Development of WWW Courseware: experience of design and implementation

NG Pun Hon, Department of Science and Mathematics, Hong Kong Institute of Education.
KWOK Kwan Hung, Aberdeen Technical School.
YEUNG Kai Hing, Department of Engineering and Technology Studies.
YEUNG Yau Yuen, Department of Science and Mathematics, Hong Kong Institute of Education.


courseware, hypermedia, publishing, World Wide Web


We have been commissioned by the Curriculum Development Institute of Education Department to develop a courseware called the "Induction CD-ROM (Sixth Form Electronics)" to support the introduction of a new Sixth Form syllabus, the AS Level Electronics which will be offered in most technical and prevocational schools in September, 1997. The main objective of this courseware is to provide a set of interactive activities, documents and learning resources inducting students who lack the necessary background knowledge into the Sixth Form Electronics curriculum via self-learning. This courseware is being designed in accordance with an appropriate programmed learning model and includes those traditional curriculum materials plus various interactive multimedia attributes. Hence, our practical experience (such as planning, organisation, design strategy, reviewing mechanism, and some technical details) of developing this courseware for Hong Kong schools will be discussed. Finally, we describe how to evaluate the difficulties of the actual school implementation, the effectiveness of learning, and the students' attitudes about this courseware based on a number of questionnaire surveys and classroom observations.


Nowadays, global hypermedia in form of the World Wild Web (WWW) has become a popular culture in the Internet and in particular there is a widespread development and usage of hypermedia (or interactive multimedia which normally consist of text, hypertext, pictures, sound, animation and video etc.) in tertiary education (e.g. Elliott et al, 1995). It is well-known (Marshall, 1995; Colazzo and Molinari, 1996) to educators that multimedia materials are effective for presentation/transmission of ideas and factual information and the hyperlinks provide not only links to other parts of documents as instantaneously accessible references but also a mode of nonlinear learning which resembles the association operation of human mind. After converting into the WWW format (represented by Hypertext Markup Language, HTML), the teaching materials in hypermedia form could be retrieved around the world through any computers with Internet access and so the temporal and spatial constraint of classroom teaching are removed (Andrews, Nedoumov, and Scherbakov 1995).

The instructional uses of the WWW (Shotsberger, 1996) and that of electronic mail in undergraduate teaching (Pitt, 1996) have recently become foci of educational research on teaching academic subject with multimedia and telecommunication technology (Wiburg, 1994). Although there is currently a computer network called TeleNex (Tsui and Ki, 1994) established at HKU for Secondary School English language teachers and the equivalent WWW homepage called Telec [HREF 1] is also released recently, yet little work of similar nature has been done in Science, technology or other subject areas. The main reason is due to the lack of hypermedia courseware specifically designed for HK school curriculum.

Some of us have already initiated a few small scale research projects in developing some self-learning materials in the WWW homepage format. A website on "Introductory Digital Electronics" has been established by Yeung and Ng(1996a, b) [HREF 2] as a self-learning package for the Science students who are trained to become school teachers. This website has been listed by the National Science Teachers Association (USA) as one of the few websites for Science education in the world (see [HREF 3]). Apart from some qualitative feedback obtained from email, we have issued an evaluation questionnaire to every science student concerned to collect his/her suggestions for improvement of the contents of the topic and the design of the home-page and to reflect the student's receptivity of learning through the Internet. Fifteen male and thirty-three female students have completed the questionnaires. The main results (see Table 1) of this survey are that while over 80% of our Science students possess a personal computer at home, only about 15% can access the Internet at home. More than 70% of respondents have little past experience in using the Internet for learning but most of them prefer more self-study topics in the Internet (68%) and like to explore more about Science education in the Internet (75%). The majority likes the nonlinear learning mode and the freedom to adjust their own pace of learning and considers it as effective for learning. The most interesting finding is that 90% of students like key words highlighted in color and the feature could hardly be found in the handouts issued by teachers.

Considerations for Developing the Courseware

The AS Level Electronics will be offered in the Sixth Form of some technical and prevocational schools in September, 1997 and some students may come from the grammar schools, possibly lacking the necessary basic knowledge in Electricity and Electronics. Those schools have better provision of computer facilities and personal computers are now very common at home. Hence, the Curriculum Development Institute (CDI) of the Education Department has the intention to provide some computer-mediated learning materials to those schools in order to support the introduction of this new Sixth Form syllabus. As the total number of classes will be about 15 to 20, cost effectiveness would be a major consideration in the development, maintenance/revision and distribution of the computer courseware. On the other hand, the copyright of the courseware would belong to the Education Department who would allow the public to use it freely for non-commercial/educational purposes and so piracy or profitability would be of little concern to them. Consequently, the best approach is that the computer-based multimedia materials are specifically made to be suitable for broadcasting on the Internet via an Information Server for updating/revision purpose and for off-line distribution in form of a CD-ROM as Internet access at home is still not very common. The WWW format is adopted for this courseware because it can provide the cross-platform compatibility by the using the Netscape browser, i.e. one version for all computer operating systems.

The basic specifications of the learning materials are given as follows:

Organisation and Development

After being commissioned by the CDI to develop this courseware, we have formed the production team (see Figure 1) which consists of both the subject expertise such as the Chief Author, the Adviser and the Consultant and the expert in courseware development like the Co-ordinator. The technical support is provided by a Photographer and a Home-page Developer. Furthermore, other involved parties include the CDI officers, some school teachers and the CDI committee members. The specific functions/duties or contributions of all members or parties concerned are briefly summarised as follows:
Member/Party Function/Duty
  • planning, co-ordination and supervision of home-page development.
  • facilitating communication between members.
  • overall supervision.
Chief Author
  • writing syllabus and course materials.
  • drawing diagrams.
  • conducting try-out teaching.
  • giving academic and educational advice.
  • refining and polishing the draft version and quality assurance.
  • supervision of the academic work
  • liaison with school teachers and conducting try-out teaching.
Home-page Developer
  • conversion of all files in WWW format.
  • home-page design and programming to add interactive multimedia features.
  • acquiring the electronic components and setting up equipment.
  • taking photos and editing images.
CDI officers
  • commission and monitoring of this project.
  • promotion and distribution of this courseware to schools.
School teachers and CDI committee members
  • providing advice, evaluation and feedback.
  • assisting the try-out teaching in schools.

This project is composed of three stages, namely the planning stage, the production stage and the implementation stage. The planning stage includes not only time schedule and division of duties but also the decision on the courseware design/layout as well as the important features to be established. This has involved many meetings with various parties to elaborate one's requirement and the plausible support available from the other parties. The production work would closely follow the agreed design/layout and features so as to maintain a consistent overall style and functionality which are described in next section.

A. Phases of production

The phases of production and the corresponding quality assurance mechanism are given below:
  1. Syllabus Outlines: outlines were drafted by the Chief Author, reviewed by the Adviser and revised by the Consultant before final submission to the CDI for approval.
  2. A Sample Chapter - Chapter 4: learning materials were drafted by the Chief Author, reviewed and refined by the Consultant and then converted into the WWW format by the Home-page Developer and reviewed by the Co-ordinator. The revised sample chapter was then submitted to the CDI for comments and approval and it would form the reference basis for the production of other chapters.
  3. Other chapters and Overall Test: the approach was similar to those adopted in 2 above and try-out teaching was conducted in some schools and in some classes of teacher's education courses in order to collect further feedback for improvement.

B. Courseware Design and Features

The layout of this courseware can best be summarised by the following hierarchy:
Cover page - containing the preface, overall objectives of this courseware and the hyperlink to the Instruction page which gives information on how to use this courseware.
Main Course Menu - consisting of the 11 chapter titles and the overall test for selection.
Chapter N (N = 1 to 11) - composed of the following pages:- The context of this courseware consists of text, hypertext, figures/diagrams, photos, tables, listed items, formulas/equations, examples, problems, short quiz and programmed learning boxes etc. as enabled by the HTML and Javascript programming. The number of pages and their length vary according to the amount of contents covered in a particular chapter. For sharing of our experience in the courseware design in WWW format, some major items and their corresponding function and features are specifically elaborated in Table 2.

C. School Implementation and Evaluation

The "Induction CD-ROM (Sixth Form Electronics)" courseware will be implemented in a number of F.6 classes studying either the AS level Electronics or the AL Physics courses which also contains a considerable amount of Electronics topics. We will help the regular subject teacher to install the necessary software in the computer laboratory of the school concerned. Before the lesson, we will make use of Biggs (1992) instrument to conduct the Learning Process Questionnaire survey so as to identify individual student's learning style or approach . Students will be briefed, observed and advised by us during the try-out lesson. A questionnaire survey about this courseware will be conducted for the whole class after the lesson and a few specifically selected pupils will be interviewed for more qualitative data. We shall employ the following three categories of evaluation (according to Aedo et al 1996) as our methodology:-

(I) Expert evaluation - a few (about 5) experienced Electronics/Physics subject teachers in local secondary schools will be asked to judge the courseware and identify the potential usability problems in school environment based on their professional experience. Besides, their attitudes and subjective opinions towards using hypermedia courses for teaching will be surveyed by questionnaires and interviews. Overseas teaching professionals in the similar discipline will also be invited via e-mail to give their comments and feedback on the CD-ROM version of the courseware.

(II) Survey evaluation - questionnaires and/or interviews will be conducted in 10 classes of students out of the 15 prevocational/technical schools which will offer the AS Electronics course as well as a few grammar schools (with AL Physics courses offered). This survey is used to collect information about the students' attitudes towards this mode of learning and to measure the effectiveness of their learning. The results will be correlated with their learning approach and their academic ability as reflected from the Learning Process Questionnaire and their public examination results.

(III) Observational evaluation - data about the student's activities, behaviour and performance on using the courseware and the implementation problems will be collected by direct observation, video/audio recording and/or software logging (i.e. automatic recording of the student interaction with the courseware by the computer). Again, those results will be correlated with their learning approach and their academic ability.

So far, we have conducted the pilot study in a few secondary schools and our preliminary findings are in certain aspects quite similar to those found in the previous survey on the tertiary students (see Table 1). The detailed analysis will be done in connection with the future large scale survey.


After six months of development, the courseware called the "Induction CD-ROM (Sixth Form Electronics)" has been produced by a production team which is composed of both the subject expertise and the expert in courseware development and is supported by some technical professional. Some sample chapters have been uploaded to an Internet server ([HREF 4] and the complete CD-ROM version is being distributed or available from the Education Department CDI. Our practical experience on the planning, organization, design strategy, reviewing mechanism, and some special techniques for developing this courseware for Hong Kong schools could possibly be employed as some guidelines or cornerstone for developing other courseware in the Internet. Our present work is essentially equivalent to the publication of some computer-assisted learning materials in the Internet for distance or remote self-learning and the educational implication and significances would require further investigation. Therefore, in a new educational project, we shall evaluate the difficulties of the actual school implementation, the effectiveness of learning, and the students' attitudes about this courseware based on a number of questionnaire surveys and classroom observations to be conducted in the 1997/98 academic year.


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"The Evaluation of a Hypermedia Learning Environment: The CESAR Experience" Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 5(1), pp. 49-72.

Andrews, K., Nedoumov, A. and Scherbakov, N. (1995)
"Embedding Courseware into the Internet: Problems and Solutions" (ed. Maurer, H.) Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 1995 (AACE, USA) pp. 69-74.

Biggs, J.B. (1992)
Why and how do Hong Kong students learn?: using the learning and study process questionnaires (University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong).

Colazzo, L. and Molinari, A. (1996)
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"If You Can't Measure it You Can't Manage It! A Framework for Measuring Multimedia Courseware Development" Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 1995 (AACE, USA) pp. 424-429.

Mauldin, M. (1996)
"The Formative Evaluation of Computer-Based Multimedia Programs" Educational Technology, March - April, pp.36-40.

Ng, P.H. and Yeung, Y.Y. (1996)
Introductory Digital Electronics (World Wide Web home-page at

Pitt, M. (1996)
"The use of electronic mail in undergraduate teaching." British Journal of Educational Technology, 27(1), pp.45-50.

Shotsberger, P.G. (1996)
"Instructional uses of the World Wide Web: Exemplars and Precautions" Educational Technology, March - April, pp.47-50.

Tsui, A.B.M. and Ki, W.W. (1994)
"Where and Whither TeleNex: A computer Network for English Language Teachers in Hong Kong." Curriculum Forum, 4(1), pp.1-12.

Wiburg, K. (1994)
"Teaching Science with Technology: Telecommunications and Multimedia." The Computing Teacher, April, pp.6-8.

Yeung, Y.Y. and Ng, P.H. (1996a)
"An Example of Using Internet for Teaching HKIEd Science Students" Science and Technology Education Conference '96 Proceedings , p.290-294.

Yeung, Y.Y. and Ng, P.H. (1996b)
"World Wide Web for Education: Practical Experience for Sharing" HKERA 13th Annual Conference (paper presentation), Hong Kong.

Hypertext References

HREF1 - Teachers of English Language Education Centre

HREF2 - Introductory Digital Electronics

HREF3 - National Science Teachers Association

HREF4 - Induction CD-ROM (Sixth Form Electronics)

List of Related Files

table1.htm - homepage for Table 1
table2.htm - homepage for Table 2
figure1.htm - homepage for Figure 1
figure1.gif - image in Figure 1


YEUNG Yau Yuen ©, 1997. The author assigns to the Social Sciences Research Centre 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 author also grants a non-exclusive licence to the Social Sciences Research Centre to publish this document in full on the World Wide Web after the Symposium and in printed form with the Symposium papers. Any other usage is prohibited without the express permission of the author.