The UNIPHORM Project is funded under the EU PHARE Programme in Multi Country Distance Education and has as its objective the development of course materials and of a sevice to support distance education in Open GIS for professionals. The partner institutions are the UNIGIS sites at Manchester/Huddersfield, Salzburg, Sopron, Bucharest and Debrecen and the PHARE Study Centres at Miskolc and CDOECS, Bucharest. The remit of the project is for the development of course materials at the UNIGIS sites and the subsequent delivery through PHARE study centres.
The course materials are being prepared and will be held as reference copies in English. These materials are translated into Hungarian and Romanian by the respective UNIGIS centres and then used by the PHARE centres in their training networks. This complex arrangement is effective for the sharing of workloads and the eventual setting up of a course which reaches a large market but it provides many problems of control. This short section outlines the response of the development team to a number of problems of managing the design, creation and production of course materials and the subsequent course development and delivery.
The management of the set of processes from initial writing through to final delivery is achieved using a template based on two software products , Microsoft PowerPoint and Mindman from Michael Jetter (http://www.mindman.com). With MindMan, you organize and visualize your ideas by creating mindmaps (see Figure 1). The main topic is placed in the center of the mindmap while your ideas are placed on branches which radiate out from this focus. You can drag-and-drop branches to reorganize your ideas quickly, MindMan automatically reformatting your map as you work.
The design template is a three part structure, each element corresponding to one of three functions: resources, organisation and presentation (see Figure 2).
Organisation: The principal tool for course design and organisation of the resources is a mindmap created using Mindman. The mindmap is also used as a presentation tool since students and staff can use it to see the course structure and logic as well as the links to and meaning of resources. This is an important pedagogic element which is difficult to achieve in other ways.
Building the mindmap is actually the first stage in course design. The course author uses MindMan to lay out the structure of the lesson on which the PowerPoint show is based. Resources are then collected to satisfy the demands of the course. Resources held as local files or on the web are connected via hyperlinks on any of the mindmap branches. The branches are highly configurable in terms of their location as well as easily edited. This means that authors can easily engineer or modify the structure and the resource links according to particular needs or in response to new or changing resources. Mindmaps can be exported as active images for use on web sites or as java applets of pages which can substitute for PowerPoint shows.
Presentation: PowerPoint is used to provide both lecture materials and class notes. The significance of PowerPoint is that it is structured as pages. Pages are thus the organisational unit both for presentation and for producing manuals. They are in other words the level of granualarity for presenting materials to students. The level consists of a slide, typically with some text and a small mnumber of bullet points, together with notes of up to 500 words and the associated resources.
In UNIPHORM, students will receive manuals in which each page is made up of five or six PowerPoint slides and their attendant notes covering in all about 200 slides. Lecturers can use the PowerPoint slides as live lectures or make them available on the web. Slides and notes on each page are also the units for translation. Pages are structured to be independent. Though they can link to other pages and indeed should form part of a coherent whole, the materials they contain in the slide and notes should stand alone. This allows the insertion, deletion, editing and splitting of pages with minimal disruption. PowerPoint slides have hyperlinks to the second level of the template, the mindmap.
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