P.M. (1997, June). Managing
a Hypermedia Courseware Development Project: Dynamics and Conclusions.
Proceedings of 18th World International Council for Distance
Personal homepage: http://www.globe-online.com/philip.uys
If you need assistance in the strategic implementation of e-Learning (networked education/distributed learning) in your institute, you are welcome to contact email@example.com to discuss your needs.
Table of Contents
The main aims of the project are to increase
* the quality of
* educational opportunities
* student numbers and
* staff productivity.
The project is nick-named "hydi" derived from "hy-permedia in di-stance education".
Three key aspects in managing a hypermedia courseware development project on the Web are discussed:
Approach for organizational changeSystems development life cycle methodologyProject Team composition model.
Once the objectives were clearly formulated and accepted by the sponsor of the project, who is the Principal, strategies to reach these objectives were formulated.
The concept of on-line delivery was new to
A key factor in the success of the project was that the vision of on-line delivery was a shared one between the Principal and the Project Manager. This assisted tremendously in introducing this new concept.
For acceptance of this new concept, it was important to create a general awareness following both a top-down and bottom-up approach. After the Principal accepted the proposal and appointed the Project Manager, the Project Manager then asked staff, which have shown some personal interest in on-line delivery, to join the project in the required roles. The Principal agreed to launch the concept at a breakfast for the Directorate (top management) - with other specially invited staff - and the project team. The project manager also provided input on a monthly basis at the Senior Management's meetings. A number of general sessions were held for staff that would have been involved in both the early and later stages of the project. Each deliverable was also publicly launched at a function to which all staff were invited.
The concept of a pilot project to develop the
The pilot project concept was again used when the first on-line course was to be developed: a sampler course 'Teaching Techniques for Adult Learning' was constructed.
This sampler provides interested parties a taste
of what on-line courses at
Overall, the seven stages of Lewin and Schein's model for organizational change were followed (the stages are listed and how it was applied in this project) :
a. Scouting: Identify potential areas or systems that may need change - delivery of courses
b. Entry: Stating the problems and the goals - described in the initial proposal document
c. Diagnosis: Gathering data and determining resources required - described in the initial proposal document and further developed during the pilot project and the development of the Sampler course
d. Planning: Examining alternatives and making decisions - some early decisions were contained in the initial proposal document eg that the Web is to be used as key delivery medium; others were made by using the prototype and Sampler concepts where a large degree of exploration, discovery and experimentation was allowed for in all areas : educational, technical and design. Some issues were taken to the Senior management meetings and others to a Computer Advisory Committee for input. Further issues eg payment for courses were decided on by the relevant administrative departments.
e. Action: Implementing the decisions - decisions were followed through in a consistent manner.
f. Evaluation: Determining whether the changes satisfied the initial objectives and solved the problems identified - this process has been carried out continuously in weekly project meetings, informal and open discussions, feedback by students who were asked to "test-drive" the courses and by real students. Valuable feedback from trusted colleagues at other tertiary institutes were also obtained. It is imperative that more student feedback be sought in a more scientific way as well as ongoing technical evaluation due to ensure that the most appropriate technologies are being used. Initial feedback is generally positive but a number of changes in development have already been identified.
g. Termination: Transferring the ownership of the new / changed system
to the users and ensuring efficient operation - since the content providers
were intimately involved from the start and the educational director was deeply
involved, this transition is taking place in a satisfactory way. On a larger
scale, the hydi project itself is now no longer a
project, but a group within the Education Development Department and the
Project Manager now has a 50% time allocation for the development of hypermedia
courses in the Web and to spearhead this development at
The above model seems to work well if the seven stages are not seen as consecutive, but as dynamic dimensions of a process. Flexibility and giving a high priority to people-issues proved to be essential ingredients in the success of introducing this change in the organization.
Another key aspect in the management of a project of this nature is the selection of an appropriate systems development life cycle methodology.
Two general information systems development life cycle methodologies are : the "traditional (waterfall) model" and the "prototype (spiral) model".
The spiral systems development life cycle methodology was used to develop the courseware in the early stages of the project due to the high degree of uncertainty and because of the nature of the technology. Prototypes were developed which were greatly improved on or totally discarded as the content providers, the graphic designer and the computer specialist grew in their knowledge and experience.
In the traditional waterfall life cycle approach it is emphasised that each of the six phases (implementation, analysis, design, implementation - which includes construction and testing, maintenance, review) is done consecutively. This approach is followed when there is a high degree of certainty about input and outcomes which provide a solid structure.
In the spiral approach, each of the six phases are executed per module / prototype.
The courseware development now uses a combination of the traditional (waterfall) life cycle approach and the prototype approach. The investigation is done for the system as a whole (ie course or group of courses) and the other phases are carried out per module / prototype. The course content is however expected to be in a more final form when handed to the design and construction team members.
The Web technology allows a large degree of intrinsic flexibility due to the course materials being in a "living" format which is in contrast to text, video or CD-ROM materials. Web pages can be changed continuously and only one source copy need to be updated. This provides added flexibility in the development of hypermedia on the Web.
The promotional activities which is vital for courses on the Web (and implied in the "Implementation" phase) needs to be highlighted. With an increasing number of courses becoming available on-line, these activities will often be the difference between high and inadequate enrolments for an on-line course.
The following roles were identified whereafter people were approached to serve in these capacities:
(rotating role for each course)
One of the interesting aspects of managing this multi-disciplinary project team is to achieve a balance in educational purposes, graphic design and the capabilities of information technology.
One reason for the success of this project thus far is that people involved are flexible as well as internally motivated by their personal interest in hypermedia delivery over the Web.
Depending on the size of the project, more than one person can be employed in the following roles: content director, creative director / graphic designer, computer specialist, media developer.
The strengths of this model are:
* that the Principal has a very good grasp of computer related matters and is a keen Internet user and that he is a very enthusiastic supporter of the project - both in financial and motivational areas. Various problems were solved because of his active support of this project as sponsor
* the vital role of the educational director who ensures that sound educational processes are used; this fixed role on the team underscores the centrality of educational issues in the development of courseware
* the graphic designer who ensures that the layout and graphical elements support the educational intent
* people were open to input from others in their areas of responsibility and lots of room was created for team members to comment on and discuss each others' work.
To make the model more effective:
The proposed structure of an effective project team for developing courseware on the Web is therefore:
Key characteristics of team members proved to be:
* openness to each other
* expertise in the specific field of responsibility.
Three key aspects in managing a hypermedia courseware development project on the Web were discussed:
5.1 Approach for organizational change
It is vital to have a sponsor from top management. For acceptance of this new concept, it is important to create a general awareness following both a top-down and bottom-up approach. The concept of a pilot project can be used successfully when starting down the track of using any new media . Overall, the seven stages of Lewin and Schein's model for organizational change were followed - the seven stages were not seen as consecutive, but as dynamic dimensions of a process. Flexibility and giving a high priority to people-issues are essential ingredients in the success of introducing change in an organization.
5.2 Systems development life cycle methodology
For effective Web courseware development a combination of the traditional (waterfall) life cycle approach and the prototype approach can be used. The Web technology allows a large degree of intrinsic flexibility due to the course materials being in a "living" format which is in contrast to text, video or CD-ROM materials. The promotional activities which are vital for courses on the Web needs to be highlighted.
5.3 Project Team composition model
A multi-disciplinary project team is required which necessitates a striving for balance in educational purposes, graphic design and the capabilities of information technology. One reason for the success of this project thus far is that people involved are flexible as well as internally motivated by their personal interest in hypermedia delivery over the Web.
The proposed structure of an effective project team for developing courseware on the Web is : sponsor, project manager, content director, creative director / graphic designer, computer specialist, educational director and media developers. Key characteristics of team members should be flexibility, openness to each other and expertise in each person's specific field of responsibility.