This article shows how principles from the fields of adult learning and situated learning can be applied to the method of Instructional System Design to create classroom-based training for software products. These principles and methods do not need to be antithetical; rather, they can complement each other to create instructional strategies that incorporate context-rich activities for work-oriented instruction.
During the Fall of 1997, the authors participated in Electronic Discourse and Pedagogy, a course offered by Dr. Kris Blair at Bowling Green State University . One objective of this course called individuals (or groups) to lead facilitations based on assigned readings throughout the semester. These facilitations/presentations were to be informal and interactive. It was here that the authors presented the following timeline which was intended to accompany and expand the work done by Gail E. Hawisher, Paul LeBlanc, Charles Moran, and Cynthia L. Selfe in Computers and the Teaching of Writing in American Higher Education, 1979-1994: A History. This original facilitation involved a detailed discussion on the past, the present, and the future of computers in the classroom, as well as a road-trip to the LinguaMoo Mooloqium for moderated group activities. In preparation, the authors of this timeline compiled information from the text and used this information as a springboard for research which has come to be present
Universities and colleges are investing millions of dollars in information technology infrastructure to support teaching, research, and service, and thousands of dollars annually in faculty training programs. And yet, many college graduates entering the workforce lack adequate technology skills. To ascertain the frequency of faculty adoption of information technology, we surveyed a random sample of faculty in the liberal arts and sciences departments in our university. Overall faculty members (n = 174) reported a low usage of information technology for teaching, though the rate of software adoption is higher than the rate of hardware adoption. While opportunities to learn technology are available, about two-thirds of the faculty members have not completed the available seminars and workshops on information technologies but prefer more informal ways of learning information technology, such as talking with other faculty members.
Although many programs require one or more project-based course for their majors, most students never get to work with a real client on a project that will be used outside the classroom setting. We felt strongly that students would benefit more from both their communication and their software design courses if they could somehow connect their efforts across traditional curricular boundaries and work with a real audiences and purposes. And in fact, this is what we found—students understood the relationship between their technical and communication responsibilities much more fully in both classes than either of us had experienced in these same courses prior to linking them.
The technical writing program at Oklahoma State University, like many others throughout the United States, serves two groups: - students in technical and scientific disciplines whose preparation for the workplace requires the development communication skills (in keeping with the guidelines of professional accrediting organizations) - students who intend to seek employment as technical communicators. For both groups, our curriculum must provide instruction about writing and document design in a workplace that increasingly performs its tasks on computers. For undergraduate students in science and technology, our main upper-division course (English 3323, 'Technical Writing') focuses on workplace genres such as proposals, progress reports, and recommendation reports. Our approach also addresses the goals of most professional accrediting bodies, which consistently urge that students be prepared for their professional roles, and not simply for academic reports that are evaluated simply for their solution of a technical problem, to the neglect of the larger contexts of such technical problems in real-world writing. In our primary technical writing course for undergraduates, therefore, we enhance the traditional and emerging concerns of technical writing courses with assignments that require use of computers. Finally, when not in class, students have access to a Writing Center (located next door to the Electronic Classroom) and to many computer labs across the campus.