I’ve seen elearning projects fail many times over the years because they attempted to take static text designed for print, perhaps with a few graphics, put it on the web and expect students to engage in endless page-turning which they would have been better off doing from a book. It’s boring, the text takes longer to read than from paper, academic staff don’t see the point, students loathe it and print it out anyway at their own expense, and elearning gets a bad name.
There are instances where textual content designed for print is useful online: the student going abroad with a laptop who doesn’t want to carry all her books or the visually impaired learner who listens to texts with screen reader software. I suspect though that the majority of our learners will continue to read content designed for print on paper.
But computers are better than print for certain things and one of them is interactivity. Books can ask you questions and allow you to write an answer in a box but they can’t then check your response and give you instant feedback, record how you’re coping with the learning materials or prompt a tutor to contact you if you seem to be struggling.
That’s why a development announced today is quite significant. Our open source eassessment system, OpenMark, now allows single questions to be combined with other content within a Moodle page. You can read some text, then test your understanding of it without having to go into a separate test module. Suddenly textual content comes alive and makes sense (in small doses) in an online environment.