Types of files

Six basic types

There are six basic types of course files for PEOI's courses. The six types are

  1. text course material files which include
  2. content files that identify and link all other files; these content files appear on the left side of all course text files, and help students to navigate through course text material;
  3. cases (used in more than one chapter), lab work projects, tables of empirical data, research findings and similar auxiliary material;
  4. forum class discussions topics, student questions and student entries;
  5. test questions data banks;
  6. indexes and lists of images, audio segments, vidoe files, cases, documents, resources, readings, tables or technical terms.

Most of these are described further, and methods of accessing the files are explained below. The first three groups are HTML pages, and the next three are mostly text in (SQL) data banks. Review courses may contain just a few hundred files. Professional (or advanced) courses have more than one thousand files. PEOI's courses contain between twelve and twenty chapters, with fifteen being by far the most common number of chapters because it corresponds to the fifteen weeks of study per semester at most universities.

To work on any of these course pages and files, they must have been initially set up. Setting up the course files structure is the second essential step after the course is proposed, and is performed in "List chapters" described later.

A chapter introduction serves several learning function:

It is recommended to use a title for the first chapter of a course different from "Introduction" because introduction is looked upon as a reserved title for the first section of each chapter.

Supporting material

In addition, course material files may contain images, graphs, audio files or video clips, scripts (for instance, scripts of mathematical equations or formulae), tables of empirical data or other supporting material, all of which are highly desirable. These are located in a separate course Resources folder. Efforts are made to keep the size of all files small enough so that they load quickly. This also allows users to find and access wanted information rapidly. In turn, that explains the presence of a large number of files, and the need to keep track of file contents with the contents files and work performed on them (see PEOI's task management system outlined further).

Anchor tags

An important feature of PEOI's course content is that keywords and concepts are linked across files and data banks. This permits flexibility in student learning, and offers essential information just when needed such as in the case a test question is answered incorrectly. The links are created with HTML anchor tags. The anchor tags are mostly generated and managed automatically by PEOI's procedures. When new text is placed into PEOI's course files, the anchor tags are obviously not there initially, and one of PEOI's procedure must place them there, or the contributor must write the tags him/herself (which can be somewhat challenging if not accustomed to HTML and PEOI's methods). The anchor tags also define locations in text files.

With a few exceptions, most files are smaller than 24 KB and shorter than the equivalent of ten typed pages (including all HTML tags and scripts, but excluding images, sound or video clips). Consequently, chapters of professional courses are split into sections and subsections in order to focus on autonomous learning objectives and make PEOI's courses SCORM compliant. Files containing tables with data can be especially large as a result of HTML required lay-out. Insertion of images, graphs, tables, audio and video clips is strongly recommended to bring the material to life and retain reader's attention. They obviously need a lot of space. However, they are not physically present in text files, and are accessed as resources. Special procedures are available to upload image, video and audio files, and to place links for the uploaded image or audio files.

SCORM

SCORM stands for Sharable Content Object Reference Material. SCORM is the recommended standard for e-learning. Its main purpose is to allow an easier learning sequence, and one of its main recommendations is to divide content into learning object small enough to remember. All PEOI's course content does not have to be fully SCORM compliant, but PEOI's isolation of concepts that students must master and on which they are tested to pass PEOI's course is an illustration of its application at PEOI. Also, it is recommended to divide chapters into sections and subsections as finely as possible.

In some courses it is appropriate to place the conclusion of a chapter or even a summary in the Introduction section. This is especially true where the substance of the chapter deals with highly controversial and complex findings: stating the conclusion from the start, gives the reader a sense of direction.

Other course data

Aside from the six types of courses files and the image or audio files that accompany them, records are kept of the location of the files, the progress made in their completion and who worked on them. The work on each file is set up as one or several tasks. The completion of the course is perceived as a project with its constituent tasks. PEOI's course development system allows planning and control of all tasks in a project.

Finally, we should not forget all student test results and other work, and statistics that are accumulated on course page visits and student course page and test evaluations.

 

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