Copyright © by Mark Baker 1997
Using an ILS does not automatically guarantee success. Experience has shown that some implementation models work much better than others. Careful consideration must be given to planning, installation, training and operation of the new system, if its potential gains are to be achieved.
The CAI modules present the teaching material in a similar way to existing educational software. The Management System keeps records of the students' performance and, in the case of SuccessMaker, moves them through the levels of difficulty as appropriate. It also allows the teachers to set up (configure) all the different course options, to suit their own teaching styles and the needs of their pupils.
Careful thought should be given to the staff who will be involved with the ILS. Since proper use of the ILS is likely to have timetable implications, there should be a member of the senior management team who has overall responsibility for the successful implementation of the system. Without such a person, pupils are unlikely to get the number of ILS sessions they need each week and the potential benefits are much reduced.
Subject specialists should be responsible for managing their own classes. An ILS does not have to be managed by an IT specialist. Managing an ILS is not the same as managing a computer network. The former requires technical skills, whereas the latter is curriculum oriented. It may be more appropriate for subject specialists (e.g. the heads of English and mathematics in a secondary school) to lead-manage the ILS.
It is vitally important that the staff who will use the system, receive thorough training. Each teacher must understand how to use the system features, in conjunction with their own professional skills, in order to achieve the best results for their classes.
More than one person should be involved in leading the management of the ILS, so that there is always an in-house "expert" available, regardless of staff absence/turnover. All the staff involved should have some degree of enthusiasm for the new system and it is likely that they will have had some input into the initial planning process.
Pupils should have regular access to the system. Five sessions per week, of about half an hour each (i.e. one per day) have been shown to work best. The session could be divided up so that 10 minutes is spent on mathematics, 10 minutes on reading and 5 minutes on spelling, leaving 5 minutes for classroom management. The optimum session lengths for each course, which are generally between 10 and 20 minutes, may seem short. However, it should be remembered that the pupils are working in a highly concentrated way during this time.
Integrated Learning Systems - A report of the pilot evaluation of ILS in the UK
2. Integrated Learning Systems - A report of Phase II of the pilot evaluation of ILS in the UK
These reports discuss ILS in general and the results of research into their effectiveness. They compare the three main systems that are available in the UK, looking at pupil performance, relative costs (but remember that computing costs change rapidly, so check with suppliers for the latest prices) and other key issues.
RM Learning Systems:
New Mill House, 183 Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4SE
Tel: 01235 826700, Fax: 01235 826871
Author: Mark Baker, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org