Computer Assisted Language Learning and Teaching
Department of English
National Kaohsiung First University of Science and Technology, Taiwan
10.2.1 Content Design
10.2.2 Visual Design
10.2.3 Navigation Design
10.2.4 Multimedia Design
- the target audience/learners (age, cognitive ability level, learning styles, motivation of learning, familiarity with technology, etc.)
- the language level of the learners
- the purpose (learning objectives) of the program
- the pedagogical approach
- the appropriate use of technology
- the learning context
- Learner-content: interaction between content and the learner's belief and knowledge
- Learner-instructor: interaction Involving feedback and guidance to the learner provided by the instructor
- Learner-learner: interaction between learners that result in clarifications and knowledge construction
- Learner-interface: a function of the technology system through which learner may interact with content, instructor, or other learner
Therefore, computer-mediated communication (CMC), or human-to-human interaction via computers, also needs to be taken into consideration when developing CALL programs.
Remember that "reading from computer screens is about 25% slower than reading from paper... people don't want to read a lot of text from computer screens: you should write 50% less text and not just 25% less since it's not only a matter of reading speed but also a matter of feeling good." (ICT4LT Module 3.2)
As a general rule it is advisable to use:
- short paragraphs
- bullets and tables to make reading easier
- lots of white space - more than on the printed page
- multimedia to convey meaning
- one screen to present all related information
The program needs to provide comprehensible input to learners. That is, the difficulty level of learning materials should be appropriate to learners' language level and the information needs to be organized systematically and presented clearly.
Make sure the content to be presented is accurate, valid, and unbiased. Double check all the information presented in the program and avoid making typos and grammatical errors.
The content of the CALL program needs to be of great interest to learners in order to motivate them to learn with the program.
The organization of the content, such as a hierarchical way with topics and sub-topics and an associative way with word/icon links, needs to be well-structured.
The placement of elements on the screen needs to be consistent from screen to screen, including the use of color, layout, capitalization, typefaces and fonts. Also, the terminology used in prompts, menus, and help screens needs to be consistent too.
Each section of content should fit onto one screen. Different parts of the information should be distinguished from one another spatially rather than through variations in color, style, or other visual treatments. Too many other treatments can clutter the screen with visual noise, which distracts from the content being presented.
The text on the screen must be legible and readable. For legibility, avoid using elaborate typefaces on screen, and text in paragraphs should not be smaller than 12 points. For readability, lines of text should be aligned on the left (i.e. left justified), not on the right, and individual lines of text should be at least several pixels apart.
Color needs to be used with caution. Overuse of color makes information more difficult to read because the user slows down to think about what the color means. It is important to ensure good contrast between text and background. Dark text on light background is more preferable. Avoid the use of combinations of complementary colors (e.g. red and green, blue and orange, yellow and violet).
Effective screen design exhibits good use of contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity, which are four basic principles of visual design. Different elements should contrast clearly with each other, whereas common elements, like logos and navigation buttons, should be repeated. Each element on the screen should be aligned either horizontally or vertically. Related items should be placed close to each other, and unrelated items placed farther apart, because users assume that items in close proximity are related.
Good design prevents users as much as possible from making serious errors with the interface of the software or the website. A good program should provide easy and clear navigation and instruction for recovery if users get into trouble. Make sure navigation bar appears at the same place on every screen or every webpage.
Audio and video playback must be of sufficiently high technical quality. The synchronization of video with audio is more important than the quality of the video display. The quality of audio needs to be taken into account, particularly because language learners may use some listening materials as a model for their learning of speaking skills.
The size of sound files and video files can be very large, which may result in very long download time and cause inconvenience for learners to use web-based activities using multimedia. It is better to use some sound editing software to compress large files before upload them on the web.
Please go to CALL Authoring Programs and Resources to learn how to make interactive exercises.
Hillman, D. C., Willis, D. J., & Gunawardena, C. N. (1994). Learner-interface interaction in distance education: An extension of contemporary models and strategies for practitioners. The American Journal of Distance Education, 8(2), 30-42.