My Pre-Blog Challenge

I have been doing a lot of thinking about the long-term value of this space since my six year post last month. The thing I have been thinking about is how to bring “pre-blog” work back to life within the context of today, but with the original content of yesterday. I know that sounds really odd, but as I have been thinking about how killer it is to have six years worth of writing and sharing available in this space I have come to the conclusion that I have neglected things from the years prior to that.

My friend and colleague, Scott McDonald, and I are constantly talking about how important it is for us to become curators of our own content — sort of like personal librarians. Not really to expose the work more widely, but to have it in a way that it is organized and managed. With all this in mind I recently went through a couple of boxes of 3.5″ floppies left over from middle school, high school, and college to see if anything is still living. What I found was disappointing in that very few of the disks were still readable … to my point, I let all that go away. What I did harvest I tried to make sense of and organize in new digital archives.

Stack of Floppies

Yesterday, Brad Kozlek and I were talking about some of these ideas and I mentioned that I might start putting some old content here to work it into this space. I want to find a way to bring it into the larger story this space tells about me … and that story certainly started well before my first post here in 2004.

So, with that in mind, the month of August will be my Pre-Blog Challenge month where I will attempt to get as much old stuff in here as I can. At the moment, I am using the category PreBlog to organize all of it. I am also dating back to the original date that the files themselves have on them … so my archives now stretch back into the 1990s … I am hoping to find some even older items as time goes by (I might even have to retype some stuff). My only rule is that I cannot edit the content (as much as I might want to) and have to let it simply hang out as it was when written. I’ve already discovered some interesting things about myself by reading my own words 15 years later. I am also sure as I go along some of what I post won’t be text, but might include old video, pictures, or audio. Who knows. Anyone else doing something like this and want to join in my new one something a day challenge?

Innovation in eLearning and Educational Product Design: The Story of the IST Solutions Institute

Cole W. Camplese
Kristin Z. Camplese
March 13, 2003


As a pioneer in developing and deploying innovative curricula in Information Sciences and Technology (IST), the IST Solutions Institute is proud and committed to share the story of our Education and Training Team. In 1999, the School of Information Sciences and Technology at The Pennsylvania State University opened its doors dedicated to the creation of leaders for a global, digital society. As part of our mission, curricular sharing and technology innovation are core success factors. To this end, the IST Solutions Institute was created to meet the challenges associated with this innovative goal.

As the creative center of the School of IST, the Solutions Institute serves as the primary outreach arm through its innovative, media-rich eLearning products and services, information technology research, and student-centered solutions. The IST Solutions Institute’s core areas of specialization include content and process management, Instructional Systems Design as applied to eLearning, and multimedia and visual design, authoring, and application development. Our organization is committed to solid pedagogy, quality products, creativity, and lifelong learning.

Our core initiative, Online IST, sets the Institute apart as the leading developer of integrated eLearning opportunities. Based on a custom instructional design and development methodology, the Online IST project has reached over 5000 students in the last two years. The entire online curriculum is supported by the Digital Design Document (D3), a custom, database-driven content management tool that facilitates content creation, collection, instructional design, team-based collaboration for designers and developers, and flexible course publishing.

The Online IST courses are created based on a custom, four-tier instructional design model. A seven-person team within the IST Solutions Institute manages all facets of Online IST design, development, delivery, and support. The design process is a highly collaborative one that integrates all team members and faculty/corporate subject matter experts. The Institute team has reduced design and development time to six months per course because of this innovative approach. In addition to the online course materials, the team is responsible for several complimentary components that serve to extend and support the reach of Online IST. These include the IST Solutions Exchange — a centralized web-based resource for students and faculty, Edison’s Services — a suite of set-up and management tools for students and faculty, the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for Information Technology — a program for talented high school students, and the IST Faculty Academy — an annual conference dedicated to teaching and learning with technology.

All of the initiatives have been widely used throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In addition to the 19 location PSU Commonwealth Campus System, the Solutions Institute has delivered Online IST courses to educational partners who cannot adequately support an IST curriculum at their location. In addition, because of our close placement to corporate clients, the Institute has created many industry partnerships related to Online IST. Many of these projects have allowed us to validate the custom Instructional Design and Development model with high-level industry training courses.

The strategic direction of the IST Solutions Institute for years 2003-2005 is related to broader dissemination and revision of the Online IST curriculum, increasing the flexibility of delivery opportunities, and refining and extending the capabilities of the D3 content management system. In order to disseminate the Online IST curriculum to wider audiences, the Institute is engaged in creating licensing models that will provide other learning institutions and corporations with the high level learning topics in support of their learning objectives.


As a pioneer in developing and deploying innovative curricula in Information Sciences and Technology (IST), the IST Solutions Institute is proud and committed to share the story of our Education and Training Team. In 1999, the School of Information Sciences and Technology at The Pennsylvania State University opened its doors dedicated to the creation of leaders for a global, digital society. As part of our mission, curricular sharing and technology innovation are core success factors. To this end, the IST Solutions Institute was created to meet the challenges associated with this innovative goal.

As the creative center of the School of IST, the Solutions Institute serves as the primary outreach arm through its innovative, media-rich eLearning products and services, information technology research, and student-centered solutions. Our positioning is unique to all of higher education; we are placed squarely between the School of IST and the corporate sector. This positioning allows the Institute to utilize the thought leadership of the university and apply it to real world challenges associated with industry. Because of this, we are afforded extensive opportunities for corporate partnerships, collaborative projects, and applied research initiatives. The Institute has become a leading applied research and development organization focusing on solutions for technology-assisted education and training challenges. This effort was recently recognized with the IST Innovators Award, presented by the students of the School of IST.

To learn more about the School of IST, please visit: . To learn more about the IST Solutions Institute in general, please visit: .

The Online IST Project

Our core initiative, Online IST, sets the Institute apart as the leading developer of integrated eLearning opportunities. Based on a custom instructional design and development methodology developed by the Co-Director of the Institute, Cole Camplese, the Online IST project has reached over 5000 students in the last two years. The entire online curriculum is supported by the Digital Design Document (D3), a custom, database-driven content management tool that facilitates content creation, collection, instructional design, team-based collaboration for designers and developers, and flexible course publishing. The goals of the Online IST project include:

  • Maintaining teaching and learning as the number one priority, regardless of delivery medium.
  • The extension of a problem-based learning approach for the curriculum that focuses on solutions and outcomes to real world problems (Solutions-Based Learning).
  • Development of a modular, scalable, reusable, and relevant curricular core.
  • Development of content management tools, processes, and teams to oversee the storage and maintenance of our curricular knowledge objects.
  • Integration of faculty and industry thought leaders in a collaborative design process that ensures broad-based coverage of relevant IST topics.
  • Providing centralized support to the 19 campus IST Commonwealth System through curricular integration and flexibility (i.e. materials used as full package or as supplemental material).
  • Providing the content baseline for IST core courses supplemented with extensive rich media.
  • Sharing the fully developed curriculum with educational and industry partners.

Currently, there are five fully developed Online IST courses. For a full listing of the courses and links to course demos, please visit:

A typical Online IST course contains six hundred screens of instruction tied together through a custom Course Content Interface that organizes all materials for students. Within the course, there are, on average, 10-15 online topics of instruction, 2-3 real world problem activities, 5 virtual lab activities, and instructor and student guides (entitled “Roadmaps”). Because they are managed in the D3 system, these discrete components can be “mixed and matched” to create custom offerings due to the modular design. To break this down further, the online library currently contains 2663 screens of instruction, 670 graphics, and 147 high-level, Macromedia Flash-based interactive exercises and animations. To view samples of graphics and interactive exercises, please visit our Media Showcase at: . In short, the Online IST library is a criterion-referenced, highly comprehensive, interactive, and instantly accessible web-based resource that can be made available to allow instructors to create their own IT courses based on their specific learning goals.

In general, Online IST courses are adopted by individual faculty members and delivered to students at either the University Park or Commonwealth Campus location. To date, over 170 course sections of Online IST have been delivered by approximately fifty IST faculty members. Traditionally, faculty members have resisted usage of online or technology-based learning opportunities as course replacements. The adoption of Online IST has been effective in removing this traditional stereotype because of our focus on teaching, learning, and support.

The Online IST courses are created based on a custom, four-tier instructional design model. A seven-person team within the IST Solutions Institute manages all facets of Online IST design, development, delivery, and support. The design process is a highly collaborative one that integrates all team members and faculty/corporate subject matter experts. The Institute team has reduced design and development time to six months per course because of this innovative approach. In addition to the online course materials, the team has designed several complimentary components that serve to extend and support the reach of Online IST. Some of these include:

  • The IST Solutions Exchange is the central starting point for both students and faculty for all Online IST learning opportunities. All of the opportunities below are integrated within the IST Solutions Exchange. Available at:
  • Edison’s Toolbox and Services are custom registration and support tools that empower PSU faculty in the delivery of Online IST courses and students with personalized support components. In Edison Services, accounts can be created for users external to the PSU authentication system. Available at:
  • The Online IST Problems Library is a problem-based learning repository that provides faculty and students with direct access to the ever-growing library of Online IST real world problem assignments. The goal of the Problems Library is to increase a faculty member’s flexibility with regard to usage of problem-based activities in the classroom. Available at:
  • The Online IST Print Library provides printable versions of Online IST Topic Packs to faculty and students. These Topic Packs are generated by the D3 System to provide easy access when users cannot be connected to a computer. Available at:
  • Solutions-Based Learning Live is an “always on” streaming channel designed to distribute guest lectures of visiting professors and industry experts to a geographically-dispersed audience. Available at:
  • The IST Expert Exchange is a community of users committed to providing answers to IST-related questions. This community consists of over 75 leading experts, as well as the IST faculty and student body. Available at:

All of the initiatives have been widely used throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In addition to the PSU Commonwealth Campus System, the Solutions Institute has delivered Online IST courses to partners who cannot adequately support an IST curriculum at their location. Some of these course-sharing partnerships have involved:

  • Juniata College, a small rural private college
  • Holy Family College, a small urban, non-traditional college
  • Cheney State University, a Historically Black College and University in a suburban setting
  • State College Area School District, a large school district in central Pennsylvania.

In addition, the Online IST courses are shared with the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for Information Technology. This program, supported by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, brings 75 of the top high school juniors to PSU for a five-week, intensive residency program in the summer. Designed and delivered by the IST Solutions Institute, this program focuses on solving relevant, real world information technology challenges using modular components of the Online IST learning repository. To review last year’s challenge, please visit:

Because of our close placement to corporate clients, the Institute has created many industry partnerships related to Online IST. Many of these projects have allowed us to validate the custom Instructional Design and Development model with high-level industry training courses. Three examples include:

  • Infinity I/O (II/O): II/O is the leading provider of Storage Area Network training content. By combining the Online IST tools and methodologies with II/O content, a new standard for online training has been established.
  • Lockheed Martin Material and Data Services: The IST Solutions Institute created the world’s only Level 5 CMMI (Competency Maturity Model Integrated) interactive training course. This course is delivered to approximately 8000 Lockheed Martin employees.
  • IBM: The IST Solutions Institute has partnered with IBM to provide NetDB2, a web-based database manipulation tool that allows students to query data without a client application, to all IST students and faculty in the Online IST 210 course (Organization of Data).

Organizational Growth

The strategic direction of the IST Solutions Institute for years 2003-2005 is related to broader dissemination and revision of the Online IST curriculum, increasing the flexibility of delivery opportunities, and refining and extending the capabilities of the D3 content management system. In order to disseminate the Online IST curriculum to wider audiences, the Institute is engaged in creating licensing models that will provide other learning institutions and corporations with the high level learning topics in support of their learning objectives. Learn more by visiting: .

Based on the knowledge we have gained in the last three years, the Institute has made the decision to provide faculty with online tools from Edison Services that empower the creation of individualized learning environments using the Online IST learning repository. A major focus of this effort will be on building easy and intuitive user interfaces with multimedia and graphical elements to streamline the creation of learning environments. The courses and learning objects are also under a constant revision process with plans for a new Course Content Interface, as well as new versions of all courses beginning in Fall 2003.

Furthermore, the Institute will be extending the D3 System to work more closely with emerging content repository standards. These standards will allow the Institute to effectively distribute our pre-designed knowledge objects for broad-based adoption. This move will allow the Institute to engage in a true “e2e” (education to education) distribution model.

The IST Solutions Institute is slated to move into a new, state of the art building in Fall 2003. This facility has been designed to create a “living value chain” that optimizes the research, development, and dissemination of our applied solutions. It will also allow for human resource growth in the areas of data and database management and client relationship management. By hiring other key personnel to expand our team, the Institute will be able to enhance the creativity of our solutions and bring them to life in more powerful ways. Other planned growth activities include visiting faculty members every semester to engage in scholarly activity, corporate sponsorships to create research clusters around key initiatives, and expanding the technology infrastructure to support our activities.

Core Competencies

The major disciplines and technical areas that the IST Solutions Institute specializes in are:

  • Content and Process Management: The foundation of the Institute’s initiatives are built on our custom design and development model using the D3 System. These models are based on proven instructional systems design models merged with product development theory. There is a synergistic relationship between our process and technology tools. It is a distinguishing characteristic of the Institute that our content management initiatives have been in place for nearly four years and are used in an actual production environment.
  • Instructional Systems Design as applied to eLearning: Our team’s experience is rooted in Instructional Systems Design theory. We have applied this knowledge to create “best in breed” eLearning solutions that meet the learning needs of students and provide a solid teaching basis for faculty. In addition, Instructional Technology Specialists within the Institute ensure that media is used to target multiple learning styles based on course learning goals.
  • Multimedia and Visual Design, Authoring, and Application Development: The IST Solutions Institute has a unique ability to bring its technology solutions to life using creative design techniques. Our learning repository is filled with interactive activities that extend the thought leadership of the content. Without these media elements, it would be impossible to capture the attention of our primary audiences. All of the initiatives related to Online IST are managed using web applications for authentication, delivery, and communication.

Teaching, Learning, and Creative Expression

Teaching, learning, and creative expression are core to the IST Solutions Institute mission. These elements form the foundation on which all projects are based. The obvious focus on teaching and learning occurs within the Online IST curriculum. Unique, problem-based learning models ensure that students are engaged in motivating, real world scenarios. In addition, student and faculty evaluation allow us to constantly improve the learning environments, as well as to research emerging trends and best practices for online learning. In support of this, the Institute manages and delivers an annual statewide conference, the IST Faculty Academy, which focuses on teaching and learning with technology within the “K-20” environment. For more information, please visit: .

Fostering creative thinking is critical to the overall success of the IST Solutions Institute. To this end, team members are encouraged to engage in “design experiments” several times per year. These experiments allow members of the Institute the creative space to envision new solutions without the constraints of project timelines. Many of these design experiments make their way into actual projects delivered to both internal and external audiences. The only requirement of the design experiment is documentation and presentation of results to the entire team.

Furthermore, a focus on lifelong learning is required of the Institute team. Professional development funds are made available to support ongoing research and learning by the team. Penn State University also encourages lifelong learning by providing a 75% tuition reimbursement to all university employees. This allows our team to engage in higher level learning opportunities, including masters and doctoral degrees. Externally, our advisory board and corporate partners provide the Institute with learning opportunities and insight into real world processes, technologies, and challenges.

Although we pride ourselves on our ability to compete in the corporate sector, the IST Solutions Institute’s work is grounded in the spirit of higher education. Our direct ties to an academic department provide the underpinnings of teaching, learning, research, and service for all of our initiatives. While our production capabilities rival those in business, our main focus will always be on improving teaching and learning and creatively advancing our field.

Online IST: A Quick Project Overview

Kristin Camplese
October 25, 2002

“The overarching goal of Penn State’s School of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) is to pursue an agenda that focuses on the theoretical, application-oriented, and educational issues facing a digital global economy. Our research focuses on building an understanding of how information and technology fundamentally impact (and are impacted by) people, organizations, and the world community. The teaching and learning environments we offer are designed to build leaders for a rapidly evolving information-driven world. Because of the seriousness of technology demands faced by business, industry, and government, Penn State’s School of IST has moved aggressively on a broad front. One of the keys to these efforts was the development of the IST Solutions Institute (SI), an administrative arm of the school that is the driver of higher education institutional cooperation, knowledge transfer, and educational program development and delivery.” (School of IST,

A primary focus of the Institute is the Online IST Project, which began in October 1999. The project presented a unique challenge: to create an online, problem-based, real-world, modular, reusable curriculum for the School of Information Sciences and Technology. One of the biggest challenges would be to flesh out a problem-based, online instructional design model that meshed with other unique, market-driven needs.

What has evolved through our team process is called “Solutions-Based Learning” — a real world model that focuses on teaching and learning within a business-oriented, team-driven process. Solutions-Based Learning not only focuses on students finding solutions to real world problems; it is a solution to the many high level learning needs that universities and schools have today. Solutions-Based Learning relies on presenting students with a real-world problem at the beginning of an instructional module. Within that module, topics support both the traditional instruction, as well as the problem-solving activity. As the students work through the content, they are not only gathering information for the problem solving process, they are participating in traditional online activities such as reading and collecting information in a hypertext fashion, discussing the content with students and facilitators in online bulletin boards, and interacting with multimedia exercises and streaming video events that enhance the content.

The Solutions-Based Learning and Online IST approach transforms the way in which courses are created, managed, accessed, and evaluated. It is innovative in three ways.

1. Online IST modules allow rapid configuration and tailoring of educational material –

Online IST courses are developed in a modular fashion by a team of faculty content specialists, instructional designers, and multimedia experts in the IST Solutions Institute. The School of IST has access to approximately 100 faculty in the information sciences. This enables the SI team to provide the most up-to-date content in information technology. Currently, there are four fully online courses: IST 110: Introduction to Information Sciences and Technology, IST 210: Organization of Data, IST 220: Networking and Telecommunications, and IST 250: New Media and the Web.

2. Delivery via the World Wide Web provides portability and anytime, any place access –

The Online IST courses are delivered through the World Wide Web. Teachers and students can access course content, multimedia exercises, live streaming video events, and lab activities through a simple web browser. In addition, they can communicate with members of their virtual class through synchronous and asynchronous communication tools. The “portability” of the courses enables learning to take place at any location in a “just in time” fashion. Both teachers and students can access the materials 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in any location. In this model, the expertise of the teacher is augmented by instant teacher and student access to a fully designed IT curriculum.

3. Interactive, problem-based courses increase student and teacher skills –

Learning gains are accomplished through activities and media including: team-based, real world problems, multimedia-based interactive exercises, online asynchronous and synchronous communication, and virtual lab activities. The resulting courses focus on developing students capable of understanding the theory, practice, and problem solving of IT. Real world problems are designed by faculty and industry experts in conjunction with Solutions Institute instructional designers to ensure that the problems are challenging, motivating, and aligned with course learning goals. Through these activities, students develop their oral and written presentation skills, professionalism skills, and research skills.

Since the project’s inception, experts within the IST Solutions Institute have designed, developed, and implemented four core online undergraduate courses. In approximately two years since the first course was finalized, approximately 100 sections with 5100 students around the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have utilized these courses.

The eight-person SI team responsible for the Online IST project is comprised of instructional designers, multimedia and graphics specialists, faculty development specialists, and project managers. Team members work directly with IST faculty members to create and constantly evaluate and improve the innovative Online IST courses. The director of the Online IST Project, Cole Camplese, has an extensive background in online education for both educational and corporate audiences. The Solutions Institute was recently awarded the IST Innovation Award by the students of the School for its groundbreaking work on the Online IST curriculum.

Alignment and Integration of e-Learning Support Mechanisms in Online IST

Cole Camplese, Director, Education and Training Solutions
Kristin Camplese, Manager, Instructional Design and Research

April 7, 2001


An e-Learning course is only as good as the support that is provided to both students and instructors. The School of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) at Penn State University has focused heavily on aligning e-Learning support mechanisms. The approach has been to provide integrated faculty development, student development, and print documentation in the form of the “Roadmap.” This presentation will provide an overview of the Online IST curriculum and detail the support mechanisms that have been pivotal to the success of this e-Learning initiative.

Online IST Background

The Penn State School of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) formally opened in 1999 to develop leaders for the emerging e-world—professionals who put technology to work in any setting, whether it is business or social service, government, or education. Within the School, the Solutions Institute has been responsible for the translation of this innovative curriculum to an online world. The Online IST Curriculum was made real in the fall of 2000 when IST 110, An Introduction to Information Sciences and Technology, was delivered to a Penn State University IST audience. Since this initial roll out, approximately one additional course has gone online every semester. Future plans include online courses for the full undergraduate core and courses for the Professional Masters degree.

Online IST courses are built through a collaborative effort with thought-leaders in information sciences and technology, corporate partners and an experienced instructional design team. All of the courses are founded on the basic principles of Problem Based Learning, where students learn through solving real-world problems in cooperation with course materials, external research and team-based interaction. The courses are designed to be total packages—that is, they are designed from start to finish and can be taught with no additional design effort from faculty, if they so choose.

The Support Problem

As IST began to roll out online course offerings, we immediately realized that — no matter how good the online curriculum was — we needed the support and backing of IST faculty and students. In order to gain this, we needed to support them in their efforts to disseminate the online courses. Faculty members were excited about the new approach, but most had little experience implementing a course like this from both a technological and pedagogical perspective. They needed tools and information to help them in their quests to deliver our courses online. In addition, few, if any, students had experience in an online, problem-based course. The Institute needed to be able to provide teaching, learning, and administrative/ technological support in order to ensure widespread adoption of the courses. Beyond the instructional and technological issues, we had to be prepared to deal with the many change management and institutional issues that are always at the core of information technology projects.

The Support Solution

The support solutions that were envisioned considered all of our various stakeholders: faculty, students, administration, and staff/team members. We also realized that some of the support issues were really marketing issues in disguise. This meant we needed to create positive public relations through marketing materials. Some of these included “online course trailers” which introduced the courses as “coming attractions.” As part of this, a “customer support line” was also established. In short, we had to treat this like a business. However, teaching and learning could not be sacrificed.

Online IST Support Mechanisms

Several support pieces evolved as the delivery of the Online IST Curriculum continued. The Course Roadmap is the most important piece of the offering. The Roadmap is a printed manual (usually about 100 pages long) that walks both faculty and students through the course. It includes information about all course activities, grading rubrics, assignment checklists, technical set up, problem descriptions, and strategies for success in the course. Students are told “all of the answers to their questions are in the Roadmap.” The expectation is that they should consult that document before they go anywhere else. The document is the first line of support and has a nice byproduct—its comprehensive nature reduces the load on faculty members who are generally forced to answer hundreds of emails regarding the same course issues.

Faculty Development is the second key piece of our support puzzle. In anticipation of each semester, a faculty development session is held to prepare instructors both from a technical and learning perspective. In addition, the Solutions Institute holds the Faculty Academy (, which is an event that helps teachers integrate technology into their classrooms. Special sessions at this event focus on Online IST.

Student Development is also important to the Online IST Support effort. The courses are designed to focus the first two to three sessions solely on course familiarization and team building. Called Module Zero and repeated in all online IST courses, these sessions go a long way in preparing students for the expectations of the course and help them immensely with team issues.

The final piece of the support effort is the Online IST Support Specialist whose main job is the support of both faculty and students in the online courses. The Support Specialist is also responsible for maintaining the online Solutions Support Suite, which includes many set up and support resources, as well as just in time training, and contact information on the web.

Beyond Support…

The alignment of these support mechanisms is also a very important idea to consider.

Alignment with Marketing: Along with the actual support events and sites, we provide marketing material to get faculty and students excited about upcoming learning opportunities. The Course Trailers that were referred to previously have been core to this effort.

Alignment with Administration and Curricular Goals: From the beginning of this effort, our Dean and administrative leadership have been in full support of the curriculum and its approach. Faculty and students are encouraged to get involved in the courses, and materials are freely available to the IST community. This support and institutional transformation enables high-level, high-energy, creative work and education.

Alignment with Design and Development Team: Our Instructional Design and Development Team within the Solutions Institute is a highly motivated and talented team. We have a shared vision of creating online learning that is educationally sound, practical, “implementable,” and fully supported for both faculty and students. Without this type of team alignment, our courses could not be successful.

Lessons Learned

We have begun to distill our experiences regarding support into a few “lessons learned.” To summarize:

  • Faculty and students do not want to feel disconnected.
  • Importance of “physical” support pieces (Paper!)
  • Importance of availability (Phone, IM, E-Mail)
  • Importance of some face to face contact (Hybrid Approach)
  • Faculty and students do not have a lot of experience in these types of learning models.
  • Importance of support before the course begins
  • Even with the “perfect” interfaces and ID models, they will still need support!
  • Remember it is a change management issue as well.
  • Technology always brings out the need for support
  • Be prepared to support your users’ technology needs or find someone who will.

The Bottom Line

The Solutions Institute approach has placed faculty and student support at the heart of every instructional design and development project. In addition, support specialists are valued members of every instructional design team. Ignoring the human element in these projects is the first step toward non-adoption. And without adoption, very few projects are successful.

Solutions Based Learning Model: A Model for Online Education and Beyond

September 11, 2000
Kristin & Cole Camplese

Author’s Note: This white paper was written in 2000. The overarching model for Solutions-Based Learning is largely the same, however (as with technology and eLearning in general) it has evolved and our perceptions on some activities have changed.

The History of Solutions-Based Learning (SBL)

A unique challenge was presented to the IST Solutions Institute in the Fall of 1999: to create an online, problem-based, real-world, modular, reusable curriculum for the new School of Information Sciences and Technology. In addition, these courses could not spend years in development. There was a big need to roll them out quickly in order to prove that IST was an asset to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Another slight complication was the fact that this technology-based curriculum would be changing very rapidly—a content management strategy would be imperative. In addition, it would be very difficult to take time from our traditional, tenure-track faculty because they are so inundated with getting the resident curriculum up and running. The online courses would also have to be used in many different delivery methods: hybrid delivery (mostly online, but some face to face sessions) for resident students, asynchronous delivery for resident students and rolling enrollment, and “pre-packaged” delivery for other institutions.

The Education and Training Solutions group within the Institute would be responsible for this initiative. Just to create an online course is a challenge—few people have done it well to date. In addition, adding a problem-based layer in a distant setting would be another layer to the challenge. All of this had to be accomplished in a way that allowed us to roll out courses quickly and reuse/repurpose content in a modular fashion. Many challenges to say the least.

One of the biggest challenges has been to flesh out a problem-based, online instructional design model that meshes with all of our other unique, market-driven needs. What has evolved through our team process seemed to take some of the best elements of many approaches and combine them in a way that has allowed us to make our online curriculum a reality. It is not problem-based learning in its truest fashion. It is Solutions-Based Learning—a real world model that focuses on teaching and learning within a business-oriented, team-driven process. Solutions-Based Learning not only focuses on students finding solutions to real world problems; it is a solution to the many instructional design challenges that universities and schools face today.

Student Need

First of all, I feel it is important to state the educational mission of the School of Information Sciences and Technology. We are striving to create leaders for our new, information and technology-driven society.

Technology is no longer its “own” field; indeed it crosses the boundary of every single domain that exists today. It used to be that a computer science program was the way to educate students desiring a computer-related degree. But now, however, we see every field being impacted by technology. It is not only impacting the person at work, though. Every use of technology has a social impact on an individual’s daily life.

  • Nurses use intranet systems to manage patient care… Patients use internet systems to manage their own care.
  • Libraries maintain their collections through powerful information processing systems… Students of all ages do research for learning, or for pleasure, using those systems.
  • Large retailers maintain their storefronts on database systems accessible through the world wide web… consumers purchase goods by accessing these systems.
  • Online investing systems allow trading without a stockbroker … What do stock brokers do now?

Many of these systems have been in place for quite some time. However, accessibility to the systems because of networks has eliminated the “middle man” in many cases. Not only do students in our curriculum need to understand the fundamentals behind the systems; they need to understand the impact that the systems can have on society and in business. As in the stockbroker example above, our students need to recognize that entire fields and jobs are being redesigned to deal with technology. Now a stockbroker needs to add value to his customers’ buying process because of the ease of trading online. Our students need to see these impacts and be able to analyze them.

So, we are not only giving students the fundamentals to understand the systems, but we are giving them the problem-solving, analytical mentality to understand how these systems impact business and society. We need to train students to be able to work in diverse teams that allow them to have a taste of the real world. In addition, we need to assist them in problem solving as individuals. Most problem solving activities have both group and individual learning components.

Overview of Solutions-Based Learning

Solutions-Based Learning relies on presenting students with a real-world problem or case study at the beginning of an instructional module. Within that module, topics (and lessons that make up those topics) support both the traditional instruction, as well as the problem-solving activity.

IST 110 Course Structure

Modules = Groupings of content topics.
Topics = Groupings of related lessons.
Lessons = Groupings of related content pages.

As the students work through the traditional content, they are not only gathering information for the problem solving process, they are participating in traditional online activities such as reading, responding to discussion questions which are posted to the online bulletin board, and interacting with multimedia exercises which enhance the content.

Comparison to Traditional PBL

This is a difficult piece to write because there is much confusion around what problem-based learning (PBL) really is. Everyone has his or her own view about what it must include and how it must be included. In a review of problem-based learning literature in medical education, it was stated that:

The basic outline of the problem-based learning process is: encountering the problem first, problem-solving with clinical reasoning skills and identifying learning needs in and interactive process, self study, applying newly gained knowledge to the problem, and summarizing what has been learned. (Barrows 1985, p. 15)

Wilkerson and Feletti state that it is crucial that “the problem raise compelling issues for new learning and that students have an opportunity to become actively involved with appropriate feedback and corrective assistance from faculty members.” (Wilkerson and Feletti 1989, p. 53)

Many people have many different views about what PBL is or is not. However, the following concepts are generally held to be true. PBL:

  • Relies on a real world, authentic problem presented up front to students.
  • Is facilitated by an instructor. The instructor must “guide, probe, and support student initiatives” not just purely lecture or operate as a “sage on the stage.” (Kaufman et al 1989, p. 286)
  • Is generally considered to be collaborative in nature.
  • Is assessed in the purest form “in the context of the problem.” (Duffy and Cunningham 1996, p. 170). Rubrics are generally used to evaluate student solutions and very few, if any, multiple choice-like instruments would be used to evaluate learning.
  • Is designed to facilitate deep and meaningful learning. Content coverage cannot be as easily ensured in a true PBL curriculum (as compared to a traditional course).

How is this different from Solutions-Based Learning? In many ways, not very! Solutions-Based Learning, from the standpoint of the model, is really on a PBL continuum. It is not PBL in its purest form, but it does hold many of the same characteristics. We focus on real world problems presented up front. And the instructor definitely acts as more of a facilitator. We all probably agree that a problem-based learning model is the most authentic way to learn—it is how we learn throughout our lives. But it is not always easy to translate into traditional education.

Where SBL is different is in the fact that we feel it is practical and applicable within most traditional educational settings. Our model can be collaborative or individual, depending on instructor needs. Our model allows assessment to take place in a variety of ways. We incorporate instruments that allow for demonstration of learning from a depth and breadth perspective. Let’s face it, most educational institutions, governments, and money granting institutions want to see how an educational experience can be quantified, i.e. what the grades were. They give us curricula that need to be taught, i.e. standards. And most instructors and students alike still focus on tests as skill demonstration. While we feel that this is not necessarily correct, it is still an important component to take into consideration. By including problems, discussion activities, labs and some opportunities for traditional quizzes, we feel that we can ensure the maximum amount of learning from both a depth and breadth perspective. Individual instructors can re-weight activities that they feel are the most important.

Assessment Strategies

Assessment takes place at each level of the course. At the module level, students are assessed within the context of the problem based on their solutions. A detailed rubric is used to evaluate each problem deliverable. In addition, when a team-based component exists, a “teaming” grade is formulated based on the average of each team member’s self and team evaluations.

Also at the module level, we have designed criterion-referenced quizzes. These were formulated to assess content coverage of objectives throughout the course. While this does not necessarily fit with a true problem-based approach, it does fit with a Solutions-Based approach. Problem-based learning does a fantastic job ensuring deep, meaningful learning; however, in introductory courses, especially, we need to ensure that students take away the basic introductory knowledge that all IST students need to have (the basic lingo, definitions, procedures, etc.). For this reason, we have developed short (15-20 item) online quizzes to motivate students to interact with all content, not just the content that is covered in the problems. The quizzes are timed, but not proctored. This means that they could “cheat.” We are not as concerned with that as we are with the students just preparing themselves for such a learning opportunity. Because they are timed, they will have to move through items in a manner that does not allow for extensive use of resources.

In an online or traditional setting, it is very difficult to ensure that students read and interact with the content. Because our content has been developed exclusively for this course (meaning that it is all relevant), students need to interact with it. They need to know (independently) what the definition of an information system is; they need to be able to list the basic steps in systematic design and development; they need to know the basic differences between relational and flat file databases. Employers expect this! Many high level concepts can be covered in problems or case studies; however, many of the IST fundamentals need to be adequately covered as well. Our basic approach is that problems are used to assess high level learning objectives; however, quizzes are used to assess lower level content objectives.

At the topic level, students are assessed through applied Lab Activities. IST 110 is a 4 credit course, so this is imperative. However, other courses may or may not have this component. Lab activities are applied, “internship-ready” activities. Students are required to learn a skill such as Microsoft Excel, but then apply it to a knowledge worker task, such as creating a spreadsheet that evaluates several different hardware systems. These types of skills make our students much more ready for employment than if they were simply asked to create a random spreadsheet with little need for context.

At the lesson level, students are assessed using Discussion Activities. Discussion Activities are based around one page of content and require students to think about it in a deeper manner. For example, when the content discusses the unbundling of hardware and software, students are asked to envision what the computing world would be like if this never happened. These generative learning activities require students to read and respond to the content in a way that makes them reflect and create new knowledge.

Screen Shot 2014-08-09 at 9.01.36 PM

More details around each activity can be found below:

Description of Problem Activity

  • Can be team-based or individual-based.
  • Focus on real world questions and present multiple perspectives.
  • Must replicate the motivation factor that is present in real world problem solving.
  • Do not necessarily have a right or wrong answer.
  • Students need to utilize course content and outside research to construct their answer.
  • Require a “deliverable” and a presentation (if hybrid approach) to defend their solution.

Description of Module Quizzes

  • Individually completed.
  • Criterion-referenced.
  • Ensure more adequate content coverage by students.
  • Can be online or face to face, depending on how facilitator wants to set up the course.

Description of Lab Activities

  • Individually completed.
  • Focus on a topic of information.
  • Require students to read content, perform outside research, and respond by generating a solution.
  • Implemented in Communication Space (e.g. WebCT)

Description of Discussion Activities

  • Individually completed.
  • Thought provoking questions related to course content.
  • Require students to read content and generate a response based on prior knowledge.
  • Lead to active discussion among students and facilitator.
  • Implemented in Communication Space.

Cogence Media Log

Note: A requirement I had to complete to finalize my Master’s degree from Bloomsburg University was maintaining a work log from my first 30 days at my first job. I had completed my course of study in August of 1996 and got a full-time job with a company called Weston Interactive outside of Philadelphia, PA. We eventually spun out of Weston and became Cogence Media. I worked there for over two years, leaving after the company was to AIG and closed. Below is the original (and terribly written) account of those first 30 days. This post has been backdated to my first day on the job and listed in the “PreBlog” category reserved for things I wrote before this blog existed.

Day 1 9-16-96

Today I drove from Bloomsburg down to Weston. I decided that commuting to work was not going to happen. I got here by 9:00 am and was immediately introduced to the other members of the Weston team. Everyone seems very friendly and driven to succeed. This seems like an excellent environment to begin working.

I was shown where I will be working. I was very pleased to see that a brand new Pentium based Dell system was sitting on my desk. The machine is great; fast, big monitor, and plenty of Ram. This system is going to be perfect for the amount of authoring and other tasks I will be performing.

I spent a couple of hours talking with Matt Meyer and Jay Kellett (Lead Programmer) about Weston and where I fit in. I liked what they had to say. Jay showed me how we integrate our design document into the actual programming through the use of a custom-built program that Jay designed. It is unbelievable! We then looked at some design docs and went over the specifics of their system. I’m sure I will become very familiar with this stuff, but right now I feel overwhelmed. I really don’t think that getting up to speed should take too long.

I got an opportunity to review one of the courses that has been developed. Very nice graphics, interface, and design. The programs are very clean and efficient. Cool Stuff!

Finally, I learned how to burn CD-ROMS. I burned two today and I have a feeling that I will be doing more of that in the coming days. No problem though. I like all of the people here and look forward to working with them. I think that this is going to be a very positive experience for me.

Day 2 9-17-96

I got here at 8:20. I thought I would be the last one here, but quickly found out that most of the people here work their day later in the day. Jay left the paper-based version of a design document on my desk for me to look at and become familiar with. That document explains how the computer-based program works. There is a lot of information in there, but I think I can get through it.

Today is the day I really ended up getting to work. I met with Matt and Jay to talk about a revision to our first volume of courseware. I had to go through the Authoreware code and replace a string so we could update the software to play properly on new equipment. Basically, it is like taking software from version 1.0 to version 1.1. I then documented exactly what files contained MPEG video and if I had updated the code. I built that using Word.

Its only the second day I’ve been here, and I feel like I’m starting to get the hang of things. When I started up at the Bloomsburg University IIT lab I hated it. The first day was terrible, but after about a week or two, things started to fall into place for me. Today, I felt like I was getting to that same point. I am becoming more sure of my decision to come to work here. I just hope I can keep learning and improving my skills.

Day 3 9-18-96

What a morning! I got pulled over for speeding. What a joke. Well, I have to just shake that off and get to work. Anyway, I still like the area and I am looking forward to exploring it more. Apparently today I am going to be doing more in-depth stuff. I really enjoyed getting to do some real work yesterday, I couldn’t stand another day of busy work. Even with the ticket I still got here by 8:30, I think once I get moved down here, I’ll start coming in between 8:30-9:00, so I can leave at a decent hour. But, for now, I might as well be here.

Today, I got a lot of real work done. I did the code for the Mastery Test for one of our courses. It was nice getting back into Authoreware again and doing some cool stuff. I think I’m going to start working more on my own with it so I can get better at it. That’s all I did today.

Day 4 9-19-96

I’m starting to settle into a schedule that I can live with. I’m actually enjoying getting up kind of early in the morning. The work is starting to get a bit more difficult, but I am getting a little better at it too. The Authorware stuff is really starting to make sense. I’m very happy that is our authoring system.

Today I put together another Test section. With the new database that Jay has designed, I am able to get this done in about 1-2 hours instead of the week it used to take. It is amazing how advanced the code is . . . I love it. Next week I’m going to be working on some more in-depth stuff.

Day 5 9-20-96

I filled out my time sheet today, its weird seeing 40 hours and my name attached to it. I’m moving down here this weekend, so I’m getting out of here a bit earlier today. I can’t wait to be done with that! Well, it will be over soon.

I burned a few more demo discs today and worked with Director for a while. I guess Jay and I will be using Director more after the crunch time (now until the end of December). We are going to be doing some neat stuff with that and Authorware. I’ll have to call Dr. Trudenak and let her know that I’m doing well with both of them. Anyway, I still have a few bugs to work out with the tests I’ve done. They aren’t scoring correctly, but I know what’s wrong with them. They link the questions to the objectives and score the user based on how they have mastered each objective. Very neat.

Day 6 9-23-96

Today was new employee orientation day here at Weston. In the morning we went over to one of the main buildings and watched videos, looked at slides, listened to HR people, and filled out a ton of paperwork. Stacy and I went together and split early to get back to work. We missed the tour of Roy Weston’s mansion, but figured our time would be better spent back here at work.

I got back and worked on the glossary section of our courseware. I put all new graphics in and explored the code. Very straight forward stuff. Later in the day I installed a new MPEG video board in my computer so we can test how our software works with it. The MPEG works, but the video out stinks.

Day 7 9-24-96

This morning started out very slow, but I got going by working with my new video board. I just ran it through a bunch of tests to see if I could get it to work better. I just can’t figure out why it has such poor output. Well, I guess its just a cheap board. I’m just going to use it to test our CD-ROMs and then replace it with my old video card. I won’t have MPEG, but I can’t take this much longer.

I tested our CD-ROMs with the board and it didn’t even work for that. So, I took the board out and decided that if we have to test that board we’ll deal with it when the time comes. I’m getting good at taking these machines apart and putting them back together again.

We decided to digitize our scratch audio instead of having someone else do it for this course. We just want to see how it works out. So, I spent three hours doing that. My Mac skills helped so much; I knew how to do everything. Its nice actually knowing how to do an entire task. In the morning I’m going to put all of the clips into an Authorware Library. That’s it.

Day 8 9-25-96

I got here this morning and got right to work on building the Authorware library. That didn’t take more than an hour and a half. Next, I built the glossary for the section we are working on now. That didn’t go as smoothly, because there was a screw up in the design phase. I’m learning that everything I try and accomplish is heavily reliant upon the completeness and accuracy of the design peoples’ work.

The afternoon was spent recording scratch audio for the next course. When I’m done with that, I guess I’ll go ahead and build a library for that also. That will allow us to see exactly how our audio is going sync up with the graphics and information on screen. I’m finally starting to get to work on some real stuff! That makes things move so much faster.

On a personal note, I bought a Sixers season package today. I am definitely going to take advantage of the area I’m living in. I’m actually going to get to see Jordan play this season! I can’t wait. Kristin and I are going to start exploring the area in general a little more. I’m feeling comfortable with getting around and so is she. Well, that’s about it.

Day 9 9-26-96

Again, this morning I spent a couple of hours working on building a library for another course in Authorware. This kind of stuff is becoming much easier and straight forward to me. I can’t believe that I’ve been here almost two weeks already. The only problem is that I don’t get paid for another week. Oh man, that reminds me, I have to pay that speeding ticket, or plead not-guilty. I think I’ll plead not-guilty. I better get that done before they put a warrant out for my arrest. That would make my first couple of weeks just perfect.

Anyway, I’ve been doing more stuff on my own. It feels so much better than constantly asking Jay what I can do. Another thing that is surprising me is how much I enjoy working on this PC.

I had a meeting this morning with Jay and Matt to go over the production schedule. I found out that I am going to be lead programmer for three of the courses. All of which have to be completed in December. Well, I guess its time I really get to work. I’m psyched! The nice thing is that there are shells built for all of the standard screens, but I am going to have to develop the structures for the special interactions that are going to be taking place in certain courses. I’ll be working primarily in Authorware, but for the special interactions, I might be designing some stuff in Director. Sounds good to me.

I spent the rest of the afternoon exporting code from our FileMaker design doc and formatting it properly so it can be placed in Authorware. I’d really like to do a good job on this first course so I can start to feel like I belong in programming. I think I’ll start taking some of the special interactions home at night and working on them there. That way I can get a lot more done without having to stay at the office until 11:00 every night. Well, that’s it for today.

Day 10 9-27-96

I spent the morning working with Sue, who is an Instructional Designer, at the Paoli Hospital on a video shoot. I wasn’t giving any of the directions; I was the one taking them. That’s right, I was the actor. It was very interesting to check out the other side of production. I liked it, but I think I’ll stick with authoring.

I spent the rest of the day building the shell for the Hearing course that we are doing. I am lead developer on three of our 8 courses that we are producing in house. We are doing 12 total, with four of them being outsourced. That seems to work well. I didn’t really have any problems with Authorware, they have brought me along slowly enough that I have a good grasp of it again. I’m looking forward to getting it completed!

I finished the shell in one day, instead of the two it was scheduled for. I also integrated all of the scratch audio that we developed earlier in the week. I placed all of the text and I am now waiting on some graphics before I get into the special interactions. Well, I’m off for Bloomsburg this weekend. I can’t wait until next weekend when I can just really relax here at my new house.

Day 11 9-30-96

Oh, do I love Mondays! Actually, its kind of nice being back at work. I guess that’s a sign that I like it here. Today is really the first day that I can control my own work. I finally have a production schedule and I know what I have to get done. It is nice knowing that I can get it done.

I spent the entire day working on designing a special interaction. The concept of what we are doing is not that difficult, but the way the graphics have been designed make it very difficult. I’m starting to think that we trying to do something with Authorware that it just might not be able to do. Anyway, I’m getting back to being able to think in those terms. I lost that for a while.

I guess I’ll take some work home with me and see if I can figure it out there. I’m not used to working on something like this, I need to be able to talk to myself and pace around the room. Anyway, I’m outta here.

Day 12 10-1-96

I got the interaction to work last night, but with only one small problem. I’m going to have to talk to Jay about it. Well, I talked to Jay about it and we fixed it in about thirty seconds. It sure is nice to have someone around that knows the authoring system inside and out. The best part is that every time Jay helps me, I’m learning new stuff.

I got all the text in my first course positioned and put in graphics and bullets. I worked on a couple of special interactions, but figured out how to do those a lot quicker than I thought. I’m starting to really get the hang of Authorware again. I still need to work on my skills a bit. I think I’m going to go to the mall and buy the Authorware book I saw there.

Anyway, the day was very busy, but I feel like I got a lot done. The next course was handed off from design today. That means that I will get it a week from today. I’d like to try and get this course wrapped up before that one lands on my desk.

Day 13 10-2-96

This morning I worked on getting the rest of the bullets in for the last two sections of this course. I got that finished and spent the remaining time working on some revisions. I met with Matt and Todd Harris, he’s our head graphic person, about the next special interaction I’m going to build. It doesn’t look too hard, but I want to make it really look slick. I also met with Jay on how to notify the other members of the team about any revisions that are needed and ones that I have to make on the fly. It is fairly simple, but it is a bit time consuming. But, I can see how it keeps everyone else up to date and revisions won’t get made twice.

I think I’m on schedule, maybe even a little ahead at this point. The plan is to get as far ahead of schedule as possible. That way I won’t be slammed in a month trying to catch up. Its not like there is anything else to do to pass the time. Anyway, back to work.

Matt has decided to give me another course to run. So, instead of having until next week to work solely on this course I have until Friday. Its great to see that they have enough confidence in me, but it is going to be a lot of extra work. But, that will be good. It will keep the days busy and that makes them move a bit faster. Anyway, that’s about it.

Day 14 10-3-96

I had an interaction just about finished at the end of the day yesterday, but the graphics weren’t exactly right so I’ll be doing that this morning. We had first envisioned the interaction to contain a Director sequence, but it just didn’t work out the way we wanted it to, so we are going back to the drawing board. I’m going to just take five or six still images and build it that way. I think I can achieve the desired effect that way. I’ll definitely have a lot more control over how the sequence looks and runs.

Also, I’m going to be moving all the source code off one machine and onto another. The reason for doing this is to allow us to burn a couple CD-ROMs with our latest version. I really don’t like doing stuff like that, it is not nearly as much fun as working with Authorware.

I spent the balance of the afternoon working on the shell for the next course. I got half of it done. I guess I’ll just finish it up in the morning. It was nice being able to get started and do a task without a lot of hand-holding help. I’m starting to really catch on to what is going on here. This course has some pretty nuts Special Interactions that I am going to have to author. Its not going to be easy, but I think it should be kind of fun.

Day 15 10-4-96

Payday! I can’t believe I’m going to finally get paid. Thank God, I was seriously running out of funds. Anyway, I took some work home with me last night so I can get out of here a little early today. I recorded almost all of the scratch audio for the next course last night. Man, it took forever, nearly three hours. I guess I really can’t leave three hours ahead of time. Maybe an hour or so. I’dd like to get some things done before 5:00.

In the morning, I finished up the course shell for SDS. It was a pain, so many special interactions. I just leave those for now and come back and put them together later. I’m still waiting on graphics for the first course. It makes getting things really done very difficult. But, I understand, graphics take considerably longer than does some aspects of authoring. Anyway, I’d just like to get at least one of these courses finished up.

The rest of the day was slow. I just worked on my Authorware files and tried to get as much of the course done as I could. I hope I can get some more of my graphics in to this thing by the end of next week. I’d really like to have something finished by then.

Day 16 10-7-96

Well, I didn’t get my paycheck. I can’t believe it, I’ve worked for three weeks and nothing! I’m starting to get a little antsy because it didn’t come on Saturday either. I sure hope it comes today. I’m really starting to worry about my finances. At least I’ve already paid my rent for this month. I do have bills to pay though.

Anyway, I am going to be spending my morning working on my courses and trying to get them whipped into shape. I guess I’ll attack a special interaction if I can get some graphics to work on. If I can get a couple of those knocked out I’ll feel a whole lot better. I just need to get a few images so I can set up some buttons and hot-spots. I don’t think I want to make a whole bunch of dummy buttons now and have to change everything in a few days.

No graphics for me means no interactions completed. Well, there is always tomorrow to work on that. I spent the entire afternoon recording the scratch audio for my next course. It isn’t hard, just time consuming. I then burned a couple of CD-ROMs and just put together as much of my course as I could. Tomorrow I’m going to get all of the audio in a library and I hope to get another course shell finished.

Day 17 10-8-96

No paycheck again yesterday, I’m starting to go a little crazy. I’m trying to keep a positive attitude, but working for free for three and a half weeks begins to wear thin on you after a while. Oh well, there is nothing I can do about it.

The morning was spent putting all the audio files I digitized yesterday into a library. The beauty of Authorware is that I can put all of this scratch audio into the program shell and then, when we get our professional audio back from the vendor, I can quickly and easily swap out the library and update the links. What a great idea.

For the balance of the day, I worked on putting together the shell for the ISO course. The interactions in this course look a little daunting. . . I think I might need some help with these – I will just have to wait and see. There is a lot of things going on in a couple of them, but I’ve already put together a few that are similar, so I can just re-use some the code. I sure hope I get my paycheck today!

Day 18 10-9-96

I still can’t believe I haven’t gotten my check yet. I sure hope this doesn’t happen any more.

Today was spent doing nothing other than authoring. I built a couple of interactions and I’m really enjoying getting to come up with my own way of doing stuff. The coding doesn’t really bother me anymore, it just gets better. Anyway, other than that I just sat around and did some Authorware research on the Web. It is a great place to go to get up-to-the-minute resources. Almost everybody seems to use it for one thing or another.

I’m still grinding my teeth waiting for media assets. I just wish I could get them all in to the program so I could start testing. Oh well, you have to wait for the first coat of paint to dry before you can put on the second. I just have to let the system work itself out.

Day 19 10-10-96

I finally got my paycheck! I had to go up to HR and have them print me a new one, I sure hope it isn’t this way all the time. I did several small tasks today, such as burning CD-ROMS, recorded some scratch audio, and developed some code for a special interaction. Everyday can’t be super exciting. All this stuff is a great learning experience though!

I built the Mastery test for two courses. This is starting to get easy, but I know there is some heavy-duty authoring coming soon. . . I think I’m ready.

Day 20 10-11-96

I’m going to be leaving early today, so I want to get as much done this morning as I can. I’m going to be recording some scratch audio for the Glossary sections of two of my courses using SoundEdit Pro. This isn’t any big deal because I’ve used it so many times already. Other than that, I have a special interaction Ive been working on.

I spent almost the entire day working on that interaction. It works very nicely. The only big problem is that my computer is all screwed up and won’t display any QuickTime videos. Anytime they are playing, my machine locks up and crashes. The interaction plays fine on all the other machines, so I should author here and then go to another computer to view it.

Day 21 10-14-96

Kristin and I were in an accident going home on Friday. When we arrived at my parents’ house that evening, both our parents were there hanging out together. This is the first time since well before our wedding that they were together. Getting through that was more stressful than the accident. The accident happened in Reading and what a pain. The lady behind us eating and not paying attention, I kept saying to Kristin that she was going to hit us and she did. I’ve been dealing with insurance companies and getting another car lined up; it drives me crazy that I have to go through this crap. Oh well.

I recorded two more course worth of Glossary scratch audio and built those sections. The Glossary is neat. I like the way the thing works, it is very slick. Now that I’ve finished up the sections for those courses I’ve inherited another course. That makes five total out of the eight we do in-house. That seems like a lot, but as long as I can get the work done I’m in good shape. I’m hoping that maybe by just doing the work as best I can, Matt will have more time to take care of other stuff.

This is my last entry for my required work log for my internship period at BU. What a great month and journey.

Psych 264 Personal Interview

325. Interview yourself ten years from now . . .

Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen! Today we have a very special guest who we will be talking to here on the Donahue Show. He is a stock broker for Kidder – Peabody, Father of two and husband to one terrific lady. Let’s bring out Code #10…

Phil: So you graduated from West Virginia University?

10: Yes, in 1994 as a matter of fact.

Phil: How was that experience?

10: Well, looking back on it, it was probably the greatest time of my life. I remember all the friends I made, the parties I went to, the classes I took, and the teachers I had. The people and images that came from that place were some of the most influential I have ever been around. I don’t really wish I was back there, but I am going to cherish those memories forever.

Phil: What was it about WVU that really turned you on?

10: Everything! For example, when I was a freshman, I remember going to my first football game and the feelings it brought out in me. I had never felt so attached to single place in my life. Even in High School, where I was a three-sport varsity letterman, I didn’t identify with my surroundings. I just absolutely fell in love with the people and school. All of that carried over into my academics; where I finally came out of my shell and began getting the grades I always should have.

Phil: What did you do after graduation?

10: Well, midway through the first semester of my senior year I was offered a job as a stock broker. That was really exciting! I remember hearing that and really finally understanding what my hard work was all about. But, I’ll tell you this much, it was sure hard continuing that hard work.

Phil: So you took the job and you are obviously did well, then what?

10: Well, I started working and I finally asked my long-time girlfriend to (gulp) marry me. She said yes and we set a date. Getting prepared for that was probably the most stressful time of my life. But, let me tell you, it was worth the stress and the wait.

Phil: How do you like being a Father?

10: I love it. Probably more than I imagined I would. Since I was young I have always loved kids. The fact that you can make life and then mold it is a very powerful thing. It is a power that should not be abused, and unfortunately more times than not, it is.

Phil: You once said that your parents and little sister are the most influential people in your life. Why and is this still true?

10: Yes, I believe it is. Although I would have to add my wife to that list now. I have always thought of my parents as being very wise people. I have always tried to respect their wisdom and listen very carefully to what they have to say. They gave me life — how much more important can they be? My sister, well she is still one of the most loving and caring people I know. All you have to do is just ask and she will deliver. My wife goes in there because we are not only in love, but also in a partnership. We raise our children together, live together, and support each other.

Phil: Do you feel as though you have accomplished what you have wanted to this point?

10: Mostly, I have a great family, A great job, plenty of money. The only thing I would like to do is be able to spend more time with my family. That has been my number one priority from day one. I would love to pack it in and retire in a few years. Maybe then I could finish my doctorate and do some part-time teaching.

Phil: Is that something you’ve always wanted to do?

10: When I started college that is what I wanted to do. But then I got this job offer and it kind of set those plans aside. This offer was something I had to take. It was just too good of an opportunity to pass up. I always thought I would go on to get an advanced degree, I just didn’t know when.

Phil: Looking at your life ten years ago, did you ever imagine it would turn out like this or were you really afraid of the future.?

10: Well, looking back I would have to say that I thought I could be here, I just wasn’t sure that everything would pan out the way it has. As for being afraid of the future, I would have to say no. I try not to fear the future because it is always showing up. If the future were something to be feared, I think I would do something about it so I could get on with my life.

Phil: Thanks for your time.

10: No, thank-you.

Obviously, this is a lot of supposing but I do feel as though my life will resemble this scenario someday. I can only hope that I can get there from here in only ten years. This has been a very enlightening project, I am going to keep it and look back on it when my ten-year reunion rolls around. Hopefully we’ll talk about it.

Prime Time Crime: A Look at Television Violence

Prime Time Crime: A Look at Television Violence
Cole W. Camplese
Soc. 121
Dr. Agnes Reidmann
December 8, 1993

Will the roadrunner get away, or will the coyote have him for dinner? Sounds like a “National Geographic” special on the rigors of the food chain. But for most young children it is a scenario that is played out every Saturday morning on the “Bugs Bunny Show.” A cartoon that, in scene after scene, shows people and animals getting blown up, dropped off twenty–story buildings, and numerous other forms of violence. All in all, it is an hour’s worth of pure violence. In fact, it was found that “94.3 percent of programs with a cartoon format contained violence in 1967 (Cater and Strickland 32).” How do children react to these images? How do adults react to the same type of violent images they see being splashed across their television sets on a daily basis? There are those who express concern about the possible harmful effects of television. According to Ronald P. Abeles “They raise the specter of its potential for constricting our intellectual and socia l horizons by converting active human beings into passive and highly influenceable ‘vidiots'” (1).

But how does this affect the typical American family? Well, according to Linda Gorden, “In the past 25 years, family violence has appeared as a substantial social problem.” And in this same time period the media has been giving us increasingly larger doses of violence in all forms. Although it is not possible to generalize about every family, I do believe that television violence plays a damaging role in a vast majority of the households across the country. For example, the young boy who set fire to his home and little sister because Beavis, of Beavis and Butt-head, kept repeating that “Fire is cool.” How can this be happening and perhaps more importantly why? Is it really the responsibility of the parents to control what their children see on television or do the networks and censors have to start limiting the number of violent images children see on a daily basis? This paper is goin √g to examine the effect television has on children and attempt to sort out some of these questions. I believe that the portrayal of violence in the media leads to increased violence in both children and adults.

Before anything else, I believe that a working definition of violence should be given. Violence is very hard to define, just as is the word pornography, because of its relative nature. But for the purpose of this paper the following definition will be used: “Physical force exerted for the purpose of violating, damaging, or abusing another person (Morris, 1431).”

Televisions occupy at least 90 percent of American households today and the average viewer watches in the upwards of five hours per day. To many people television is a friend that helps them get through the day (Arons and May 1). This overexposure to television is what tends to pull people into accepting and, more importantly, allowing the violence to take place on the screen and in their homes.

What causes people to watch that much television and act out what they see? One thesis by Mallory Wober and Barrie Gunter called the “Cultivation Theory” tries to answer this question. The cultivation theory explains how people perceive television and its effect on them. It looks at how television has the ability to fool people into accepting what is on the screen as being reality.

The main thrust of their idea is a concept that they call a “reality shift;” that is, people are influenced in their images of the real world by the content of what they see on television (Wober and Gunter 7). For example, a person who watches many hours of programming on the topic of crime may underestimate the complexity of committing crimes and therefore set out to become a professional criminal. Or, a woman who watches “Soap Operas” all day may begin carrying a hand gun, and use it on anyone who looks remotely suspicious, because she now overestimates the possibility of a violent crime towards her.

What occurs is that people learn the content patterns of television shows, draw inferences from them and then generalize this information to their perceptions of the real world. In fact, they reported that:

While 30 percent of all characters and over 64 percent of major characters monitored in prime–time programming over a ten–year span were involved in violence as perpetrators, victims or both. United States census figures during this period indicated that in reality only one–third of one per cent of individuals tend to get involved in violence (Wober and Gunter 11).

The reality is alarming simply because the separation of real events and television events (such as violence) is very large. The gap depicts an on going dilemma that Americans must begin to face.

The group that is seemingly effected the most by media violence is teenagers. According to William A. Belson “The main effect of crime and violence is on the teenagers. They see people get away with these terrible things and they think they can do the same” (160).

In a study done by Edward B. Guy, one hundred young males were observed in relation to television viewing and how it effected social development and violent behavior. All subjects were selected at random and a majority of those studied reported to watching one to six hours of television per day. The shows that most enjoyed watching were war shows, police shows, rock music shows, and boxing. These findings are consistent with a level of interest in violence, crime and the interest in certain types of music (such as hard rock).

In this study a concept known as modeling was the main focus. Modeling takes place when a person sees behavior on television and then repeats it. In some instances modeling is very good, for example when a child watches an educational program and then repeats the lesson as they saw on television. But, most of the time the modeling is negative. If, for example, a child watches a gangster movie in which the hero is wealthy, attractive, and powerful then obviously that child is going to try and model his behavior after the hero’s so he to can become wealthy, attractive, and powerful. Sometimes this involves acting out the aggressive behavior in most of today’s television shows. Going back to the example of the “Bugs Bunny Show,” when a child sees one character shoot another character, that child has a very difficult time separating his reality and that of the cartoon world. So, what does the child do? He gets his fathers gun and in a playful way models his favorite cartoon character and kills his little brother.

In Guy’s study he saw that 44 subjects out of 100 either tried to duplicate what they saw or had seriously contemplated trying what they saw. As young children, all of the men reported wanting to have what they saw on television (adventure, travel, excitement, etc.) but as they got older they began to realize the gap be tween television and their own realities. This led some to model the behavior of some on television to get what they had. This type of reaction almost always was associated with negative modeling. That is, the men who wanted what they could not have went about by modeling successful criminals and not successful business men (Guy 96–152).

What we have seen is the power of the media and its effects on us as adults and on young unsuspecting children. Perhaps Gerbner and Gross said it best when they expla ined television as:

The first mass–produced and organically composed symbolic environment into which all children are born and in which they will live from cradle to grave. No other medium or institution since pre industrialized religion has had a comparable influence on what people . . . have learned, thought, or done in common (380).

But, what do all of these theories have to do with family life? Well, a look at an article that appeared in Ms. magazine looked at the connection between men, sports, and woman bashing. During the 1988 Super Bowel match-up between the Denver Broncos and the Washington Redskins calls of domestic violence dropped way below normal, “‘but the number of calls soared in the first four or five hours’ after Denver’s Defeat.” Do people get that involved in what is going on with their team that they can act out and begin beating their wives if they begin to loose? As stupid as it sounds, unfortunately, the answer appears to be yes. The article goes on to say th at “About 25% of the men referred by courts to the Domestic Abuse Center … tell of at least one incident of battering involving sports … (Ruffini 93).” This is just another example of how the media begins to socialize individuals to violence so they will use sports as an excuse for acting out.

Beyond the Super Bowl, almost anything will create tension between family members and can ultimately lead to violence. Just as Murray Straus and Associates suggest in “The Marriage License as a Hitting License” men don’t need much of an excuse other than their house, their rules. The article goes on to say that, “aside from war and riots, physical violence occurs between family members more often than it occurs between any other individuals (204).” This leads to one question: Do we need any of these violent images being splashed across our t.v. screens like some pre-historic snap-count that jump-starts our violent urges? No, I don’t think so.

Another effect violence in the media has on people is its tendency to be recreated in the home. The effect this has on children has been well documented and is, for the most part, accepted. If you listen to Richard Gelles, Murray Staus, and Suzanne Steinmetz you begin to understand the impact it has on children. “Across the board, children from violent homes are more likely to have personal troubles — temper tantrums … and aggressive and violent flare-ups with family members and people outside the home (330).”

The other side of the television spectrum that can be almost as harmful is the candy-coated side. It is the aspect of television that has led family life to drastically change its the idea of the “perfect” family. There we sit, each and every dysfunctional one of us watching our favorite television families routinely create, attack, and solve problems of monstrous size all in 22 minutes night in and night out. As Elayne Rapping wrote, “To watch American sitcoms … is to enter an America in which adults spend virtually all of their time … worrying over and solving their children’s problems … It is a world in which violence, drugs, racism and sexism barely exist (36).” This led children to believe that there really is something seriously wrong with us and our families. That we were somehow not quite as good as the Clevers or the Tanners. This shows that television can also lead to other types of damaging effects. Many young people grow up thinking that maybe it is their fault that things could never be resolved — especially in 22 minutes.

And then there are the Simpsons and the Bundies, of Married With Children fame, — the anti-Clevers. In these sitcoms, the life that is depicted on screen is said Ä to be realistic in every way (never mind that the Simpsons is animated). Do we need a half our of blue-printed domestic brutality? I don’t think so, and I also believe it sends the wrong type of message. This time, that it is okay to routinely hit, pinch, verbally blast, and downright disrespect every person in your respective households. This would lead you to ask “Are people buying?” Yes, and in a big way. As Richard Zoglin writes, “Still, ratings keep going up, and … merchandise, from T-shirts to key chains, is flying off the shelves (86).” Is this due to the comedy or is it a way for people to justify what they have become in their own lives — “Oh Mom, Bart gets to pick his little sister up by her hair and swing her around.” I believe it has more to do with the latter.

What about the new and never ending video rental world? What can 12 year old Timmy get his hands on at the local video store? Well, according to an article in US News & World Report, just about anything. They sent a dozen kids age 11 to 14 into video rental stores to test the Motion Picture Association of America’s claim to congress during a hearing on media violence that reads: “Video retailers are careful to ensure children do not have access to R, NC-17 or unrated products that contain patently adult depictions of sex or violence.” Guess what? Ten out of those twelve rented just what the Motion Picture Association of America said they weren’t able to rent. Is this what we really want? In world where the average murder rate during prime time is two per night? I would think that video would be more of an escape from the bombardment of violent images. What can be done when a child can just turn on the t.v. at any hour and catch sex, lies, and now, videotape? (Silver 65-67)

Of all of the questions in world, can anyone really fully give an accurate answer? Of course not, but they can rely on research and case studies done by people who have the aspirations to come as close as they can to the answers. Does media violence lead to increased violence in society? Well, it appears as though it does. Would violence exist without the mass media? Of course it would. There were wars before television, people fought before radio, and even before language was established there were squabbles over some things. So, to say that television is responsible for increased violence all–together is a very poor statement to make. However, the evidence is hard to ignore and it would also be a poor statement to say that television does not have anything to with the increa sed violence in society.

So, what do we do and where do we start? We must first come up with a way to bridge the gap between reality and perceived reality. The only way to do that is through education and an increased awareness between fiction and fact. The second thing would be to obviously tone the violence down on television. But, I do not see that happening simply because television has become an incredibly successful marketing device in which advertisers use to sell products. Thus, no one will sponsor programs that no one will watch and violence sells in prime time. Another direction that could be taken includes just simply forbiding children from watching certain shows in which violence is depicted. But, according to Erica Austin, “The program that alarms the parent and is, therefore, forbidden may become far more interesting to the child (359).” This would serve as a drive for the child to watch and maybe even create some feelings of hostility towards the parent.

There are no easy answers, but the issue of media violence and its effects on children and people in general has been debated since the arrival of television with little proof on either sides. I do believe that this violence has had ill-affects on the family and will continue to do so until it is curbed in some way.

Works Cited

Ables, Ronald, P Television and Social Behavior: Beyond Violence and Children. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. 1980. p. 1.

Arons, Leon., Mark A. May. Television and Human Behavior. New York: Appleton Century–Crofts,1963. p. 1.

Austin, Weintraub Erica. “Parent-Child TV Interaction: The Importance of Perspective.” Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media. Broadcast Education Association, Summer 1992. p. 359-360.

Belson, William, A. The Impact of Television. Methods and Findings in Program Research. Connecticut: Archon Books, 1967. p. 160.

Carter, Douglass., Stephen Strickland. TV Violence and the Child: The Evolution and Fate of the Surgeon General’s Report. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1979. p. 32.

Gelles, Richard., Murray A. Straus. “The Impact of Intimate Violence.” FR. Family in Transition. 7th ed., Arlene S. Skolnick & Jerome H. Skolnick.Harper Collins Publishers, 1992. p. 330.

Gerbner, George., Larry Cross. “The Violent Face of Television and its Lessons.” FR. Read, Reason, Write. 3rd ed., Dorothy U Seyler, ED., Berkeley: University of California, 1973. p. 380.

Gordon, Linda. “The Politics and History of Family Violence.” FR. Family in Transition. 7th ed., Arlene S. Skolnick & Jerome H. Skolnick.Harper Collins Publishers, 1992. p. 330.

Guy, Edwarfld, B. “Television Viewing, Anti–Social Development and Violent Behavior, An Examination of One Hundred Young Male Offenders.” FR. Studies in Violence and Television. Melvin S. Heller, M.S., M.D., New York: American Broadcasting Company, 1976. p. 96–152.

Morris, William, Ed. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. New York: American Heritage Publishing Company, Inc., 1969. p. 1431.
Rapping, Elayne. “A Family Affair.” The Progressive. April 1992. p. 36-38.

Ruffini, Gene. “The Super Bowl’s Real Score.” Ms. November/December 1991. p.93.
Silver, Mark. “Troubling TV Ads.” US News and World Report. February 1, 1993. p. 65-67.

Straus, Murray. et al. “The Marriage License as a Hitting License.” FR. Family in Transition. 7th ed., Arlene S. Skolnick & Jerome H. Skolnick.Harper Collins Publishers, 1992. p. 204.

Wober, Mallory., Barrie Gunter. Television and Social Control. New York: St. Martin Press, 1988. p. 7 and 11.

Zoglin, Richard. “Home is Where the Venom Is.” Time. April 16, 1990. p. 85-86.