Making the CD-ROM

The creation of the Digital Stones CD, which formed much of the content basis of the online web class, incorporated several issues. The CD was designed in accordance with standard procedures of instructional design (Kemp et al. 1996). Instructional design models encompass many steps, including assessing the needs and characteristics of the learners, identifying the specific tasks which the learners must perform, stating the objectives of the instruction, identifying the sequence of the instruction and instructional strategies, delivery, compilation of ancillary resources, and evaluation. The several steps of instructional design (Kemp et al. 1996) fall into several major issues - pedagogical issues, design issues, authoring issues and delivery issues, and evaluation issues - each of which was faced during the creation of the CD.

Issues of pedagogy

The pedagogical issues faced during construction of the CD have been described fully elsewhere (Lohse and Sammons 1999). The impetus for creating the CD grew out of our need to develop a training exercise for students that accurately portrayed stone tool research and analysis. Because of our remote location and poor library holdings, our students are somewhat underprivileged in their ability to access major research publications on stone tool analysis. In addition, we lacked the funds to create redundant sets of laboratory equipment for replicative experiments on stone tool analysis. Students also needed training in analysing the stone tools and debris recovered from on-going archaeological excavations. A database for encoding stone tool attributes of use and manufacture had been developed in visual dBase. But, because of limited resources and experience, students had difficulty correctly selecting the appropriate attribute to encode. Therefore, our needs analysis indicated a large incongruity between the students' requirement to encode data and their ability to recognise the data attributes. Other needs included identification of and access to summaries of important research.

We determined that an interactive CD would best answer the needs of our learners. Such a CD would be portable and, by combining images, summaries, definitions, movies, database prototypes, and references, would allow learners to choose the method by which they would receive the information. We did have several strengths to tap in designing the CD. First, the basic course content had already been developed in a hard-copy laboratory manual (Lohse 1998 revised) and the database structure had been used for several years at ISU (Lohse 1996). This database had evolved through three versions of dBase (II, III, and IV) and was itself derived from the classification system devised for the Chief Joseph Dam Archaeological Project, a multiyear project run by the University of Washington in the early 1980s (Campbell 1984; 1985). Secondly, a field trip during the Computer Applications in Archaeology conference in Leiden in 1995 introduced us to a more user-friendly database system, one which incorporated pull-down choices for each attribute, image fields, and multiple entry screens. Today, such features are commonplace, but at the time, they were striking in their innovation. Another strength upon which the system could rely was the history of experimental research at the Idaho Museum of Natural History. The late Donald Crabtree was a researcher at IMNH and his extensive replica collection, as well as rights of ownership to his videotapes on flintknapping, was housed at the Museum. Finally, a crucial element was access to computer technology and expertise within the College of Education's doctoral program in Instructional Technology.

Our student analysts ranged from novice undergraduates with only a few weeks of field school to advanced graduate students with several seasons of field and laboratory work. The CD had to take into account this wide variation in ability and experience. Three sections of the CD address these learner characteristics. The first section, Basic Terms, introduces the user via text and images to basic attributes of stone tools and debris. Such terms as ventral, dorsal, cortex, bulb of percussion, and others are identified for the user by simple line drawings. A beginner can access this section in order to become familiar with the basic terms they will encounter in other parts of Digital Stones. It was also determined that the CD would have to give the more advanced user continual access to a glossary, illustrations, and references which would support the summative information and the prototype of the database.

Issues of design and authoring

The pedagogical issues, of course, influenced our design decisions, including the development of different sections, the choice between line drawings or digital images, the number and look of buttons or hyperlinks, font style and size, animation, sound, and movies. And, in the dynamic process which is multimedia development, authoring issues influenced and were influenced by the design decisions.

Multimedia projects are often developed by teams of content specialists, visual designers, editors, and programmers who come together at different stages of the project. Crucial stages of design include flowcharting and storyboarding the project in advance of authoring. Novices that we were, our team of two represented all the necessary specialists in content and design, as well as accomplishing the basic steps of flowcharting and storyboarding.

Flowcharts were created for every menu and screen that appears on Digital Stones. These flowcharts were created by hand, in pencil, to represent the interactive choices that the user would face on each screen. Flowchart forms, 11x17in. in size, were created using standard flowcharting symbols - circular connectors, information rectangles, and yes/no diamonds. Since we first created the flowcharts for the CD, flowcharting software has become available, but at the time, over 100 pages of flowcharts were drawn by hand, edited, checked by experienced multimedia designers, and finalised.

Storyboards were more simple. Instead of creating elaborate storyboards, which a more sophisticated team approach would have required, we made simple line drawings on large index cards. These cards were taped to a classroom whiteboard, and arrows were drawn between cards to indicate the links between screens. We found this approach to be a parsimonious method for visualising and editing the system.

When we felt that both the flowcharts and storyboards adequately represented our vision for Digital Stones, we began the process of authoring the CD using Macromedia Director (first 6.0, and later 6.5). Authoring the CD required many changes to our preliminary design as both problems and opportunities arose. The opportunities were Eureka-like moments when we learned how to create a specific effect or link in Director and were therefore able to add greater interactivity to Digital Stones. For example, mastering the language to open multiple windows meant that we could now ensure continual access to the glossary or the illustrations. It also meant that we could make these supplemental windows a smaller size than the main window, so that the user could continue to see the scrolling text on the main screen, even as s/he navigated through the bibliography, glossary, or illustrations, or watched a movie play.

"the authoring system sometimes constrained or actively influenced our visual and pedagogical design ... and also influenced how we provided information to the users"

Problems in authoring also arose. For example, the versions of Director that we were using had no intuitive or easy way to create hypertext links from within a body of text. Repeated inquiries of Macromedia's technical support and a short-lived subscription to the Director listserv produced no help in creating hypertext links. This ability has since become available (but still not easy) in Director 7.0, but was not an option at the time we authored Digital Stones. Therefore, we had to devise a way around the problem. The fix we created was simple but less than satisfactory. Rather than creating a link to the glossary or the illustrations from within the body of the text, we created buttons that went to the front of the glossary or the illustration list. The procedure was this: for example, the user, reading the text, would come to a bibliographic reference. The user would click on the Bibliography button on the right side of the screen, bringing up the Bibliography window. In this window, the user would then navigate alphabetically through the bibliography to find the desired reference. Although this would not have been our preferred mode of accessing the bibliography, glossary, illustrations, or movies, we found this fix to be serviceable.

An alternative procedure may have been to supply a site map, but the complex structure of the CD's content led us away from this option. Recent research (Stanton et al. 2000) has indicated that a site map does not aid the learner in searching, accessing, or orienting in a hypermedia application.

This problem in authoring is just the most extreme example of how the authoring system sometimes constrained or actively influenced our visual and pedagogical design. Other problems were less obvious or invasive, such as identifying colour palettes for imported images, creating images in formats acceptable to Director, and formatting text within the text objects.

The parameters of the authoring software also influenced how we provided information to the users. One of our goals on Digital Stones was to make all the text and images freely available to be not only read and seen, but also to be manipulated and used by the audience. We wanted users to be able to print off text and take images from the CD. We found, however, that once text and images were imbedded into the Director movies as cast members and once the movie was published into its executable form, users would not be able to download text or images. We provided separate files on the CD for text and the original Jpegs which were imported into the Director file. In this way, we hoped to make our resources as accessible as the finished Digital Stones program itself.

Issues of delivery

The final issue in creating the CD was in its publishing format. All of the original materials - word processing files, original drawings, manipulated images, and the Director files themselves - were created on a PC. Although Director is a cross-platform application and supports publication of its files in either Mac or Windows formats, the final movie must be created on the same platform on which it will be used. That is, if a Director movie is to be used on a Macintosh, then it must be created on a Macintosh. We were working in a Windows environment and, although we do have access to Macintosh machines, we have not yet moved to re-publish the Director files for Macs. We also had hopes of easily translating the Director movies into a format which would play on the World Wide Web. This was especially important as the online class was being created. Rather than having students buy a single-platform CD, we had hoped to place the entire CD online. However, this did not prove to be possible. Although many Director projects can be viewed over the Web using Shockwave, long and complex projects such as Digital Stones would have to be heavily revised to be placed in a Web-compatible format.


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Last updated: Thu Jul 11 2002