Scope of Request for Interactive On-Line Courseware
Prepared By: Serge Matulich, Ph.D., CPA
System Development: RAD CORPORATION
Statement of Scope
This is a major project involving complex programming tasks. The customer is an author of accounting textbooks who intends to convert one of his textbooks to an interactive on-line course. Students using the course will not be required to buy a textbook. In the context of this project, the author is also the publisher of the course. Other authors will be solicited for inputting their works into the software, but they will not be considered to be publishers. Although my field is business and accounting, it is my intention that the software will be usable with courses in many academic fields.
Problem/Opportunity Statement —
Higher education is at a crossroad. Significant changes have already taken place and more will take place as advances in technology affect the way classes are taught and students learn. Traditional approaches are slowly giving way to new methods. Among these is the move toward on-line teaching and learning.
Improving teaching with technology is possible because of the increased options offered by electronic media. The flexibility of time and place of learning, interactivity, presentation media, even the use of animation, all add to heightened interest in an arduous subject. The spectrum of pedagogical strategies is tremendously enlarged. If properly executed, an on-line course can significantly enhance comprehension and retention.
Most existing on-line business courses are designed by publishers and authors to accompany a printed textbook. Such courses may include on-line syllabi, lecture notes, examinations, chat rooms, and links to related materials, but they require a textbook. The advantages to be gained by using available technological enhancements are thus lacking in the primary source of study material where they are most needed. Much of the courseware developed to allow professors to place their courses on the Internet typically is deficient in pedagogy and lacks test security features. Examples include Blackboard, WebCT, and E-College.
The education industry is ready for a technological leap in the development of appropriate courseware. Instead of software designed to supplement textbooks, I propose to develop courseware that will allow students to study entirely on-line, without the need to buy a textbook.
The goal of this project is to develop courseware that avoids the pedagogic flaws currently found in existing on-line courseware. The creation of an interactive on-line course is a complex creative task that must be carefully planned and executed. The process must take into consideration sound learning psychology, design, composition, organization, and presentation.
Among the goals that this project must satisfy is to develop software that will have the following characteristics:
- The courseware shall be usable on the Internet and also on CD.
- The courseware should be easy to understand and use by authors of on-line courses.
- It must satisfy pedagogic principles that apply to a broad range of academic subjects.
- It should guide authors in designing courses that will make learning easier, more efficient, and more effective.
- It should stimulate students to better and faster and absorb the course material thoroughly.
The project should offer the following for course authors, professors, and students.
Authors: The project shall provide authors with templates for a variety of formats to suit many academic subjects and presentation approaches.
- Templates shall be available for presenting text, figures, study guides, self-tests, proficiency tests, and presentations, possibly accompanied by sound..
- Authors shall be able to specify links to on-line material without the need to understand how to program such links to make them operational.
- Authors will be assured that their objective tests, which are by their nature difficult and time consuming to prepare, will be secure so that they can be reused over and over.
- Authors will have the ability to create modify, edit, and update their work easily and without special training or programming knowledge.
- Authors will have control of their work and will be assured of adequate compensation for their creative efforts.
Professors: Teachers adopting the courses for use in their classes shall have ready access to appropriate material that may not always be available to students.
- Appropriate records will be available to teachers to assess their students’ progress, proficiency, and test scores.
- Professors adopting the course will be able to decide which material not available to students will be available to their teaching assistants.
- Teachers will have access to the author to make suggestions, ask questions, and correct errors, or to discuss pedagogic issues and problems.
- The ability to release course material to students at specified times, to set deadlines for tests, and otherwise control the course environment will be provided to course adopters.
- Teachers will be able to communicate with students by e-mail and in chat rooms.
- Professors will be able to integrate their own Power Point or similar presentations as part for the course only for the classes they teach.
Students: Registering and paying for the course will be simple and easy.
- Navigating through the course material will be intuitively easy.
- Students will have the ability to insert notes into the course, to access those notes when needed, and to highlight text material in their CD or downloaded version of the course.
- They will be able to specify when they wish to see facing pages of the material, or to enlarge parts of the material when necessary by means of a zooming feature.
- The course will guide students through a proper sequence of learning to maintain interest, and ensure absorption and retention of the course material.
- Students will be able to assess their progress by means of self-tests, improve their performance by repeating tests, and will have ready access to their record of accomplishments.
- Upon returning to the course, students will be able to move quickly to the point where they left the course previously, or to navigate to other parts of the course.
- Students will have the ability to communicate with their professor and with one another by means of e-mail and an on-line chat room.
- The project does not include the creation of courses or the inputting of course material into the templates to be designed. The programmer will, however, have access to sample course material to facilitate his design and test the operation of the program.
- The course will not require the use of animation.
- The programmer may designate other exclusions that are necessary, subject to customer approval.
- The programmer may need to acquire additional skills in order to accomplish the project objectives.
- The programmer shall advise the buyer where buyer’s requirements are not feasible and possible, and shall suggest alternative approaches.
- The programmer shall communicate frequently with the buyer to ensure that the project is progressing in the desired direction.
- Both programmer and buyer will be flexible in adjusting to necessary changes in the program specifications.
- Software may be available that satisfies portions of the project requirements. Buyer and bidder shall be flexible in adapting existing software, subject to copyright requirements. For example, it may not be necessary to develop chat room software.
- Requirements of the project to permit e-mail among professors and students shall make use of existing technology.
- The primary constraints are time and money. The project is complex and will require sufficient time to execute properly. The programmer is expected to make a realistic estimate of the time needed to complete the project.
- I recognize that the project is complex. My resources are limited. I am an individual who has found all available courseware to be lacking in features and performance. I am converting my accounting textbook to an on-line course and will input the course into the project. I will also make it available to other authors. I hope to recoup my investment by offering my course to professors for adoption in their classes, and to other authors for inputting their own courses.
- The project will enable professors to offer course material in a better, more efficient, and more productive way
- Many authors lack outlets for their work because the number of academic publishers has been dramatically reduces through mergers and buyouts. This project will provide outlets to authors who may otherwise be unable to publish their work.
- Students will benefit because on-line interactive courses are not only a better way to learn, but they can be available at a lower cost because the cost of printing, binding, distribution, and bookstore margin are eliminated. I anticipate that instead of paying about $100 or more for a textbook, study guide, and other ancillary materials, students will be able to access all of the same material and more for less than half that amount.
- The coding of this project is a complex task that involves a high degree of skill and creativity. The coder is therefore no less an author than the writers of the courses that will use the software. It is my intention to compensate the coder beyond the cost of the bid as the software program is used. Thus after the program is operational, the coder will be entitled to a royalty on each copy of the courses sold.
- there is no doubt that as the software is put to use, improvements and modifications will be needed. A programmer who completes this project efficiently and well will have an opportunity to benefit from additional work beyond the original project.
- It is important to understand the risks this project entails.
- Competing software may be developed by others that is as good or better than the project as conceived here.
- The coder may not be capable of executing the program as specified.
- Although more than 100 universities adopted my textbook in printed form, there is no guarantee that the on-line interactive version will be desired by a large number of adopters. In that case future royalties available to the coder may be limited.
- Authors of courses in various fields may prefer existing software and may not want to author courses for the software developed for this project. In that case future royalties to the coder may be limited.