The Science and Art of Instructional Design: Ensuring eLearning is not eBoring

Andre Greenberry, Army’s Training Technology Centre (TTC), Defence Plaza, Sydney. andre.greenberry@defence.gov.au

Abstract

The Australian Army has actively sought to use technology to increase training effectivess and to lessen its costs for training. After verifying the worth of training technology via controlled and experimental studies at a number of its training establishments, Training Command ­ Army embedded the exploitation of technology within its strategic plan. In 1996 it initiated a project to maximise the use of technology in the delivery of training. A great deal of investment was made in establishing the infrastructure required for the use of technology. Accompanying the infrastructure development was the building of software. To-date, Training Command ­ Army has produced over 50 eLearning packages which represents over 40 Gib of software. These eLearning packages are media rich and use simulations to immerse the learners into active learning environments. Much has been said about the quality of Training Command - Army’s eLearning products; the latest positive comments coming from wining two Australian Interactive Multimedia Association (AIMIA) awards ­ 2003 ‘Best Training Package’ and 2003 ‘Best of the Best’. Training Command ­ Army values these accolades and awards, but what it values more is the process of eLearning production it has developed over the years. Central and fundamental to this development process is the application of sound instructional design principles. Its eLearning is designed by educational psychologists that apply knowledge and skills to create materials that truly facilitate learning. What lies at the heart of any effective eLearning, simulation or residential learning material is the science and art of instructional design.

SCIENCE AND ART

The assumption that any subject matter expert, classroom instructor, software coder or computing enthusiast can design eLearning is wrong. Having an understanding of content and a technological or computing bent does not provide a license to cobble together material to be promulgated via the web, DVD or CD. Designing quality eLearning requires the application of knowledge and skills. Knowledge is the science of judiciously applying educational psychology principals, tenets and theories to maximise retention. Skill is the art of crafting a learning portal that appeals and facilitates the transfer and absorption of learning content. Understanding the science and art underpinning the development of eLearning is a prerequisite for the design of a quality product. But alas, many eLearning products are being designed oblivious of the requisite science and art. There are a plethora of computer based learning packages that simply focus on delivering huge amounts of content and contravene basic instructional design principals. Information presentation does not constitute learning. So it is that eReading, eBoring and eSleeping products are dissolving the ‘learning’ ideals of eLearning. It is becoming more and more apparent that the principals of learning are being subsumed by the eLearning delivery medium. M. David Merrill corroborates such an assertion in an article entitled ‘Wake Up! And Reclaim Instructional Design’. Merrill writes “…nobody is studying the effectiveness of what we are doing…that is how you create irrelevant fads…you do something neat, talk about it, then everybody else wants to do it ­ whether it matters or not… any persons associated with educational technology today are engaged in a flight from science. Instruction is a scientific field, and instructional design is a technology founded in this science. Instructional design is not merely a philosophy; it is a set of procedures arrived at by collaboration; it is a set of scientific principles and a technology for implementing these principles in the development of instructional experiences and environments…”. This explains the science, but what about the art. The art of instructional design for eLearning lies with screen design, metaphor selection and navigation to name but a few artistic features of development. The science, not the art, will be the focus of this paper.

WHY ELEARNING?

The competitive leverage that intellectual capital brings to an organization has been widely recognised. Another accepted fact is the increasing complexity of products and business processes. These factors have created an environment where eLeaning is being recognised as an essential ingredient in retaining and maintaining an educated workforce ­ a competitive edge. In pursuit of this edge, American businesses are investing huge amounts of money into eLearning. It was estimated that in 2003 approximately $11.5 billion was spent on eLearning development and that $18 billion will be spent on developing eLearning products in 2005. The businesses investing in eLearning are not philanthropic organisations! They are making eLearning investments because of its ROI potential. So who can doubt the financial benefits of eLearning when American businesses are investing so much into it. Leaving aside the financial worth of eLearning, the educational value of eLearning has been largely supplied by the US Department of Defence. Early research indicated that Computer Based Learning (CBL) resulted in 0.4 sigma improvement. A one-sigma increase roughly corresponds to one grade level improvement. Research on the latest CBL and Computer Aided Instruction (CAI) technology shows a one-sigma increase. The next generation of intelligent technology promises two-sigma improvement, reaching the ultimate of one-on-one tutoring level. So why is this format for learning so good? Students undertaking eLearning take more responsibility for their own tuition; they cannot hide within the anonymity of a large class. Instead, they are compelled to work through all content and complete the formative and summative assessments. The good assessment results stem from the fact that what people learn as a consequence of their own endeavours they learn more profoundly and deeply. Accordingly, eLearning sees an improvement in retention and a lessening of skills decay. The simple fact is that quality eLearning invokes the ‘rule of thirds’ ­ one third lessening of costs and one third improvement in retention. The Australian Army has documented the worth of eLearning in trials it has conducted at the Army Recruit Training Centre and the Regional Training Centres. In these training establishments, groups of students received instruction in the traditional face to face format (controlled group) whilst other groups received the same content in a CBL format (experimental group). The results have supported the ‘rule of thirds’ assertion. So as not to be accused of bias in its eLearning evaluations (putting the rabbit in charge of the lettuce!), Training Command has engaged an independent evaluator to assess its eLearning initiatives. The evaluations will conducted by two PhD students from Southern Cross University.

WHAT IS ELEARNING?

This paper regards CBL as a subset of Distance Education and Training (DET). CBL is defined as the use of electronic media to deliver, assess and manage learning. It includes the internet, intranets, CD ROM and DVD. From Army’s perspective, CBL will not totally replace current residential training methods, but will complement and enhance them. All those training objectives within curricula that use action verbs such as ‘list’, ‘explain’, ‘state’ or ‘describe’ are targets for CBL. The concept is that prerequisite knowledge is gained prior to a residential course so that the residential instruction can concentrate on developing skills. In Army’s case, it means that students on residential courses spend less time in the classrooms and more time in the field and on the ranges. Without being involved in an argument over semantics, Army uses the terms DET and CBL. It regards CBL as being synonymous with Computer Based Training (CBT), Technology Based Training (TBT), Computer Aided Instruction (CAI) or eLearning. Note the last term and the capital ‘L’ which denotes the importance of learning over the delivery media.

TRAINING COMMAND

Technology is, arguably, one of the determining factors in gaining victory on the battlefield. Prior to the first Gulf War, the Iraqi military forces were rated the sixth largest in the world, but in the space of 100 hours this force was decimated largely as a consequence of technology. Rapid advances in technology are not only changing the way armies fight but also the way armies train for war. The challenge for the Australian Army’s Training Command is to make appropriate use of technology to contribute to the achievement of Army's mission and goals. Accordingly, one of the Command's strategic goals is to exploit technology to deliver effective and efficient individual training and education. Training Command - Army conducts more than 750 different types of courses to train approximately 40 000 full time and part time military members each year. At present, the conduct of this training requires students to move from all over Australia to central locations at Individual Training Centres (ITCs) to undertake residential courses varying in duration from one week to one year. These arrangements are resource intensive, in terms of travel and subsistence costs. The Command's goal of effective and efficient training through the exploitation of technology incorporates the requirement to develop new arrangements that are less resource intensive. To address this goal, Training Command - Army initiated a TECHSIM (Technology and Simulation) Development Project in 1996. The purpose of the project was to develop a plan to optimise the efficiency and effectiveness of the Command's training. The TECHSIM Project determined that this requirement could be satisfied by the adoption of a more flexible approach to the delivery of training. It required training to be delivered as modules which could be completed by self-paced study and complementary residential training, at times and in locations, which made training readily accessible to both full time and part time members. In response to these requirements, Training Command established Regional Training Centres (RTCs) in each major centre of military population. The RTCs are multi-use, flexible learning centres employing advanced technologies to provide members with access to a significant portion of the Command's training delivered as DET and CBL.

REGIONAL TRAINING CENTRES (RTCs)

The role of the RTCs is to conduct individual training and to support collective training activities for full time and part time military members. Each RTC will form a node on the Training Command information system network within the Defence network. The technology profile of an RTC incorporates CBL and other multi-media technology, computer classrooms, simulation, conventional instructional facilities, electronic information storage and retrieval, and access to other training technologies such as video and audio conferencing. Connectivity will also be provided to other RTCs, military training establishments, and civilian and military learning institutions. A distinct feature of Training Command's DET, as compared to other educational and training organisations' DET programs, is that all of the Command's DET students will have access to a mentor through their local RTC, or another RTC, or the relevant training establishment. These mentors will provide the students with counselling and guidance as they complete their DET assignments. Physical and virtual mentors are an integral part of the DET process and will be critical to the successful use of DET within Training Command.

COMPLEMENTING F2F INSTRUCTION

The RTCs will not be solely concerned with the delivery of training as DET. Although most Training Command courses will contain modules that are suitable for delivery as DET and CBL, these courses will also contain modules that can only be delivered as residential training. Wherever such residential training is required to be delivered to a large number of students, it may be provided regionally through the RTCs. Accordingly, the RTCs will incorporate infrastructure necessary to support the conduct of residential (conventional face-to-face) instruction by providing conventional classrooms, computer laboratories, syndicate rooms and recreational areas. For obvious reasons, Army requires a high standard of physical fitness from its personnel. To this end, Army goes to great expense to provide its members with state-of-the-art gymnasium facilities which personnel can attend after work or during scheduled unit PT sessions. In the same vein, RTCs will afford personnel with readily available opportunities to exercise their minds. Given the ongoing advances in the technology of war, a soldier must be technologically smart as well as being physically fit.

TRAINING TECHNOLOGY CENTRE (TTC)

By December 2015, it is intended that all elements of the Command's 750 different courses which are suitable for delivery as CBL will have been re-designed to present the material in this format. The CBL material will be the combination of text, audio, graphics and video that optimally satisfies the relevant training and educational requirements. The Training Technology Centre (TTC) has the responsibility of developing all the Command’s DET and CBL. To date, the TTC has developed about 50 CBL packages representing some 40 GiB of software. These packages constitute effective and efficient training; they are also well-credentialed products, as evidenced by the various international and local technology awards they have won. However, their true value lies not with the individual packages but with the processes and experiences that have been gleaned in developing them.

EXPERIENCE

In a graduation address at West Point Military Academy in June 1963, Maxwell D. Taylor said, “military men who spend their lives in the uniform of their country acquire experience in preparing for war and waging it. No theoretical studies, no intellectual attainment on the part of the layman can be a substitute for the experience of having lived and delivered under the duress of war”. I am not aiming to trivialise war by comparing it to developing CBL; instead, I want to use a martial quote to highlight the value of experience. It is not the academic backgrounds of TTC’s instructional designers that largely determines the worth of the CBL packages. Instead, it is the experience of the senior instructional designers that guides the actions of the development teams. In producing the CBL to-date, TTC staff have accrued a wealth of knowledge and experience with respect to analysing, designing, developing, contracting, testing, trialing and managing CBL production. There is no text, theory or tenet that details how an organisation like Army can produce CBL. Instead, there is a wealth of theoretical information that deals with various aspects of production. Gagne and Discoll provide us with the basic structure of our CBL lessons via their ‘elements of instruction’. John Keller provides sound ‘ARCS’ motivational strategies to embed within computer-aided instruction. Dick and Cary give a methodology for the development of criterion-referenced test items. Rob Philips’ text Developers Guide to Interactive Multimedia provides excellent direction on screen design. John Cooper provides direction on maximising learning via the ‘theory of cognitive overload’. Each of the aforementioned are valuable sources of information that have been referenced in the production process, but none of them constitute the ‘holy creed’ with respect to providing the ‘path’ to CBL enlightenment. The TTC has mapped its way ahead by taking an eclectic approach to producing CBL; it subscribes to no particular tenet or text, rather it selects those instructional design tenets that it considers are appropriate for the development of its CBL. For example, our scripts have an objectivist orientation, but embedded within the scripts are features found within a constructivist approach ­ the aim is to empower the students to select an approach to assimilate the material that best suits them. This eclectic approach to development, which could have only been born out of the experience of producing CBL, is succinctly stated by Maxwell Taylor. The experience acquired by TTC personnel, and subsequently mapped into its standard operating procedures, constitutes the real value of what has been produced to-date.

CBL DEVELOPER PROGRAM

Maxwell Taylor’s statement draws attention to the value of experience over intellectual attainment. There is no tertiary qualification which could prepare TTC’s instructional designers for the their role of producing CBL. The only way to learn how to develop CBL packages is to actually produce a package that meets a training requirement documented in a training management plan. Hence, the course designed for TTC’s CBL Developers enrols them in a formal teaching program where they gain the ‘intellectual attainment’ from a variety of lectures, readings and assignments. Accompanying this conventional study is a chance to practically apply what they have learnt. The CBL Developers become part of teams responsible for converting identified instructional objectives from a curriculum into CBL packages. In their second year of training, the CBL Developer becomes a Project Officer managing a CBL project. They are entrusted with supervision of first year CBL Developers. In their third year they become Managers responsible for a number of Project Officers. The CBL Developer Program aims to align theory with practice with the outcome of this program being an experienced CBL Developer. One of the first curriculums scrutinised for CBL development by TTC’s CBL Developer students was the Subject One for Corporal Course.

SUBJECT ONE FOR CORPORAL

The Subject One for Corporal Course is arguably one of the most important promotion courses conducted by Training Command. This course provides soldiers with the first formal steps in learning the art of good leadership. On completion soldiers become junior leaders in the Army. This year, Training Command will train approximately 2000 junior leaders. Students for the course have traditionally attended an eight-week residential program. The course is now being delivered over a pre-residential training period using CBL delivered in RTCs to transfer the knowledge and simple procedural skills to students in preparation for a residential training component. CBL is gradually becoming an accepted component for Subject One for Corporal training.

ELEARNING STRATEGY

Based on the successes of the Subject One for Corporal CBL packages, Training Command has instigated further eLearning projects. The scope and direction of the Command’s eLearning initiatives are outlined in its ‘Flexible Delivery Strategy and Plan’. This Plan aims to target the larger promotion courses and work down to smaller trade-related courses. Defence, in general, has embraced the value of eLearning and demonstrated this by the purchase of a Learning Content Management System (LCMS). The LCMS purchased was Outstart’s Thinq. Accompanying the LCMS purchase was a Learning Content Creation Tool (LCCT), sometimes known as a Rapid Authoring Development (RAD) tool. The LCCT/RAD purchased was Outstart’s Evolution. The many benefits of eLearning offered by Shareable Content Object Referenced Material (SCORM) compliancy can now be materialised. Accordingly, the other Defence groups that comprise the Australian Defence Organisation (ADO) are working with Army to maximise the effectiveness of their limited resources. Synergy of effort is the aim, however it is accepted that Army is an early adopter of eLearning and is pioneering the way ahead.

CBL DEVELOPMENT PROCESS

It is generally recognised that up to 150 hours of development time can be invested into producing one hour of quality CBL. Based on the development of its CBL packages to-date, TTC will attest to this figure. However, TTC is streamlining its production processes to significantly reduce development time. Initiatives such as standardising on one authoring tool (Evolution and Director); modularising packages; creating a Digital Asset Management System (DAMS); producing generic blocks of code: automating the scripting process; and developing beta testing software are all bringing down the development time for CBL. CBL packages will be efficiently ‘churned out’ of the streamlined development process. TTC welcomes and strives to attain the ‘sausage factory production’ tag! This tag denotes the efficiency that TTC is after. With respect to the mediocrity and blandness connotations also associated with this tag, TTC is confident that the regular input of new CBL Developers to the production process will continually invigorate it. The generic CBL development process that TTC has been developing since 1996 is documented in Table 1.

Table 1: TTC’s CBL Development Process

Analyse

Design

Develop

Test

Prepare CBL Development Proposal

Produce logic/flow diagrams

Produce resources (text, audio, graphics, video, animation and VR files)

Alpha (Subject Matter Experts/Training Adviser’s representative) content testing

Commandant TTC’s approval and Training Adviser’s commitment

Identify treatments

Alpha regression testing

Prepare CBL Development Plan

Produce scripts

Beta (technical) testing ­ in conjunction with progressive field trials

Assemble resources (incl specialist team)

Confirm scripts with Training Management Plan

Integrate resources into coherent software in accordance with instructional design specs and TTC software engineering specs (use contract coders when required)

Obtain Training Management Plan and confirm availability of approved doctrine

Confirm content with Subject Matter Experts/Training Adviser’s representative

Beta regression testing

Analyse Training Management Plan

Produce storyboards

Produce gold CD

Identify suitable learning outcomes and associated assessment

Produce resource lists (text, audio, graphics, video, animation and VR files)

Provide to Training Establishment for reproduction and distribution

Secure Subject Matter Experts from Training Adviser

Naturally, there are many sub processes associated with each of the 23 processes identified in the four development steps.

INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGN

All of TTC’s CBL is put together by development teams headed by experienced instructional designers. Instructional design is the rock upon which TTC’s packages are based and is the reason why its packages are classified as eLearning and not eBoring or eSleeping. The main instructional design considerations for Army’s CBL packages are:

Audience Analysis.

Prior to development an audience analysis is conducted on the target, learning group. The audience analysis will identify the needs of the learners. What their reading level is? What learning style they favour? What motivates them? How old they are and what ‘generation’ they are from? Answers to these and other questions will significantly impact upon the design of the instructional materials. For example, those people born between the early 1960s and the early 1980s are labelled ‘Generation Xers’. Gen Xers are comfortable with technology and the language of IT; they are better able to discern relevant information from a barrage of stimuli; they have a lower boredom threshold and expect variety and challenge. Audience analysis is key to identifying the basic learning requirements of the end users.

Behaviourist Orientation.

The weight of evidence from studies examining different learners, learning tasks, and settings suggests that as the extent of learner control over various aspects of learning increases, learning may decrease; however, it should be noted that the opposite occurs for advanced learners. The implications for courseware design is that a simple, logical, lock-stepped approach to presenting learning materials is more conducive to facilitating learning than is an experimental, exploratory, discovery approach. Accordingly, an instructivist/behaviourist approach to design is preferred over a constructivist approach. An instructivist approach is based on the work of the behavioural psychologist B.F. Skinner who proposed that small-stepped instruction, coupled with extensive feedback, could significantly enhance learning.

Cognitive load theory.

Helping learners understand and remember complex subjects by breaking down the information into logical chunks is one of the keys to learning. Based upon Princeton psychology professor George A. Miller’s classic article entitled ‘The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two’, cognitive load theory describes learning structures in terms of an information processing system involving long term memory and working memory. Long term memory stores all of our knowledge and skills on a more-or-less permanent basis; working memory performs the intellectual tasks associated with consciousness. Information may only be stored in long term memory after first being attended to and processed by working memory. Working memory is extremely limited in capacity and duration and is only able to handle 7 plus or minus 2 chunks of information. The most significant implication for this is that learning content should be appropriately ‘chunked’ with confirmation of learning activities interspersed between the ‘chunks’.

Split attention effect.

It is not good to have a learner simultaneously attend to two or more sources of instruction or activities; for example, when audio repeats the text information. The text should never mirror the audio as it splits and confuses cognitive processes. Additionally, graphics should be appropriately integrated into text so as to facilitate and not confuse understanding. The link between the graphic and the text should be quite clear.

Modality effect.

Portions of working memory are sensory mode specific. That is, some portions of working memory are dedicated to attending to visual information (graphics) and some other portion of memory is dedicated to attending to aural information only (verbal information). Thus, partitioning to-be-learned information so that some data, such as graphics is presented visually, while other data, such as text, is presented auditory enhances learning.

Redundancy effect.

In situations where a source of textual instruction or a source of graphical instruction alone provides full intelligibility, then one source of instruction should be used (either the textual or the graphical) and the other source which is redundant should be removed completely from the instructional materials.

Worked example effect.

Students learn by studying worked examples. The time-honoured way of teaching is EDP (Explanation, Demonstration, Practice); explain how to do something, demonstrate how to do it, and then let them explore/practice how to do it. Therefore, students need to attempt problems to learn because ‘practice makes perfect’. Also, problem solving is used to test if assimilation of instruction/learning has occurred.

Motivational strategies.

Never assume that a student is self-motivated. Motivational strategies should be a central component of the design considerations for any CBL package. A student’s motivational requirement with respect to attention, relevance, confidence and satisfaction should be addressed. In accordance with John Keller’s ARCS Motivational Model, appropriate motivational strategies should be embedded within CBL packages. For example, effort should be invested in gaining students attention at the commencement of a CBL package via perceptual or inquiry arousal. Once their attention is gained, transfer of knowledge can occur. A non-receptive mind will not take-in information if it is not tuned-in to what is being taught. It is important to note that when students personally value what they are learning, they choose to get involved and persist with their learning experience. Consequently, the attention gaining strategies at the start of CBL packages should aim to gain their attention and highlight the value of the forthcoming material.

Interaction.

As a general rule, interaction is required from the learner at least once every three to four frames and inserted at logical points in the lesson instead of in the middle of logical thought. The aim is to maximise learner participation by making them active learners rather than passive learners; engage and engross them in the learning material.

Personalisation Principle.

Personalisation is defined as presenting words in a converstaional style rather than a formal style. If creating a verbal explanation or a description of a procedure, than it is better to use conversational style to facilitate comprehension. This style includes the use of first and second person.

Lesson structure.

Every lesson within a CBL package should comply with the nine events of instruction proposed by the Gagne and Briggs model ­ gaining attention, informing the learner of the objective, presenting the stimulus material, providing learning guidance, eliciting the performance, providing feedback, assessing performance, enhancing retention and transfer. This model proposes that learning outcomes are categorised (information, cognitive strategy or action/attitude) and appropriate instructional events are organised for each learning outcome. The instructional events are tailored to the kind of outcome to be achieved and provide prescriptions in the form of activities and interactions.

Exploration.

Taking cognisance of the merits of constructivism, learners should be able to explore the package and determine their own sequence by providing alternative navigation paths. Be cognisant of Kolb’s learning style inventory and the fact that people learn in a variety of ways; make information available in a number of ways (audio, visual, text), so facilitating the learning idiosyncrasies of the various users.

Micro Strategies.

All multimedia courseware must contain micro strategies (or learning aids) to help the learner recall, retain and apply their acquired knowledge. Micro strategies such as chunking of information, mnemonics, icons and linkages should be used.

Feedback.

Feedback should be provided for both right (reinforcement) and wrong (remediation) responses. All learning should be verified through an evaluative conclusion; this evaluative conclusion should be creative in its approach (don ’t always rely on multiple choice or true/false questions). Feedback is as important for formative assessment as it is for summative assessment. Noting that effective feedback about learning progress results in better learning and transfer of the knowledge, skills and attitudes to the workplace. Formative and summative assessment should provide clear information on the correct response. In the event of a wrong answer, the user should be directed to review the relevant sections of the lesson and then repeat the practice/questions.

Performance Analysis.

All courseware must contain some form of assessment in accordance with the relevant training objectives. As an approximation, performance analysis should cover about 10% of the courseware. A learner should always be given an assessment of their overall performance.

Text Summarisation.

If students summarise readings, then comprehension and recall improve. Text summarisation can be facilitated by a notepad embedded within a CBL package. The notepad is an electronic notebook in which the user types their own notes using a free page format and saved as a basic text file. The file should also capture the learner’s ID, courseware title and date. A selection function will allow the user to print out the contents of their notebook. Learners want something to take away from their learning experience ­ giving them the ability to print out their own notes is a form of a ‘security blanket’. To give a student a summary of information represents the knowledge schema of the person that put the information together. It is far better to allow students to develop their own notes because their notes represent their schema for understanding and retention.

General Lesson Structure.

All lessons should be accessed through a selection menu at the start of the package. Learners need to know where they are going and what they have to complete. Approximate times for completion and progress indicators are essential for a learner who is organising their own learning.

ACTIVE LEARNING

Confucius is credited with saying ‘I read and I forget, I see and I understand, I do and I remember’. Whilst instructional design principles underpin all that Training Command ­ Army does, it is this simple saying which epitomises the eLearning materials that are developed. The intention is to produce materials that cannot be labelled ‘eReading’ or eBoring’, whereby information is ‘pushed/forced’ upon the users. Instead, the instructional designers seek to develop learning materials that the users seek to ‘pull’ the information from. Very simply, what a user ‘pulls’ from a self-paced eLearning package as a consequence of their own endeavours they will learn more deeply and profoundly. The aim, then, is to create an active learning environment as opposed to a passive learning environment where the information is forced upon the user. Adhering to sound instructional design principles develops active learning. Part of this active learning is fostered by the use of simulations. There are a number of simulations in the eLearning packages produced by Training Command - Army: siting claymore mines in a section defence, using a team to construct a CAT1 wire fence, scoring/marking in the butts, or making decisions as a platoon sergeant in a tactical scenario are a few of the simulation activities used to confirm learning. In the latter activity, for example, a user is immersed into an operational environment whereby they are forced to make over 30 decisions as a platoon sergeant. The user is placed in a position that requires a decision. This becomes a trigger to branch off and acquire the information needed to help make the correct decision. Having gleaned the requisite knowledge, the user drops back into the tactical scenario to make a decision (from three choices). Having made a choice, the user is given feedback and moves to the next part of the decision tree ­ noting that the adverse consequences of that decision impact upon future decisions. The result is a highly interactive and engaging simulated learning environment.

THE FUTURE

In 1998, Commander Training Command ­ Army wrote: “There are some exciting challenges and prospects on the horizon - the classroom of the 21st century will not be enclosed by four walls but only by the imagination of those involved in training to win”. Project TECHSIM launched Training Command’s embracement of technology to bring about efficiencies and effectiveness. The General’s words are as appropriate then as they are now in describing the future, especially for CBL. TTC’s CBL development teams are imbued with the belief that anything is possible with respect to designing more effective multimedia training. Consequently, the increasing number of TTC’s multimedia packages developed go from strength to strength in the areas of simulation, instructional design, imagination and finesse. But what of the future in regards to delivery? Will the medium change? Inevitably, yes. What to? I am no Nostradamus, but I can suggest that our current research leads to us consider a ‘blended approach’ to delivery (including use of periods of residential training). Resource intensive video, animation, graphic and audio files can be placed on DVD, whilst the intranet is used to deliver the basic structure of the learning package and trigger the use of the resource intensive files on the DVD. In this format, the quality delivery of DVD material is combined with the synchronicity of the intranet. The future will also blend the hardware and software together to provide information and information processing at the hands of client when they need it. This is mLearning (mobile learning) and incorporates PDAs, slates and tablets. Regardless of the future medium for delivery, the learning packages produced by TTC will always focus on facilitating the learning process because the packages are put together by instructional designers who are cognisant of the latest instructional design principles and marry these ‘timeless’ principals to the emerging technologies (hardware and software). The exponential growth of technology is affording more and more ways of perfecting instruction. Bill Gates highlights the tremendous potential of eLearning when he states that “…while the core technologies of computing will create countless opportunities for business, entertainment and communication, the application of these technologies to the way people learn is the most important and exciting.” Great opportunities await us, but we must always remember that the key to effective eLearning is the instructional design and not the delivery medium. Adhere to good instructional design principals and you will produce good eLearning and avoid eBoring and eSleeping!

Copyright

Andre Greenberry, © 2004. The authors assign to Southern Cross University and other educational and non-profit institutions a non-exclusive licence to use this document for personal use and in courses of instruction provided that the article is used in full and this copyright statement is reproduced. The authors also grant a non-exclusive licence to Southern Cross University to publish this document in full on the World Wide Web and on CD-ROM and in printed form with the conference papers and for the document to be published on mirrors on the World Wide Web.