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Piloting a web-based science course for rural Northern Territory students

Tutty, Jodi (2002). Piloting a web-based science course for rural Northern Territory students. Master Thesis, Northern Territory University.

Document type: Thesis
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Author Tutty, Jodi
Title Piloting a web-based science course for rural Northern Territory students
Institution Northern Territory University
Publication Date 2002
Thesis Type Master
Subjects 1301 - Education Systems
1302 - Curriculum and Pedagogy
Abstract Potentially, the online environment offers many advantages over traditional methods used for the delivery of distance education. Increased communication and interactivity allow for the use of different and varied learning and teaching strategies. The challenge in developing online courses is to incorporate these advantages in an educationally sound and cost-effective manner.

The focus of this study was on the development and delivery of successful online courses for remote and rural distance education students in the Northern Territory. Accordingly, the task chosen for the study was first to develop an online module for Year 8 Science from a set of pre-existing printed materials and then to evaluate its subsequent delivery in Term 2, 2001. From this experience many issues that need to be considered in the development of online courses were raised and conclusions on the likelihood of developing a process or template for converting other modules were drawn. The study was a pilot project written up from the perspective of a participant observer who was both the online materials developer and a postgraduate student observing the processes and the issues at stake.

The findings of this study were disappointing. Due to the poor telecommunications infrastructure in the NT, CDs rather than the Internet had to be used to deliver the course. Without the use of Internet connections, communication tools such as email and discussion boards could not be used in the instructional design. This severely limited the teaching and learning strategies that could be used. The delivery of the module was beset by technical difficulties, as the students did not have the level of technical literacy required to complete the online module. On the economic side, the cost of developing the online module was significantly higher than that for the print based version and worse, the cost for developing subsequent similar modules was unlikely to be significantly less.

In conclusion, these results suggest that if the NTOEC is to realise the potential of the online module a very different approach to online development is needed and the technical literacy of their students needs to be improved.

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