Part 1. Description of Evaluation Instructional Materials
The instruction I chose to evaluate was HTML Dogs beginner tutorial that addresses writing basic web HTML code. The target audience is anyone who wants to learn the basics of writing code. The tutorial states that it is for those people who are completely new to web design. It is part of a larger group of online tutorials based in the book called HTML Dog: The Best Practice Guide to XHMTL & CSS by Patrick Griffiths.
The contents of the tutorial included eleven categories or sections called: getting started, tags/attributes/elements, page titles, paragraphs, headings, lists, links, images, tables, forms and putting it all together. A supplantive strategy was used for the design of this tutorial. Each section combined text instructions with examples and hands on application for the user to practice as they move through the lessons. The tutorial states that upon completion, the learner will have a basic understanding of HTML language and methods.
Part 2. Description of Procedure Used in Evaluation
I asked my friend and co-worker at the Western Illinois University Writing Center to complete the instructional tutorial. The learner was 25 years old and had never used HTML. However, they were very interested and motivated to learn more about it. The learner was also proficient in using computer programs and software such as basic web navigation and Microsoft programs. I sat down with them and instructed them to follow the “read-think-aloud” method as they went through the instruction. During the course of the lesson, the learner had no problem using this method as it is a best practice method used at the writing center. As the session proceeded, I took notes on their progress as well as insights, questions and comments. There were several times during the instruction, that they had questions about what to do, so we worked through the problems together and I asked additional questions to get their thoughts about the process. The tutorial took the learner an hour to complete. After completing the tutorial I asked the following questions:
1. Did you feel you generally understood the instructions that were given in the tutorial?
2. Did you think the language used in the instruction was clear?
3. How easy was it to follow the interactive examples? Did you feel you immediately knew what to do?
4. Were there parts you did not understand? What were they?
5. Did you find the instruction appealing and interesting? What part(s) did you like best?
6. What suggestions would you give for improvement?
Part 3. Evaluation Summary
In summary, the learner enjoyed the tutorial but had trouble with some of the steps in the instruction. While I observed the learner I observed the following:
a. To what degree did the learner achieve the instructional objective of the instructional product?
The learner achieved the instructional objective of learning a basic understanding of HTML, but felt that the tutorial covered a lot of material on a relatively complicated topic. They also thought that if they were not going to be able to immediately practice or utilize the material then they would have trouble remembering all the various components.
b. Did the learner know what he/she was supposed to do during the different instructional activities?
The learner usually knew what they were supposed to do during the different instructional exercises but sometimes got confused by the actual written code itself. This is really unavoidable and not due to the fault of the instruction as understanding code renders that actual code examples be used in the instruction. (See bottom recommendations for more discussion)
c. Did the learner complete all the instructional activities, or did she/he skip some sections?
Initially, the learner completed all the instructional activities. However, as they became more familiar with the tutorials style they began to skip reading written instruction and go directly toward the exercises. The learner expressed that the lengthy explanations surrounding the code caused them to want to drift or skip sections while they were reading.
d. Where there sections of the instruction product that the learner didn’t understand?
At various points during the instruction the learner had to stop and re-read sections in order to try to understand what they were to do next as well as ask multiple questions to try to figure out what was meant. For example, in the getting started section of the tutorial the instruction state: “Now create a folder called 'html' in your C drive (or anywhere else you fancy).” This caused the learner to initially be confused at where to find the C drive. While the learner was computer savvy they were thrown off by the language. If the instruction had not included the “anywhere else” part then the learner would have spent significant time hunting for their C drive. Additionally, the learner expressed that they became overwhelmed by all the written code terminology such as <header> </header> or <body> </body>. However, not all the learners’ experiences were negative. Upon completion of the first section of the tutorial the learner cheered “Wow, it suddenly seems possible to do!”
e. To what degree did the learner find the instruction appealing and interesting?
The learner thought the material was presented well and really liked the step-by-step exercises included in each section. They felt that the inclusion of the exercises helped them grasp the complicated subject. The learner also liked the conversational, informal way that the instruction was written. They expressed that it made the complicated and unfamiliar topic seem more familiar and seem like something that they could actually understand.
My recommendations for this tutorial would be to include visual screen shots of how the learners’ screen should look after they copy/paste the code examples that are given. While this might seem redundant, I think that the addition of such visuals and not just written “visuals” of code would help learners better understand what the written code will look like once it is put into practice. It also might help with the confusion of the terminology used, if it is turned into an exact visual.
In summation, I think this HTML tutorial is a great resource for beginners to use. The friendly conversational tone of the instruction makes it seem like it is something that is able to be learned. The layout and design is easy to follow. The step-by-step examples that walk the learner through each section are invaluable in helping the learner “see” how to use and apply code.
As an instructional designer my focus is the design and development of effective online instruction, interactive learning objects, instructional alignment and the visual aspects of instructional materials. Specifically, how the inclusion of visuals within instruction can help facilitate learning.