A Conceptual Framework for Enhancing the Instructional Design Process

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Malaysian Online Journal of Instructional Technology (MOJIT) Vol. 1, No. 2, pp 35-48
December 2004
ISSN: 1823-1144


A Conceptual Framework for Enhancing the Instructional Design Process

1
Norliana Ab Maleh,
2
Chien-Sing Lee,
3
Chin-Kuan Ho

and
4
Hwee-Reei Chong
Faculty of Information Technology
Multimedia University
Cyberjaya, Selangor, Malaysia
1
norliana.maleh@mmu.edu.my
,
2
cslee@mmu.edu.my
,
3
ckho@mmu.edu.my
,
4
hrchong@mmu.edu.my


Abstract
Learning Management Systems (LMSs) and Learning Content Management Systems (LCMSs) are
platforms which enable meaningful interaction between instructors, administrators and students
with regards to Web-based and classroom training. The distinction between the two management
systems lies in the added authoring functionality in LCMSs. This paper examines the differences
between LMS and LCMS, compares the latest authoring tools in the market and finally presents
automated instructional design in the Ontological Instructional Design (OntoID) authoring tool, a
Java and XML-based Authoring Tool. The ultimate aim is to scaffold the instructional design
process.
INTRODUCTION
Instructional Design is a systematic approach to developing effective learning materials for different
learning contexts through the process of analysing, designing, developing and evaluating instruction.
The Ontological Instructional Design (OntoID), an automated instructional design tool aims to
achieve the above goal. The OntoID serves to provide instructors with an integrated modelling and
development interface. The modelling interface helps the instructor to visualise the association of
concepts in order to systematically design and develop learning materials. On the other hand, the
development interface provides tools for designing Web pages without the need to know Hyper
Text Markup Language (HTML) programming. Reuse of learning materials from a learning objects
repository further facilitates the development process and enables faster deployment.

This paper first presents the framework for authoring tools, the Learning Content Management
System (LCMS) as contrasted to the more popularly known Learning Management System (LMS).
The second section compares different authoring tools in the market which incorporates automated
instructional design
.
The aim is to compare the degree in which instructional design and reusability
have been incorporated into these authoring tools. This is followed by a discussion on modeling,
development and reusability in the OntoID authoring tool. The paper concludes with results from a
pilot test.
FRAMEWORK FOR AUTHORING TOOLS
Learning Content Management System
International Data Corporation (IDC), a premier global market intelligence and advisory firm in the
IT and telecommunication industries defines LCMS as a system that creates, stores, assembles and
delivers personalised e-learning content in the form of learning objects (IDC, 2004). A learning
object is a “standing piece or chunk of education that contains content and assessment based on
specific learning objectives” (Figure 1). Learning objects are described by metadata. Retrieval and
reuse of learning objects from a central repository (or knowledge base) ensures higher relevancy and
saves development time. If the learning materials are already categorised according to the student’s
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knowledge states (e.g. weak, moderate and advanced), then personalising learning materials to
different student needs becomes even easier.



Figure 1: Components of Learning Objects


According to Learning Circuits (Learning Circuits, 2002), other than support for reusable learning
objects, LCMSs provide
:


a) Content creation tools for novice developers
b) Communication and collaboration tools (asynchronous and synchronous such as white boards
and group chats)
c) Assessment tools for different levels of students
d) Administration tools to manage registration and monitoring of students’ progress, student log
and course content
e) Interoperability with any LMS or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system and support basic
integration formats such as Extensible Markup Language (XML) and other industry standards
(IMS Global Learning Consortium (IMS), Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM)
and Aviation Industry CBT Committee (AICC)
f) Security to protect content and user data, including a secure set of user privileges and permission
levels to control, manage and update content
g) Facilities for content migration to re-purpose content for faster online deployment
h) Automated implementation processes whereby features can be enabled or disabled, thus
facilitating easier and quicker customisation

In this paper, we focus on one of the LCMS features, i.e. content creation through an authoring
tool
.
An LCMS also concentrates on online learning content, usually in the form of learning objects.
However, an LMS manages and administers all forms of learning within an organisation as explained
in the following subsection.
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Learning Management System
There are two definitions that are may be most useful. According to Rengarajan (2001), an LMS
manages the organisation’s learning activities in contexts that range from an instructor-led classroom
to Web-based on-line training. It allows registration of courses, tracks individual skills and
competencies, enables easy access to learning materials, tracks student performance and generates
reports on learning activities and performance. An LMS does not enable creation, reusability,
management or improvement of content itself. The second definition comes from e-learningsite
(2004) which defines LMS as software that deploys, manages, tracks and reports on interaction
between learner and content and between learner and instructor.


Hence, a LMS provides a single point of access to different learning sources. It automates the
administration and personalisation of learning programmes, executes tests for different levels of
students and generates tests results and reports. However, it is noted that an LMS does not provide
for reusability, a value-added feature in LCMSs.
Learning Circuits point out that common features in any LMS are (Learning Circuits, 2002):

a) Support for blended learning whereby classroom and virtual learning are synergised
for prescriptive and personalised training
b) Integration with the human resource department to enable automatic update of a
staff profile
c) Administration tools to enable registration, updating of profiles, setting of
curriculum, assignment of tutors, authoring of courses, management of content and administration
of internal budgets, scheduling of timetables, user payments and refunds and generation of
individual and group performance
d) Content integration to provide native support for a diverse range of third-party
courseware
e) Compliance with learning standards such as SCORM and AICC to enable easy
import and management of content
f) Assessment tools to enable evaluation of a programme, course or lesson over time
g) Identification of training needs and management of skills as a resource
h) Easy configurability with third-party systems

The primary objective of a learning management system (LMS) is to manage learners, and keep track
of their progress and performance across all types of training activities. By contrast, a learning
content management system (LCMS) manages the flow of content that is served to the learner. In
the simplest terms, an LCMS manages the “content” and the LMS manages the “learners”.

Understanding the difference between the LMS and LCMS can be very confusing because most of
the LCMS systems also have built-in LMS functionality. Chapman & Hall (2001) report that 81% of
LCMS systems include LMS functionality as part of their system. Almost 100% of the LCMS list
themselves as being interoperable with third-party LMS. More than half (54%) have actually
performed interoperability tests with leading LMS products such as Mindflash, IBM Lotus Learning
Management System and TopClass (WBT Systems). Hence, the LMS and LCMS should be regarded
as complementary integrated solutions to e-learning.

As mentioned earlier, the distinguishing feature between an LMS and an LCMS is the authoring
aspect. What is an authoring tool? An authoring system is defined as a software package that
supports trainers and developers so that they can produce interactive multimedia courses efficiently
(Dean, 2002). Essential components are:
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 Facilities that allow developers, who may not be computer experts, to enter the training content
onto screens in an attractive way.  Support for linking screens of training material together into modules.
 Support for a range of question types so that the course designers can choose the most
appropriate for a particular situation and provide variety for the student.
 Responsive analysis that takes the student’s answers to questions and provides feedback and
makes branching decisions based on the students responses.

In view of the differences between an LMS and an LCMS, a summary of the differences between
LMS and LCMS is tabled in section 2.3.
Differences between LMS and LCMS
LCMSs and LMSs are not only dissimilar from one another but complement each other well.
Information from the two systems can be exchanged, ultimately resulting in a richer learning
experience for the user and a more comprehensive tool for the learning administrator. An LMS can
manage communities of users, allowing each of them to launch the appropriate objects stored and
managed by the LCMS. In delivering the content, the LCMS also tracks the individual learner’s
progress, generates test scores and returns these values back to the LMS for reporting purposes.

The differences between LMS (Netg, 2004) and LCMS (Brandonhall, 2004) are presented in Table 1.
Having considered the framework for authoring tools, we will now look into the various authoring
tools in the market.
Table 1: Differences between LMS & LCMS
LMS LCMS
Primary target users Training managers,
instructors, administrators
Content developers,
instructional designers,
project managers
Primary management Learners Learning Content
Management of classroom,
instructor-led training
Yes No
Performance reporting of
training results
Primary focus Secondary focus
Learner collaboration Yes Yes
Maintain learner profile or
data
Yes No
Sharing learner data with
other system
Yes No
Training Event scheduling Yes No
Competency mapping – skill
gap analysis
Yes Yes in some cases
Content creation or
authoring capabilities
No Yes
Organising reusable content No Yes
Creation of test questions
and test administration
Yes (73% of all LMS tools
have this capabilities)
Yes (92% of all LCMS tools
have this capabilities)
Dynamic pre-testing and No Yes
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adaptive learning
Workflow tools to manage
the content development
process
No Yes
Delivery of content by
providing navigational
controls and learner interface

No Yes
Author, create, store and
manage learning content
from a central repository

No

Yes
Reduces interoperability
issues with third party
vendors
No Yes

COMPARISON BETWEEN AUTHORING TOOLS
There are many authoring systems in the market, and they all have their strengths and weaknesses.
Some, for example, are very good at delivering classical CBT (Computer Based Training), but are
not as good at implementing hypermedia. Others are good at handling text and graphics, but are less
efficient at handling sound and movie. The following section will focus on differences and between
leading authoring systems in the market. Comparison is made based on their instructional design (if
any) and reusability features. In this paper, we focus on 3 authoring systems, i.e., Designer’s Edge,
Elicitus Content Publisher and Reactor XC. These tools are chosen because they provide very extensive
features in creating and managing content for the instructor. This review forms the requirements for
developing our OntoID authoring tool.

Designer’s Edge


Designer's Edge (Figure 2) provides a set of integrated pre-authoring toolsets and wizard to speed up
the analysis, design and evolution of effective technology-based training (Allen Communication,
2004). Designer's Edge performance support approach to instructional design provides a step-by-
step process that speeds productivity, standardises design and processes across organisations and
facilitates effective design and development for trainers.

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Figure 2: Main Window of Designer’s Edge

Designer's Edge combined with NetSynergy allows trainers to export their Designer's Edge's story board
to HTML or JAVA templates for full cross platform delivery on the Web or corporate Internet. An
added advantage is Designer's Edge Enterprise Edition has their own extension for Dreamweaver to
allow Dreamweaver developers to access Designer's Edge project design information directly from
within Dreamweaver.

There are 12 phases in this authoring tool to follow in order to create learning content. These are
analyse needs, create mission statement, create audience profile, write objectives, analyse and outline
content, create course layout map, define treatment, select learner activities, create detailed plan,
produce media, author course and evaluate course. Designer’s Edge also has its own customiser and
wizard editor. Besides its advantages mentioned previously, there are some disadvantages with this
authoring tool. Even though Designer’s Edge has instructional design features in its software, it does
not address the issue of reusability in the authoring of content.

Elicitus Content Publisher

Elicitus Content Publisher (Figure 3) is another interesting authoring tool in the market. It is claimed to
be an inexpensive authoring tool for quickly creating e-learning courses. Instructors can create
courses using templates and then can deliver the courses via CD-ROM, Intranet, and Internet or
integrate it with a Learning Management System (LMS). Elicitus enables instructors to publish
courses and host them on their Learning Management System with AICC or SCORM compliance.
This way they can track their learners' progress closely, and reuse course contents (Elicitus, 2004).


A course can have several learning units. Each learning unit can have many lessons and each lesson
will have topic pages. The topic pages contain the content of the course. The entire course can have
a multimedia glossary created through Elicitus’s Glossary Builder. A course can end with an
assessment to check the student’s understanding of the subject. An exercise is an optional
component of a topic page, meant to assess the student’s understanding of the topic. Once an
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exercise is attached to a topic page, it will be displayed to the student before the student goes to the
next topic page. The student can quit from the exercise and go the next topic page without doing the
exercise.
Main features of this authoring tool are Course Outline Editor, Question Bank Editor and Glossary
Builder. Besides these three important features, they also have assessment, import learning object
and templates. Although Elicitus has good features in creating content, online self assessment and
reusability issue is addressed, it does not have any instructional design features to enable instructors
to plan, design, analyse and evaluate while they author the content.


Figure 3: Main Window of Elicitus Content Publisher

Reactor XC

Reactor XC (Figure 4) is a content creation tool for the e-learning industry, offering end-to-end
authoring and distribution with a full range of powerful features that enable instructors to efficiently
produce rich interactive e-learning on any scale. It is compliant with SCORM 1.2 and fully supports
the core sentiment of “interoperability, accessibility and reusability”. It allows the user to merge any
combination of media and complex data sources such as Microsoft NetMeeting or PowerPoint into
interactive learning experience to be viewed in a standard Web browser (Etiro, 2004).

Reactor XC uses XML and XHTML to package a powerful combination of Web-technologies (Etiro,
2004)  Microsoft VML for vector graphics
 Microsoft HTML+TIME for dynamics
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 JavaScript for interactivity
 SCORM and Microsoft LRN for course structure and LMS interfacing
Main features of this authoring tool are course structure, templates, dynamic content and animation,
working with LMS and creating interactivity using JavaScript.

Figure 4: Main Window of Reactor XC

Similar with Elicitus, Reactor XC also does not have any instructional design feature to enable
instructors to plan, design, analyse and evaluate while they author the content. Nevertheless, they do
have reusable feature.
The above framework and requirements form the basis for our own authoring tool, the OntoID
described in the next section. Our focus is not merely on the development of Web pages but rather
on the facilitation of the whole instructional design process. Two main aspects are discussed:
automating instructional design and reusability.
AUTOMATED INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGN (AID) & REUSABILITY
The design of quality learning materials depends on two aspects: good instructional design and easy-
to-use Web development tools. Instructional design can be defined as the “science of creating detailed
specifications for the development, evaluation, and maintenance of situations, which facilitate the learning of both large
and small units of subject matter”

(Richey, 1990). Instructional design grew out of the systems approach
to training developed by the military during World War II. It was based on the premise that learning
should not occur in a haphazard manner but should be developed in accordance with orderly
processes and has measurable outcomes (Gustafson & Branch, 1997).

The role of models in instructional design is to provide conceptual and communication tools that
can be used to visualise, direct, and manage processes for generating episodes of guided learning.
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Analysis, design, production, evaluation, and revision steps are included in virtually all instructional
design models created in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. However, some authors of this period (Hassan,
1978; Merrill, 1981) used the term instructional development in a much more limited way, typically
to describe only the design element (Gustafson & Branch, 1997).


Instructional design is usually very time-consuming and laborious. Two hundred hours of manual
instructional design is required for one hour of instruction (Lippert, 1989). Programming computer-
based instruction requires an even more astounding 500:1 ratio (Bourdeau et al., 1993). A possible
solution to both problems will be to automate instructional design. In such learning environment,
the learner would have maximum flexibility as to what would be learned, in what sequence, and
perhaps in how it was even measured. Automated instructional design (AID) can be defined as “the
processes identified for manipulating the knowledge objects in a knowledge structure provide the
bases for computer algorithms that can emulate some of the processing done by a learner”

(Merrill,
2000).
The second aspect addressed in this paper, reusability, revolves around the reuse of codes and
modular programming. Reusability deals with the issue of laborious Web development, a deterrent
to the novice instructor. Reuse-based software engineering includes three methods (Sommerville,
2000). Firstly is application system reuse where the entire application system may be reused either by
incorporating it without change into other systems (COTS reuse) or by developing application
families. Secondly is component reuse where components of an application from sub-system to single
objects may be reused. Thirdly is function reuse where software components that implement a single
well-defined function may be reused (Sommerville, 2000).

The advantages of reusability are (Sommerville, 2000):
 increased reliability where components are exercised in a working system
 reduced process risk, due to less uncertainty in development costs
 effective use of specialists where we reuse the components instead of people
 standards compliance in reusable components, and
 accelerated development

The major technology contributing to reusability that is extensively used today is the eXtensible
Markup Language (XML). XML is fast becoming a standard format for Internet/intranet data
information exchange. It serves as an excellent means for representing data to provide an open,
Internet-based integration of cross-enterprise applications especially in e-learning applications
(Lakshmi et al., 2004). How this XML technology will be put into practice and in what fashion it
promotes reusability will be described in the subsequent section.
One of the components of Multimedia Knowledge Base e-learning (MKBe), an ongoing project
developed in Multimedia University is the OntoID authoring tool. The OntoID is an essential part of
the LCMS (Learning Content Management Systems) as creation and content management is done
through the authoring tool. The OntoID authoring tool includes instructional design as a precursor to
the design and development of Web pages. The authoring tool provides a Graphical User Interface
(GUI) to enable the user to create learning objects and store them in central repositories. Ideally,
once created, these learning objects should function in two or more instructional contexts.
Highlights are given to the reusability of the templates and online self-assessment tool in this
authoring tool.
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OntoID
’s Automated Instructional Design
Automated instructional design helps the instructor model instructional design systematically. The
instructor can create a new concept, view existing concept, update a concept, remove a concept and
add concept from the central repository (knowledge base) to the OntoID interface shown in Figure 5.
When the instructor wishes to create a new concept, first he or she will select the lesson or parent
concept from the OntoID conceptual tree. This will indicate the position of the new concept in the
tree. Next, the instructor will provide metadata to the new concept. Metadata involved are concept
name, objectives, pre-requisite concepts, related concepts, media files and tasks (Figure 6). This new
concept will be saved in a knowledge base. To view existing concepts which are stored in the
knowledge base, the instructor needs to select the concept from the OntoID interface and
information corresponding to the selected concept will be displayed.


Figure 5: Main Window of OntoID

Concepts in the concept tree can be modified and updated by the instructor. He or she has to select
which concept he or she wishes to update, update the concept and save the updated concept in the
knowledge base. Removing a concept from the interface requires the instructor to choose the
concept he or she wishes to remove, confirm the removal and the chosen concept will be removed.
In addition to creating a new concept, the instructor can add concepts from the knowledge base.
First, the instructor determines the position of the concept by selecting the lesson or parent concept.
Next, the instructor can specify the course name and concepts related to the selected course will be
retrieved and displayed. The instructor can then choose the concept and add it to the OntoID tree.


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Figure 6: The Concept of Metadata

The development in the OntoID authoring tool is facilitated by its reusable aspect addressed in the
following subsection.
Reusability in the
OntoID
Authoring Tool
Java is used as the main language for developing the application and GUIs for the OntoID authoring
tool. By combining the Java and XML technologies when creating application or working with
information gives us portability, well-defined standards, extendibility, Internet compatibility, a
variety of application and very important advantage we have is the option of reusing the code. We
can create both Java application and XML document using a modular design, allowing for the reuse
of both Java code and XML information.
In reusing Java code and XML information, we break the code into a number of modules, each of
which performs a specific task. For example, in an assessment, we classify the modules for each type
of question so that we can have a question bank. A question bank is a pool of questions which the
instructors key in when they create an exercise or assessment for their students. Figure 7 shows an
example of creating Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ).

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Figure 7 Multiple choice question template

The questions in our online self assessment based on concept were organised. Each assessment is
tightly integrated with the concept. For example, if the instructor creates an assessment for an object
concept, all the questions together with the information associated with it will be saved into an
object XML file. When the instructor wants to reuse again questions in the object concept in his or
her new concept, he or she can simply search the question bank (XML tree). Suitable assessment
types (multiple choice, fill-in-the-blanks, subjective or true/false) and corresponding questions for a
particular object concept will be retrieved. The instructor can either reuse the whole assessment or
choose only particular question(s) that suits his or her new assessment for a concept. The benefit of
having such design is that it facilitates higher reusability. The instructor can easily reuse any question
and the corresponding information without having to search the entire question bank.

User Feedback
The usability testing for a pilot test on 4 respondents was conducted. All of them were given a set of
questions which mainly asked about ID and reusability. From the testing, essentially about 90%
from the respondents did not know and have never heard about automated instructional design
previously
.
Feedback collected mostly shows that automating instructional design helped them
layout their content very well. They also found that automating instructional design makes the
system more user-friendly and easy to learn, especially in outlining the concept in the OntoID
interface.
Responses from the users also indicated that our features are understandable and easy to learn.
Majority of them prefer the wizard approach in creating the online self assessment test. The users
are guided by the system step by step in designing the assessment. Having standard templates for
each question type promotes user flexibility and saves time.
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CONCLUSION
The definition and differences between LMS and LCMS have been discussed in the first part of this
paper. Even though they varied, they support each other very well. When integration is successful,
information between them can be exchanged and shared between each other. We have emphasised
more on the LCMS as it provides a framework or requirements for the creation of authoring tools.
Comparison with commercial authoring tools has further supported and refined the LCMS
framework.
The OntoID authoring tool version 1 meets some of the requirements stated in the LCMS
framework which are content creation tools for novice developer and assessment tool for different
levels of student and reusability of content. The LCMS framework emphasises on content
development. An added value to the OntoID is that it incorporates instructional design with content
development. Pilot tests indicate that automating instructional design in the OntoID is not only user-
friendly and easy, but reduces development time and cost. With continuous research and review, we
hope to further refine the system for user testing on a wider scale and further improve on the
OntoID.

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