Using Checklists to "Standardise" Content
dyhyapp [at] pacific.net.sg
IntroductionChecklists are often used as measurements or guidelines to determine how far you have met the task requirement. Another seldom realized good use of checklists is as a pro-active measure to "standardise" content. This tool is especially useful for courses that are project-based, that require students to do research before writing their product.
ContextThe Writing for E-commerce module teaches students to write for the Web, specifically, for the corporate website. Hence, students learn to write web pages like the home page, company information page, product page, order page and online service page.
ProblemsMany problems were encountered in the process of teaching the course:
- the range of content of the web pages varied for the different industries and products
- the class had no common standard to abide by or to model each web page due to the variety in content
- the class was not clear as to what would finally be required of their written work to earn a good grade
- individual teachers tend to impose on their students what they thought was a good or bad piece of web writing
- problems during the marking workshop to decide whether students should be penalised for leaving certain information which were deemed important by some teachers
SolutionA pro-active measure i.e. checklists was used to arrest this problem. The checklists would hopefully provide students with a clear standard as to what their written product should have and indirectly, reduce marking variations among different teachers.
The students were encouraged to explore the various websites of various industries but when they write, they had to make sure that they had the components that were listed in the checklist (see Examples 1 and 2).
The checklists only listed the sections that were compulsory for a certain web page. Students were still free to express themselves creatively and convincingly.
Example 1: Checklist for Product Page
- Meaningful title- shows why readers should read this page
- Admakerís Staircase -- attention, benefit, credibility, desire, effect
- Testimonials from customers, if appropriate
- Attractive and uncluttered layout -- headings, tables, lists, etc.
- Inverted pyramid writing style
- Simple, concise and clear language
- Varied and interesting vocabulary suitable for the product
- Appropriate tone (e.g. friendly, conversational, positive)
- Appropriate style (e.g. levels of formality and informality)
- Grammar (e.g. active verbs, parallel structures, redundancies)
- Spelling (consistency)
- Use of transition markers
Example 2: Checklist for the Order Page
- Introduction/welcome to online ordering
- Order information
- Billing/payment information
- Shipping information
- Confirmation of order
- Any benefits of online ordering
- Any policies regarding online ordering
- Link to help page and other links if necessary
- Any assurance about the security of online ordering
- State which steps are mandatory, conditional or optional
- Sequential -- information should be presented in lists
- Limit each step to one action
- Limit five steps to one procedure, otherwise, use subheadings
- Clear, logical and methodical
- Precise, short
- Start with imperative verb Results
ConclusionAfter trying it out for one semester, it was found that the studentsí grades distribution did not differ much from the previous semester's (mainly in the B and C range). However, informal feedback from the students found that they preferred having the checklists as it provided them with a clear guideline when writing their web page. Not only did they have a stronger sense of ownership of their written product but also the confidence to write what they feel would make their web page better as long as they fulfilled the sections in the checklist.
Many teachers also used the checklists to encourage the students to analyse their piece of work before handing it in. The checklists also made marking more transparent and hence, less problems occurred during the marking workshop.
The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. IX, No. 2, February 2003