The design, implementation and evaluation of a web-based learning environment for distance education
In this study, the need was emphasised to investigate the effects of using the Web in teaching students at a distance using a multi-level evaluation framework. A Web-based learning environment was designed, developed, implemented and evaluated for this purpose. Constructivist epistemology provided the basis for developing various components and developing problem-centred and interactive activities. Management, tutorial, interaction and support components were designed to work with each other to construct the learning environment, deliver course content, facilitate interaction and monitor student progress. A methodology was designed to describe and assess the learning environment in terms of access (standardisation, speed, resources, the tutor and peers), costs (types, structure, factors influencing, etc.), teaching and learning functions (quality of course objectives, materials and resources, learning approach and student achievement), interactivity (quantity and quality of student-tutor and student-peer interaction), user-friendliness (user-interface design, ease of use and navigation design) and organisational issues. The learners were Egyptian first-grade secondary school students (32), assigned randomly, and the topic selected for the course being developed was mathematics. Feedback was obtained from both learners and experts in distance education and on-line learning during the developmental and field-testing of the learning environment. Quantitative and qualitative methods (on-line student and expert questionnaires, students' logs, performance in formative evaluation, content analysis of peer discussions, achievement test and cost-analysis) were combined to gain insights into students' satisfaction with the different instructional and technical features and capabilities of the learning environment, achievement of course objectives in comparison with conventional classroom students, factors influencing their learning and perceptions and the unit cost per student study hour. The results indicated that although the learning environment and course materials were accessible, interactive, well-structured, user-friendly and achievement was successful for the on-line group, no significant differences were identified between the on-line students and traditional classroom students in overall achievement or achievement of low-order and high-order learning objectives. In addition, it is unlikely any cost saving would be made from shifting to the Internet to deliver instruction and many major factors were found to influence the development and support costs of on-line learning.