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Tips and Tutorials

Tips for Preparing Instructional Materials for the Internet

Perhaps you are not yet an expert on web publishing your instructional materials or your lecture - demonstrations for use on the Internet as "distance learning".  You may not have your own computer yet. There are millions of instructors, trainers, and would-be instructor-trainers like you with something constructive to offer students.

How can you prepare to web publish your instructional materials with minimal expense for new or upgraded software and at minimal expense in your probably unpaid work time?

  1. Case: (a) You can type, but you still use an old manual typewriter or an old IBM Selectric electric typewriter -- if any still exist outside museums in the "developed countries". Or you only have access to the computers in an Internet Café".  (b) You have hand-written or typed instructional materials onto paper. (c) You have at least one copy (the original?) of each set of instructional material. 
    What to do?:
    • xxx.
  2. Case: (a) You (or a friend) know how to use a word processor program. (b) Your existing instructional materials are hand-written on paper or printed on paper.
    What to do?:
    • Retype the hand-written or printed (a.k.a. hardcopy) materials using the word processor software you have available to you.
      If you have no computer, use a friend's computer or go to an "Internet Café" which has 1+ desktop or laptop computers available for you to use. Type your materials into a 1+ word processing files on one of these computers.
    • Save the word processed file in two locations: one on your own computer, if you have one.  Save a second copy on a removable file storage device.  Put the removable storage device in a secure fire-safe.
    • Take your printed materials (not hand-written materials) to a copy store which can scan each page and convert each item or set of materials into a text-and-graphics partially formatted word processing file.
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Tips for Authoring Learning Content at 2, 3 or more levels of difficulty

Draft 1, Begun: 10.08.15, As of: 10.09.08

There are at least two ways (or dimensions), and several ways, in which to create educationally useful variability with out too much additional trouble or burden in the authoring activities required to produce materials. This PI believes that well constructed and presented "variability" of study materials and "experiences" can lead to much better educational outcomes (which is an hypothesis yet to be proved).

  • Create a list of "related skills, terms, and concepts" for a student to study in a single study session or in a succession of study sessions for a particular lesson or for an agreed-upon, very discrete set of learning objectives in 1-3 or a few more study sessions on that subject.
  • Create a ranked list (i.e. the students' likely most to least interesting list) of Internet (and/or of your institution's Intra-net) study materials which would satisfy, say, 68% (1 sigma) of the statistical cross-section of interests of your students in that class studying that lesson or lesson sequence to achieve the pre-determined learning objectives.
  • Create 2, 3 or more versions of your primary learning materials, e.g: {simple, harder} or {beginner, least experienced student; intermediate student with some previous experience; advanced student with a great deal of previous experience, also a faster more insightful learner, etc.}.

If you plan to be able to create two or more versions of your learning materials, where each version is at a different "level of learning difficulty", here are some tips and goals to consider planning for in order to do so in addition to your normal composition and editing:

  • Save your notes and drafts "in a more organized", easier to find way; perhaps use sub-directories on your personal or office "authoring" computer where each is named by the anticipated "level of difficulty" of the material there-in.
  • Create a list of the note file names, and the draft file names of materials that are "works in progress, also note their subject or topic, and level of difficulty in a separate computer file (e.g. in a spread-sheet or in a simple database table).
  • Cross-reference  in a separate computer file (or in a spread-sheet or simple database table) these file names by "the topic" and "the anticipated degree of difficulty" of the material.
  • Consider / anticipate that in the future there may be Internet and educational web site software "tools" or "features" which will assess your student's subjective experience of the "difficulty" of the learning materials and the statistical summary of all your student's self-ratings of the same study material will be available to you.  With the statistical summary information you will be able to compare your "anticipated levels / degrees of difficulty" of the 2-3+ levels of material with the students' expressed experiences of them and adjust your ratings of them accordingly, if not also adjust the materials as well.



Why Author Learning Content at Three (3) Levels?

Draft 1, Begun: 10.08.15, As of: 10.08.15

Most instructors and authors of instructional materials are used to using a word-processor program, 20+ years since the 1980 advent of the desktop computer and "personal" and "office" productivity software.

The web-publishing version of word-processing has been a several step process for 15+ years (since about 1995 in the USA):

  • Word-process the material you wish to print-publish (on paper) and web-publish (as web pages) for use of the students in your class.
  • Save the the finished version as the normal word-processing file format ready for printing on paper.
  • Save again (i.e. use the "save-as" command) to save the finished version as web pages, i.e. to save the file as one big file or many small files with the file extension: ".html" . Since 2000 many authros have saved their files in ONE FILE format: PDF.  And this file format can be used for both printing on paper and for display online as a kind-of web page.
  • Email or otherwise transfer the "html" files (or pdf file) to your web site's "web master" (or maestra, for the women).
  • The web master (or maestra) figures out how to put your "html" files (or pdf file) on the web site for your class, does so, and notifies you that your material is ready to proof-read "online" and if ok to let your students use in your classes.

I (JGW) want to suggest that educators who plan to create MORE of their own online material for a class, material such as class readers, other class supplemental readings, guidelines, procedures, etc. plan to prepare two (2) or three (3) versions of the same material as follows:

  • a simple version (for tutorials, for 'slower' students); a complicated version (for the C+, B, A, and A+ students)
  • beginner, intermediate, and advanced versions

There are several very good technical reasons to have 2-3 versions of the same material.  The main one is that they will be useful eventually in computer-assisted human tutoring and in automated (100% computer-generated) intelligent tutoring systems.

  • Artificially intelligent "learning programs" can "learn" more subtle and implied methods and meaning from what you are teaching when given several versions of the same material.
  • AI programs can learn what you mean by "beginner" terms and concepts, "intermediate" terms and concepts, and so on.
  • AI programs can compare what you mean by "beginner", "intermediate", and "advanced" with what other instructors of the same material mean by those terms. The AI learning program then forms a statistical or "fuzzy logic" consensus of the meaning of those "meta terms", beginner, intermediate and advanced.
  • Another AI program, a learning materials classification program, can then classify "more accurately" (from the original authors' points of view and from the eventual end-user's point of view) what is "beginner", "intermediate" and "advanced" material for a given subject matter for a given type of student at a certain grade level.