A System Approach To Learning With Technology
On his first day of college, Miguel, a new student and a technophobe, is sitting in front of a computer. Full of fear and skepticism, he is watching the screen, expecting to be lost, overwhelmed, or intimidated any minute.
Instead, a whole new universe is revolving around Miguel. Planets of technology available on campus float calmly in his orbit, and at the click of a mouse he is visiting one technology planet at a time. Miguel is able to join various classes, and to preview typical technology-based assignments that will be expected of him in his pursuit of academic success. In just a couple of hours he will know what technology is available to him on campus, where it is located, and basically how to use it.
This new universe is SALT - A System Approach to Learning with Technology. SALT is a series of simulation-based interactive courseware programs that were recently developed at Long Beach City College (LBCC). Funded by California Community College Funds for -Instructional Improvement (FII) and Funds for Student Success (FSS) grants, the courseware initially targets the entry-level population with the goal of equalizing skills and affording all students at LBCC with a basic foundation in technology regardless of the digital divide. The first release of the courseware programs includes 22 scenarios in three modules and a Web site. The modules address basic technology competencies, establish minimum proficiency levels for knowledge of computers and their use, and encourage the development of critical thinking skills related to the use and application of technology, both on and off campus.
The goal of the SALT project is to improve student performance and enhance student choices for course selection in technology-related areas, as well as to improve students ability to identify, navigate, and manage the campus environment with technology. Technology-based instruction provides students with exposure to technology and a means of instruction that is more responsive to varying learning styles. Additional modules will be developed next year and focus on the management skills needed for learning with technology. These modules will focus on giving students the foundation and basic understanding necessary to be a successful, self-directed learner in this area.
Initially, high-level design deliverables were written to identify content scope and objectives. Next, motivational and creative strategies were selected to ensure that the final product will be pedagogically and androgogically sound. Interactive scripts were written and a prototype was created so that formative evaluation could be conducted. Following formative evaluation, scripts were adjusted and media production began. Graphics, sound, movies and animation files were created and programmed together using a multimedia authoring system. At the same time, data was gathered for the Web page component, and Web pages were designed using the media that was already produced for the CD courseware. Finished modules went through quality assurance sessions before they were released for content and impact testing. Students from LBCC Counseling, Learn 11, and English courses are currently testing each module and data is being gathered for analysis. The courseware is expected to be fully integrated into the open access labs by Fall 2001.
SALT creative strategies position the students at the center of the LBCC technology universe. Technology planets revolve around the students, while students visit the planets and select the scenario that corresponds to their need when launching the program. Students explore scenarios available on each technology planet and select the one they would like to learn at that time. The first release of SALT includes the following modules and scenarios:
The program is non-linear. Students are not expected to complete all scenarios at a given time, nor are they expected to follow a specific order of scenarios. All SALT scenarios begin with a typical course assignment that requires the use of technology for successful completion. While working with the simulations, it is fine for students not to know the answers. Learning occurs in consequential feedback in which students receive feedback about their choice and performance. Using the feedback screen, students are either reinforced for correct answers or learn how to correct erroneous answers.
The scenario strategy encourages students to experiment with different tracks and evaluate different outcomes based on choices they make. Additionally, students will be able to access a specific process as many times as they like, at their own pace and at their own convenience. This concept will also afford non-native speakers of English greater comfort while gaining familiarity with the new technology and learning to apply it. Modular simulation-based learning creates a user-friendly environment for this population.
A typical scenario is comprised of several content components, and media combinations appropriate to each component were selected to carry the interaction. The modules are compliant with Disabled Students Programs and Services (DSPS) and provide alternative methods of access to information conveyed in the various media included. The following table describes the content/media distribution in a typical SALT scenario:
Student Data Micro level
Student Data Macro level
Additionally, student data from a few hundred student testers is currently being gathered and analyzed to check the impact of the project on student competency, motivation and attitude. Although data is still being gathered, preliminary results appear positive in all three areas. Students who have completed the tutorials show a marked increase in their competency identifying and using technology to facilitate their studies. They also report a decrease in their fear of computers, a heightened interest in online education and a greater intention to use computers available on campus. Next year's research will also include an examination of SALT's impact on student retention and academic performance.
SALT Integration and Dissemination
About the author and credits
SALT Multimedia Authoring by Monka Mravec, Graphics by C.C. Sadler, and Web programming by Patrick Ross. SALT content provided by LBCC faculty: Alison Bowers, Christina Guillen, Karen Faulkner, Eve Miller, and Amit Schitai.