The Evaluation of Educational Service Integration in Integrated Virtual Courses

Abstract

The effectiveness of an integrated virtual course is determined by factors such as the navigability of the system. We argue that in a virtual course, which offers different educational services for different learning activities, the integration of services is a good indicator for the effectiveness of a virtual course infrastructure. We develop a set of metrics to measure the degree of integration of a virtual course. We combine structural metrics and an analysis of the student usage of the system in order to measure integration. 1 Integrated Virtual Courses Third-level undergraduate and postgraduate courses, especially in science and engineering, comprise usually various forms of teaching. Lectures typically form the backbone. Tutorials illustrate and exemplify the concepts and theories demonstrated in the lectures. Laboratory sessions allow the students to work, exercise, experiment, or explore topics they have learnt about in lectures and tutorials. We propose a similar separation of teaching forms for virtual Web-based courses. In virtual courses we shall call these forms educational services. Each service allows a student to interact with the system in a specific way. Each service is connected to a specific student learning activity. Attending a lecture, and thus comprehending concepts and theory, is different from acquiring practical skills in labs. Pedagogically, these activities should be connected and well integrated in a coherent environment. The educational activities should also be distinguishable in virtual environments. The difference in the student activities suggests implementing them through different services in a virtual course environment. A separation of services has also other advantages: the services might already exist in separation, or the course has to be developed by several people, or the course has also to be taught in a conventional form on campus. In this paper we discuss conceptual and technological requirements for service integration in virtual courses. We address the evaluation and design of such course systems. We briefly relate to some experience we made delivering such a course. Our focus is on Web-based course systems using Internet technologies to implement the services. The literature [BL99] uses the term Virtual Learning Environment VLE for software systems that provide methods for online delivery of course material and communications functionality (email, newsgroups, video-conferencing). We consider a special class of VLEs here, which we will call Integrated Virtual Courses, abbreviated IVC. These are courses typically taught online at undergraduate or postgraduate level in third-level institutions. They offer typically several services. We ignore the communications issues here. An IVC is a Web site with specific page types and a specific architecture. Pages are classified into portal, menu, index or content pages. The architecture includes several central hubs (portal, index and menus) and peripheral content pages. Possibly longer paths represent causal dependencies among the individual content elements of the course. Our objective is to validate and, if necessary, to improve the quality, in particular the effectiveness of a course system. We define effectiveness as the usability of the system. In an online course which coherently

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Cite this paper

@inproceedings{PahlTheEO, title={The Evaluation of Educational Service Integration in Integrated Virtual Courses}, author={Claus Pahl} }