Chapter Three

General Features of Software for Learning

Chapters 4 – 11 will address specific methodologies (I was pleased to see a chapter on games!); Chapter 3 explores the features common to all approaches.  These include an introduction, learner control, presentation, help or guidance, and the ending of a program.

Any program should begin with a title page to introduce the program.  Even in my online teaching job, I create a welcome screen for each lesson.  This introduction tells about the program and/or the instructor and generally what the program is about.  It should be designed to capture the attention of the learner.  It may be necessary to provide copyright information, company logos, an appropriate color screen for branding, and other features.  It is also important to begin with clear navigation options so the learner knows how to continue in the program or how to exit.

Many programs provide an opportunity for the learner to self identify.  In my project, my altar server may want to enter his name which can be used later to personalize feedback or other aspects of the program.  Learners then have varying degrees of control of the program including sequence, pauses, directions, etc.  My learners will all be adolescent Catholic boys so there will likely be only minor differences in control, typically where a learner might want to explore a topics in more depth.  Mastery of the content is essential for my project so I will likely maintain a fair amount of control so the most important points are addressed and the most essential skills are assessed.

Several types of devices can be used to manage learner control including buttons, menus, and hyperlinks.  Menus are typically included for adults more than for children.  It might be a good idea to provide a visual indicator of progress if sequence is not important.  I do feel sequence would be helpful when going through the various parts of the Mass, but there could be more flexibility when presenting terminology, liturgical colors, gestures, etc.  Hyperlinks can be effective, but their use should not hamper the readability of the overall text.  They also should not be used for common actions such as moving forward or backward or exiting the program.  Some keyboard shortcuts may be beneficial, but with my audience they probably won’t be used very frequently.

Material can be presented through the use of text, graphics, animation, video, sound, color and design.  Each must be chosen and placed according to best graphic design practices in order to be effective and prevent unnecessary distraction.  Each element should promote the flow of the program to enable learning and foster motivation.

Where applicable to the content, help should be provided.  At the very least, procedural help should be present to assist the learner in navigating the program so they are able to achieve success.  When a user is ready to terminate the program, he might need to end it temporarily so he can return at a later time to complete the instruction.  I’m not sure yet how to accomplish this with Captivate, but it sounds like a good learning and design challenge.

This section of the textbook is rich with examples and recommendations.  I will certainly need to refer back to it throughout the design process.

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