The major factor underlying the considerable initial costs of e-learning
development is the time required of programmers,
instructional designers, authors, and subject matter experts. The subject matter
expert occupies a critical role in the success or failure of any instructional
design project. Ideally the subject matter expert can save the developers vital production
time by providing annotated and structured documentation that captures how concepts and skills fit together in a given piece of
curriculum. Although subject area knowledge acquisition has long been recognized as
the "long pole in the tent" during development of courseware, the process for
collecting the vital content data has been based primarily on unstructured
interviews and focus groups which often result in unclearly specified
requirements. The following approach to rapid courseware prototyping will
reduce the time required of programmers, instructional designers, authors,
and subject matter experts, while making that time spent more focused and
useful for the courseware design and development process.
Rapid Prototyping Approach to Courseware
Until recently, courseware development was primarily
a process that required sponsor endorsement of a design specification
before implementation. Problems often arise with this
arrangement when the sponsor is not certain of their instructional needs. Because of
the prohibitive expense associate with building an e-learning program of
instruction that does not meet the sponsors requirements, the rapid prototyping approach
has emerged. The primary focus of the
rapid prototyping approach is risk reduction. The approach consists of a series of
iterations through a structured course design process, through which the
sponsor and developers create increasingly detailed design specifications,
resulting in courseware that meets the sponsors training requirements.
A Structured Course Design Process
KMx provides a series of expert system technologies
specifically designed to reduce the effort and improve the accuracy of the
structured interview process. The first of these technologies is
provided by the Knowledge/Skill (K/S) Table AutoGen feature. K/S
tables provide a comprehensive listing of candidate behaviors associated
with a particular subject matter. Behaviors form the basis for
further development of performance-based objectives and serve as the
primary content cataloging schema in the KMx architecture.
Develop Knowledge and Skill Behavior Listings
The K/S Table AutoGen feature leverages customizable
templates of Knowledge and Skill Items (behaviors) common to a type of
subject matter. These templates also provide sub-classifications and
relationship mapping elements to facilitate the courseware development
process. An example of a K/S Template would include our equipment
template, which provides a listing of Knowledge and Skill Items
(behaviors) common to equipment training. This listing is further
supported by a relationship map that correlates the supporting
relationship of knowledge items to skill items and provides a sequencing
method to facilitate the development of instructional objectives and
The K/S Table AutoGen
process requires the identification of the training subject area and the
selection of a K/S Template for generation of candidate K/S Items
(behaviors). The process requires a few seconds to generate the
subject area K/S Item candidates for review and modification by a subject
matter expert. The subject matter
expert review can be conducted online or be provided
to the subject matter
expert in a printed or word processing format to facilitate the
Develop Course Requirements and Objectives
Following the review and modification of the subject area K/S Table, the
instructional designer can proceed with the course development process
using the KMx Course Requirements AutoGen feature. This feature uses
expert system technology to automate the creation of performance based
training objectives and course requirements documentation.
Leveraging relational database technology, the expert system provides
knowledge and skill training level classifications that document
conditions and standards of performance associated with behavior
accomplishment. The level classification system is pre-populated
with customizable condition and standard information unique to a K/S
The Course Requirements
AutoGen process requires the identification of the training subject area
and the selection of a performance standard for generation of candidate
training objectives. The process requires a few seconds to generate
the course requirements and training objectives for review and
modification by a subject matter expert. The subject matter
expert review can be
conducted online or be provided to the subject matter
expert in a printed or word processing
format to facilitate the process.
Develop the Course Outline
Following review and modification of the course
requirements and training objectives, the instructional designer can
proceed with development of a course outline using the KMx Course Outline
AutoGen feature. This feature leverages expert system technology and
processing rules to rapidly generate a course outline based on the course
requirements, the relationship of knowledge and skill K/S Items
(behaviors) and the training objectives for the course. The feature
recognizes the requirements for supporting content and creates
placeholders in the course outline to facilitate further development.
The Course Outline AutoGen process requires the
identification of the Course for outline generation. The process
requires a few seconds to generate the course outline and content
placeholders for review and modification by the instructional designer.
The instructional designer review can be conducted online or be provided
in a printed or word processing format to facilitate the process.
Develop Test Items for measurement of training
KMx provides the developer with the tools required to
develop test item inventories that are indexed by the K/S Table (subject
area) and K/S Item (behavior) that a test item supports. This
approach facilitates test item development and promotes reuse of items.
The K/S Item provides a good starting point for the developer to create
test items that truly measure the behavior, conditions and standards
required for objective mastery measurement.
Populate the Course Outline with Content to
achieve the Course Requirements
In KMx, course content development is accomplished by
forming a relationship between content objects and the course outline.
Content objects are files that support the requirements of your K/S
Table (subject area) and can originate from numerous applications and file
- Adobe Portable Document Files (PDF)
DreamWeaver (using the SCORM Packaging option)
file formats (.gif and .jpg)
Media files (Microsoft or Real formats)
As discussed previously, course outlines developed using the KMx AutoGen
feature will have placeholders inserted for content objects required to
achieve the course requirements and objectives. KMx provides a
expandable course outline editing interface to review and assign content
objects to populate the course outline. Visual indicators are
provided to assist the developer in completing this process.
Assemble Exams and assign them to the Course
In KMx, exams are content objects that are assigned
to a course and indexed to a K/S table (subject area) to allow for
measurement and reporting of achievement through formalized training and
informal activity. Organization of exams and test items by K/S
table also promotes re-use and ease of maintenance of exam materials.
Exams are developed by assigning test items to the exam. Exams
are included in a course by assigning the exam as a content
object into the course outline. Once assigned to a course, exams
will appear in the course outline as content objects and may be modified
from the course outline tree.
KMx enables courseware to be output in numerous
formats and presentations, including:
Content Aggregation Packages
Word files (in various instructor and student supporting formats)
(for use by document management systems)
KMx is the only technology
available today that can produce courseware for use in any blend of
training from a common course outline. This provides the developer
with the flexibility of using multiple delivery modes without having to
maintain separate course materials for each delivered format.
KMx provides the instructional designer with the
capability to rapidly prototype courseware using the latest expert system technology.
By leveraging existing documentation and other content assets, the
developer can quickly produce instructionally sound courseware for
implementation and validation by the target student population.
Coupled with advanced learning and content management capabilities,
KMx is truly an Advanced Distributed Learning Platform.