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Best Of Buckingham Design Document

Product of the NSF Team

Spring 2003

Prepared by Amy Bolton, Andrea Chen, Rebecca Clark,

Shelton K. Jewette, Tim Lewis and Soo Park

May 14, 2003

National Science Foundation

Table of Contents

Executive summary



Vision, Mission, Goals


Design Approach


Phase I: Analysis & Design

Data Collection & Analysis

Needs Recognized

Role Models

Tasks (Functions)

Phase II: Design

Re-define role models/functions

Task Modeling


Prioritize Functions

Phase III: Development

System Architecture

Content Modeling

Database Design

File System

System Overview

System Navigation

System Hardware & Software Specifications

System Integrity Controls

Future Recommendations

Points of Contact




Executive Summary

A grant secured by Dr. Kevin Clark, at George Mason University, required the creation of a system that addressed “bridging the digital divide by using self-directed learning communities.” In fall 2002, 11 graduate students worked with Dr. Clark to research issues such as digital divide, virtual communities and communities of practice. They used the research as they approached data collection in an underserved community in Northern Virginia. Using grounded theory, the team took a qualitative approach to collecting data while the overall method used for system development was the ADDIE model (Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation). Analysis of the data produced a needs assessment that specified the community needs, the primary users and the essential functions that was in turn used to develop a system for the community. The fall 2002 team took these findings and created flowcharts, a wireframe and storyboard to start the design phase of the project.

The Spring 2003 student team consisted of 6 graduate students, as well as more involvement from community members in the design process. The project team continued to use the ADDIE model as they revisited the work of fall 2002 and refined the role models and functions. The continued process of re-design until development was supplemented by four usability tests (three with community members and 1 with those that fit the administrator, provider and advisor role models). The team of graduate students, hereafter referred to as the NSF team, completed a high fidelity prototype by May 2003. The programmer is expected to continue on with the project after the semester ends. This document explains the process and specifics included in creating the system, as well as next steps in further implementation and evaluation.



In Fall 2002, a team of George Mason University (GMU) graduate students in the Instructional Design and Development program of the Graduate School of Education worked on a project funded by the National Science Foundation. This project, a grant secured by Dr. Kevin Clark, focused on “bridging the digital divide by using self-directed learning communities.” (Clark, 2002) This required the students to conduct background research in the grant area as well as a local community that agreed to participate in the project process. The GMU graduate students, hereafter referred to as the NSF Team, used this grant as a vehicle to learn the instructional design and development process. The learning model implemented in this particular graduate program was a total immersion approach in which the students were placed in a constructivist environment that enable the learner to work in complex and relevant learning environments, take ownership of learning, view learning from multiple perspectives and multiple modes of learning, social negotiation, and self-awareness of knowledge construction. (Driscoll, 2000) It is what Wilson calls, “learning by inventing.” (1996)

The Design Team

The NSF Team held weekly meetings in Fall 2002 with Kim Fodor of Whitefield Commons and with Dr. Kevin Clark of George Mason University. The team consisted of 11 GMU graduate students enrolled in the Graduate School of Education Immersion program. The second semester team consisted of 6 graduate students, all of which had participated on the team fall 2002. The Spring 2003 phase of the project also included Barbara Finn, the system programmer. The NSF Design team met at least bi-monthly as a full team, but bi-weekly as the NSF team.

The Client

The client assisting the NSF team in the creation of a self-directed learning community was Whitefield Commons, operated by Wesley Housing Development Corporation. The WCCRC administrator, Kim Fodor, and Konovia Mikal, of Wesley Housing and Development Corporation were the primary contacts in the design process. The resulting design would be a prototype used in the Buckingham Community of Northern Virginia, but scalable to other communities.

Project Scope

The scope of the project was determined based upon assessing the time, resources, and budget available to the NSF team. The team decided to create the framework for an online self-directed learning environment using the findings from the Fall 2002 needs assessment. The team created a new vision, mission statement, statement of goals and principles in order to provide a project scope for the Spring 2003 semester. These are diagramed below:


Building Empowered Communities


Create a foundation for a self-sustaining, self-directed learning community that fosters capacity building in underserved communities.


  • Prioritize functions of Self Directed Learning Community

  • Implement functions of Self Directed Learning Community

  • Document the process of system design (i.e. design document)

  • Produce a scalable high-fidelity prototype of an online system


  • Research a community of practice, virtual communities, and culture

  • Participatory Design

  • Performance Centered Design

Table 1. NSF Team Vision (


The NSF team partnered with the Whitefield Commons Community Center as a research base in a Northern Virginia community. Their research was based upon the grounded learning theory that “aims at deriving theory from the analysis of multiple stages of data collection and interpretation. The researcher strives to identify patterns, themes, and categories from the qualitative topic and data, (and) goes beyond to develop a theory that derives from the data” (Gay & Airasian, p. 17) Through the grounded theory approach to research, the NSF team accessed the basic needs and wants of the community to create a system that would provide a self-directed, self-sustaining learning environment for the community.

Design Approach

The method by which the NSF team went about applying the grounded theory for research and then creating a system is the ADDIE model. The ADDIE model calls for following the process of analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation with the constant revisiting of previous phases. This is similar to the SDLC (Systems Design Life Cycle) common to Information Systems development, (Hoffer, George, & Valacich, 2002) but varies slightly because of the instructional focus of the system.


The research conducted by individual members of the NSF team included such topics as the digital divide, communities of practice, knowledge management, virtual communities, community capacity, cultural awareness, participatory design, usage centered design, and visual design. This research applied directly to the purpose of the NSF grant and the NSF team used it as a focal point to ensure that the created system would meet the criteria of “bridging the digital divide by creating a self-directed learning community” for the Northern Virginia community participating in the system development process.

Phase I: Analysis & Design

Data Collection and Analysis

The data collection process included volunteering at the community center, meeting with community leaders, interviewing with community providers, speaking with other community technology center administrators and members of the community. This would allow for a snapshot of what went on in the daily life of the individuals in the community.

As a result of the data collection, the NSF team created a needs assessment document that summarized the findings. These findings were crucial for the next step in the ADDIE process, Design, and provided information that steered the team and center administrator through the 2nd phase of the process.

Needs Recognized

Through the data collection analysis, the NSF team identified basic needs in the community. The general trends that emerged from this analysis are as follows:

  • Importance of learning is recognized

  • Accessing resources is not a simple task

  • Communication is in demand

  • Social experience is a critical part of life

(Needs Assessment document, 2002, p. 12-13)

Role Models

Role models were created to show representations of what user roles would be supported by the system. Each role model was “described in terms of the needs, interests, expectations, behaviors, and responsibilities that characterize and distinguish that role.” (Constantine & Lockwood, 1999, p. 80) Identifying role models enabled the NSF team to create a system that reflected the particular needs of each of these role model types. A further explanation can be found in the needs assessment. (Needs Assessment document, 2002, p. 8-9) The role models identified by the NSF team for the community consisted of:

  • Communicator

  • Learner

  • Provider

  • Advisor

  • Administrator

Tasks (Functions)

Through the analysis process the NSF team identified eight essential tasks (functions) that were part of the way the community functioned. Though further explained in the Needs Assessment document (2002, p. 13), these eight essential tasks (referred to as functions) are:

  • Learn

  • Practice

  • Play

  • Communication

  • Create Resources

  • Resource Storage

  • Track

  • Access Resources

To show the relationship between the needs of the community, the role models and identified functions, the NSF team created use case maps and role model maps to show logical dependencies and relationships among the people and the processes. Constantine and Lockwood (1999) visually display this process in the diagram below:

Figure 2. Essential models and logical relationships. (p. 320)

Flowcharts and Wireframes

This led to the development of specific flowcharts and wireframes that were revisited in the 2nd phase of the project. An example will be shown later in this document.

Phase II: Re-Design

Research and Refining

Returning to the project Spring 2003, the NSF team continued to study communities of practice, virtual communities, participatory design, usage centered design and visual design to ensure that the system would effectively meet the needs of the community while implementing the results of the needs assessment. The NSF team used this research in the redefining and refining of the previously created function flows and wireframes. Once these were redefined the team chose to include the administrator and community members more frequently in the design process. This involvement, called participatory design, is “a set of theories, practices and studies, related to end-users as full participants in activities leading to software and hardware computer products and computer based activities.” (Muller, p.1) By involving the users in the process, the NSF team hoped to instill a sense of ownership in the system that would assist in sustaining further growth.

Task Modeling

The NSF Design Team redefined and refined the names and flows of the functions. The following chart shows the previous and resulting functions and specific uses of those functions:

Previous Functions

Redefined Functions

Specific Uses








Email Communication

Chat Communication

Discussion Board

Send Suggestion


Create Resources

Resource Storage








Access Resources





Table 2. Original and redesigned function.

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