R547:  Computer-Mediated Learning

What can we do with technology
that we could not do without it
to help students learn?

R547 Syllabus: Summer 2008

Prerequisites:  R521 and R541 or equivalent

This course is now over and no longer active.  It is normally offered online in a 12-week summer session only.

Note, to access Class Resources, you should provide the following credentials (all lowercase):

User Name: professor
Password: frick

Class hours:   Offered as a distance course, from May 5 - July 26, 2008. Note that this spans summer I and summer II sessions at Indiana University, and is comparable in length to a regular semester in the fall or spring.

Name E-mail
Instructor: Ted Frick frick
Assistant: Rod Myers rodmyers
Assistant: Ji Young Chong jchong

Click here to watch a mini-movie for an overview of R547 Summer 2008 (27 min.)

Although you can contact instructors by e-mail for private matters, we will communicate largely by asynchronous discussion in Google Groups. In order to join this R547 Google Group, you need to first get a Google account (if you do not already have one).  Once you have your Google account, please be sure to complete your Google Profile, so we know who you are.

Next, in this R547 Syllabus, click here on Google Group.  You will need to apply for membership in this group. Do this immediately. Membership will only be granted to registered students. Access to this group is restricted to members only.

Occasionally and when necessary we can meet virtually in the R547 Online office in Adobe Acrobat Connect. The first class meeting online in Adobe Acrobat Connect will be held on Tuesday, May 6, 9:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT).

You will "hand in" assignments and project components by uploading them to your Mentor account, and then you will add links to your deliverables page in Google Groups. This way everyone in the class can see what others are doing. Each student in the class will be provided with a Mentor account, where you will create your e-Learning project.

We will use Oncourse for class announcements and for the gradebook. Comments and scores on your deliverables will be private, in the Oncourse gradebook. Only you and your instructors will see your scores and individual comments.

Table of Contents


The major goals of this course are, through hands-on experience, for students to:  

The graphic at the top of this page symbolizes the relationships between teachers, students, content and contexts in education: computers and the Internet are part of the current context through which teachers and students can communicate, through which content may be represented, and through which students can learn. Hence the title of this course, Computer-Mediated Learning.

E-learning products are those which are part of computer-mediating learning systems, which are delivered electronically, and the content of which is intended to help students learn. E-learning products often do not stand alone but are part of instruction that requires human teachers to also make assessments of student learning and provide individual feedback to those students. This is due to limitations of what computers can and cannot know themselves.

Web servers on the Internet allow convenient access to e-learning products through Web browsers such as Firefox, Netscape, Safari, Opera and Internet Explorer.

Design Processes for the Web

If you know how to use a hammer and saw, does that mean you can design and build good houses? If you know how to use a word processor, does that mean you are a good writer -- e.g., you can write a novel or a technical report? If you know how to make a Website (e.g., with HTML, Dreamweaver, Photoshop), does that mean you are a good Web designer?

The answer to these three questions is, "No!" To create effective Websites, whether informational or instructional, requires Web Design Praxiology.

In R547, you will learn to design effective e-learning products that incorporate First Principles of Instruction.

Competency Check List (20 points)

Complete a series of basic tasks that demonstrate Web management and publishing skills (separate from e-learning project below).

These software proficiency tasks include:

These tasks are worth 5 points each. There is an optional task for a bonus, if you can create a Web folder with restricted access via the .htaccess mechanism.

Note that you could create HTML, JavaScript, and CSS files with a simple text editor, such as Notepad. However, that is a lot of work, similar to riding a bicycle from Bloomington to Chicago (about 225 miles). You can get there faster with less effort if you use Web publishing tools such as Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Flash, Captivate, Camtasia, etc. You can also take digital photographs or make video recordings with cameras, and include these as files that can be viewed in a Web browser via your Web pages.

Also, note that once you have defined your Website in Dreamweaver, and created your template with CSS, then you can add content using Adobe Contribute, which is very easy to use--much like word processing, only it is "Web" processing. Not only can you add to or modify your Website with Contribute, but also others can easily do so, if you give them permission (a special key for Contribute).

Instructional Project (80 points)

Develop an instructional project that utilizes the Web (e-learning) and that is effective and appealing for its target audience.

To be effective, your instruction will incorporate First Principles of Instruction. This means that it has the following properties:

  1. Problem-centered tasks: that are relevant and motivating for students learn--i.e., by doing authentic whole tasks in the context of solving real-world problems; and problems are sequenced from simple to complex. Instruction and learning for each task should contain 4 phases of instruction, indicated by Principles #2 to #5 below.
  2. Activation: helps students connect what they already know and can do with what they are expected to newly learn.
  3. Demonstration: shows students what they are expected to learn, by providing a variety of demonstrations.
  4. Application: provides students with opportunities to try out what they have learned and provides feedback or coaching when needed.
  5. Integration: further motivates students because they can use what they have learned in their own lives.

For instruction to be most effective, it will contain all 5 First Principles (synthesized from instructional design theories by David Merrill). This does not mean that all parts of your instruction will be in your e-learning product itself. Some parts may not be practical or possible to be done as part of the e-Learning product per se, due to the nature of your instructional objectives. Some parts may need to be done by a human instructor in conjunction with the e-learning product that you create. You will nonetheless need to design the whole instruction that contains the e-Learning product.

You will determine how effective your instruction is by developing an assessment of student mastery of your instructional objectives. You will do this mastery assessment both before and after the students undertake your instructional activities. This will help you determine to what extent students have achieved the objectives. This is a Level 2 evaluation according to Kirkpatrick. If students are able to integrate what they have learned into their own lives, this is a Level 3 evaluation according to Kirkpatrick (what is often called 'transfer' of learning, and also meets Merrill's First Principal #5).

Your instruction will be appealing to your target audience if they believe that they have made learning progress and are satisfied with what they have learned. This kind of appeal is discussed in a research report by Frick, Chadha, Watson, Wang and Green (in press). Scales for measuring perceived learning progress and satisfaction are provided in the appendix. Learner satisfaction is typically Level 1 evaluation according to Kirkpatrick. Learning progress is an indicator of student learning (Level 2), but does not mean students have mastered the instructional objectives. They may believe that they have learned a lot, but they may not have learned enough. Mastery of instructional objectives needs to be assessed by other means (see Mager's excellent book on Measuring Instructional Results).

See examples of R547 projects from summer 2006:

You will need to choose an instructional objective for which you can identify and access a target audience of students who have not achieved the objective previously and for whom your instruction would be appropriate.

This is an individual project, not a team project.

Choose a project that is relevant to your area of professional interest or is related to your job. And choose a project that is small enough in scale that you can complete it during this course. Your instructor will help you limit the scope of your project.

Your project should include the following:

    1. Determine instructional objectives and develop a mastery test which assesses student achievement of those objectives.
    2. Design and develop a rapid paper prototype of instructional activities to facilitate student achievement of the learning objectives. This prototype should utilize First Principles of Instruction.
    3. Based on the paper prototype, design and develop the computer prototype. This should also utilize First Principles of Instruction.
    4. Formatively evaluate the computer prototype by usability tests, which include pre- and posttests of student learning achievement, and observations of the learning process.
    5. Write a final report which describes the entire development process, describes how your instruction meets First Principles, uses descriptive statistics (means and standard deviations) to compare pre- and posttest learning achievement, summarizes observations during usability tests, and describes revisions that should be made based on your formative evaluation.

    See the course schedule for recommended learning activities and due dates for deliverables.

Your project does not have to look "slick" to be effective and appealing. What matters most is that students learn from your instruction and are satisfied with it. See, for example, the Plagiarism Quiz. It is very basic in design but is effective and satisfying. This quiz received about 1 million page views in 2007 from all over the world, and many users send "thank you" messages to the author. It is not particularly "pretty" or "cool" but highly useful to the target audience.

This is not to say that aesthetics are not important, but your project does not need to have the visual "wow" factor to be effective and appealing to your target audience. In fact, the most important criterion to be first applied in deciding what your e-learning product is good for is summarized in the slogan for R547 in the banner: What can we do with technology that we could not do without it to help students learn?

Nonetheless, your project must be easy to use by your target audience, and you will evaluate usability during your tryouts with representative members of that target audience. Part of usability means consistency in page layouts and navigation, clear organization, etc. Steve Krug has written an excellent book about Web usability, Don't Make Me Think!, listed in the resoruces below.


I assume that you have basic computer competencies.

Software and Hardware Requirements for Taking R547

You will need to have regular access to the following in order to participate in R547 and to complete the projects and assignments (you should have your own computer system with the software indicated):

  1. A PC or Macintosh computer with
  2. Basic Software (see IU licensing arrangements for faculty, staff and students)
  3. Macromedia Studio 8 or Adobe CS3 Web Standard: Software for developing computer-mediated learning on the Web which includes secure FTP for Web publishing on IU servers such as Mentor and Webserve (highly recommended, can purchase through IU bookstore at an educational discount). You may use other Web editors, but we will not be able to provide assistance or learning resources with these editors in R547.
  4. A microphone connected to your computer (required for participation in Acrobat Connect meetings, preferably a headset mic).
  5. Web cam connected to your computer (optional for participation in Acrobat Connect meetings).

Guide on the Side, or Sage on the Stage?

Historically teaching has been viewed as "sage on the stage."  In particular, prior to the invention of the printing press, this was often a necessity.   A teacher was the primary resource for knowledge and made that knowledge available to students through lectures and demonstrations.

Nowadays knowledge can be made available through print, video and computer media.  A teacher no longer needs to be front and center.  "Guide on the side" describes the role that modern teachers can take.  Teachers can select print and electronic media, through which other teachers can convey their messages.  This does not mean that the role of the teacher is diminished.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Teachers and students are empowered by these additional learning resources.   However, the emphasis can be changed.  There can be less "sage on the stage" and more "guide on the side."

My philosophy is described in Restructuring Education Through Technology, which I wrote in 1990, before the advent of the World Wide Web.   Computers are fundamentally media -- hence the title of this course, Computer-Mediated Learning. The graphic at the top of this page symbolizes the relationships between teachers, students, content and contexts in education: computers and the Web are part of the context through which teachers and students can communicate, through which content may be represented, and through which students can learn content.

In R547, my role will be mostly "guide on the side."  I have selected a considerable diversity of learning resources for you -- more than you are likely to be able to use or need during this course.  These resources are in the form of books and e-learning products.

Essentially, I see myself as a motivator and a model -- to help give you confidence to start learning what you need to know on your own with the learning resources that are provided.  And I will try to answer your questions or give assistance as needed.

The following learning resources will be useful for this course:

Print Resources


Grading Criteria for R547 Deliverables

General Principles for Course Operations and Activities

I will use e-mail sparingly with individual class members, and only for private, confidential conversations.


E-mail is not efficient, from an instructor's perspective. It takes too much time. We will use Google Groups for asynchronous discussions, so what you and I type will be available to others in the course as well. When we meet via Acrobat Connect, we can talk to each other. It's actually a very efficient form of communication. These meetings can also be recorded so others can see and hear them later.

If you have questions, it is best to post them in Google Groups , so that when I try or someone else in the class tries to answer a question, everyone in the class can see it. This is much more efficient that corresponding with individuals by e-mail.

Most of the resources (examples, demonstrations, readings) for the course are password protected, and available to IU students only. 

Two very important values are assumed for R547: interoperability of Web pages and originality of work:

  1. Interoperability: the Web is World Wide and has been successful largely because it works on standards set forth by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium). One of the guiding principles is interoperability. This means that the Web should work regardless of the computer platform a person might be using as long as the Web browser installed conforms to these standards. Your e-learning products must work correctly on major Web browsers, including: Firefox, Netscape, Internet Explorer, Opera and Safari.
  2. Originality of Work: all work you submit for R547 must be largely your own. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you plagiarize the work of others, you will receive a failing grade for R547 and be reported to the IST chairperson for disciplinary review. This means that any HTML code, computer programming (e.g., PHP scripts, Transform TPL), graphics, animations, sounds or other elements of your Web pages must be your own creation. If you do use the work of others, it must be a minor portion of what you submit and the original creator must be fully credited and such credits must be clearly visible to the user. This includes examples I provide in demonstrations. If you simply copy my work, making minor changes, it does not indicate that you understand what you are doing, and, furthermore, it is plagiarism.

Department of Instructional Systems Technology
School of Education
Indiana University Bloomington