Sean Boisen has an interesting post at Blogos Varying Educational Depth in On-line Materials
in which, he discusses some of distance education ideas (based on Otto Peters). Of particular interest to me were his comments on how one might differentiate between different levels of treatment of the same topic. He asks:
How can we structure on-line materials to enable learners to explore at varying depths, either a quick glance, a brief look, or a more detailed examination, according to their own interests and needs?
So that a reader being offered a link can choose which depth of coverage they need or want (at this time). Just as in a classroom different students (at different times) will hope for different lengths and depths of response to questions, so readers of an instructional hypertext will hope for different lengths and depths in an explanatory link.
Sean's proposal is to use XML to distinguish
perhaps into a tri-partite division of brief, light, and detailed treatments.
This is very similar to, but slightly more complex than, what we are proposing for the online Bible Dictionary. For that we are envisaging articles that would have both, a short (one or two paragraph) entry, and a fuller one - roughly like a glossary entry and an encyclopedia article. Sean adds to this:
- another level (perhaps glossary, dictionary and encyclopedia in my print-oriented language)
- the interesting idea of classifying these levels according to the time required to review the material (5 mins, 20 mins and an hour)
- the ability for the user to choose which entry to pull up at the time of selecting the link
This strikes me as a really interesting suggestion, inevitably I'd quibble about the details, make the times shorter (2 mins, 10 mins and "longer" – I think the full articles could do with more variability according to the complexity of the material, like the difference between a 10 page and a 30 page Anchor Bible Dictionary article) but other than the detail it describes neatly ideas that I have been working towards.