information from the international environments. 'Statistics' provides information about how much fossil fuels are left, how much energy we consume per year, etc.
For the detailed information about the six sections, namely solar energy (photovoltaic and solar heat), wind, bio-mass, waste, and fuel cell energy, the basic concepts are from the researchers of those areas. Each section contains a main page, introduction, principles, types, examples of application, and the terminology.
Users can go to pages of interest very easily without getting lost. The main page starts with the familiar examples of the particular energy and tries to give information with the multimedia resources.
Development of REA was done with a team of instructional designers (system layout, content development), programmers (system design, multimedia data digitizing, system coding), graphic designer (content layout, graphical design, and development), content experts (renewable energy R&D related researchers), and schoolteachers. Since the development team was not familiar with the concept of renewable energy, it was the first mission of the team to train themselves. The team consisted of seven subareas: overall, solar heat, photovoltaic, wind, bio-mass, waste, and fuel cell. Graphic design of each section was reviewed and developed by the graphic designer and the instructional designer. Refer to the REA system home page (http://ghost.chungbuk.ac.kr/~energy/).
Each of the six areas of renewable energy -- main page, introduction, principles, types, applications, and terminology -- consists of the following information: The main page provides episodes which can present the basic idea of the particular renewable energy so users can understand what they are going to learn about. This episode is presented with the computer graphic or computer animation graphics to motivate users.
Introduction page provides the basic concept of what the particular renewable energy is about. While the main page is like the first title, the introduction aims to start the learning seriously, so the key terminology and concepts are introduced.
Principles provide how the energy can be generated from the source. While some principles of renewable energy can be simple, other principles can be complicated depending on the type of renewable energy or raw materials used; principles of bio-mass renewable energy are introduced by the types of applications.
Principles do not make much sense unless users can see how they are applied. Types of application provide information about how the renewable energy is used in reality. Korean cases are introduced as much as possible.
Terminology is a way of assisting users: whenever they need to understand the difficult concept of terminology, they can refer to this section. It is online help.
The raw multimedia materials (graphics and videos) were collected mainly from the researchers at the R&D center, and basic concept design of the educational system was developed. Since it is for education, the system should deliver the concept in plain language with graphical (multimedia) support. The system is designed to be as flexible as possible to give the control to the users, yet users are encouraged to follow the flow controlled by the system within the section.
Navigation icons are displayed in the separate frame which enables users to find them anywhere easily. Each frame uses white color for the background so it can be shown as if the total page is one rather than separated into three frames. The REA system can be best shown in the Netscape 3.0 environment.
A survey was conducted with 75 students (30 sixth graders, 23 seventh graders, and 22 ninth graders) of which 23 were male students and 52 female students. Among those students, only 17.3% had experience using the Internet which means that for the majority of students, the Web was a new instructional medium.
Conclusively, first, having no experience of using computers and the Internet did not effect the use of WBI. Navigation is not that problematic as often developers worry. A well-designed simple menu can solve such worries about the possibility of getting lost when the hyper media technology was used first. Second, usually the first selection of the menu depends on the system loosely but students' preferences do effect the selection of the path. Third, it is recommended to use applications rather than theories which are more fun and easier for students to understand. Given students' preference regarding examples and subjects for the content development, girls' preferences should be considered. Fourth, students feel closer to the subjects related to real life.
The REA is a good educational resource for renewable energy education but with the multimedia database, it can serve as the better and richer knowledge base for the experts as well as the ordinary parents, teachers, and students. Developing a multimedia database has a high cost due to the copyright problems and multimedia materials development, energy, and manpower for the labor-intensive development process and high complexity of data. If the multimedia data development can be shared systematically among the international professionals and organizations where the raw data are compiled, we can save time and money to develop copyright-free and invaluable educational resources. Very often resources for education are location-dependent, difficult to develop in other locations. Thus, sharing such location-specific materials for educational purposes can be beneficial to all participants. Development of multimedia educational databases can follow these steps:
First, the focus area and the key terms are chosen; then methods for collecting audio-visual materials and finally what to collect and the standard of the quality are chosen. The collected data are grouped and described according to the key terminology with consensus. The description should be coded according to the DB readable format. At the same time, the audiovisual materials should be digitized for the computer readable forms. The digitizing format can be standardized with the details of flexation. Each material should be copyright-free (or at least free for educational use) and educationally valuable. The medium for this DB development is English so that participating countries can localize the DB in their own language. If it is needed, at this point, some countries can take the digitized multimedia files and develop their own DB.
Another suggestion for the use of WBI is to conduct project-based school activities. The Web-based Internet environment can provide a rich educational environment: constructivism and collaboration. WBI has several models: communication tool (international exchanges), information collection, and problem solving. Each type can have various sub-types of instructional models. With the Web home pages of renewable energy education system and preferably a multimedia database, the project-based WBI can offer a quality educational experience.