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For a website to serve as a successful educational resource, developers should combine established principles of curriculum development, adult learning and behavioral theory, along with principles of website design .

Curriculum development

The educational content of a well-planned curriculum has more impact on learner satisfaction than the technology used to disseminate it . The Internet provides a mechanism of rapid dissemination of a potentially poorly designed curriculum; merely publishing it online does not make a curriculum good [, ]. Curricula produced using established principles of curriculum development are more likely to be successfully implemented than those that are not [, ]. The six steps of curriculum development are as follows :

1. Identify a problem and perform a general needs assessment

2. Perform a needs assessment of targeted learners

3. Determine goals and objectives of curriculum

4. Determine educational strategies to be used with curriculum

5. Implement the curriculum

6. Evaluate the curriculum

Performing a needs assessment is the first step of curriculum development, and is essential to creating a successful education website . There are several potential targets of a needs assessment including learners, educators, administrators, and society . Those curricula that serve the needs of multiple audiences are more likely to succeed than those serving the needs of a narrow segment . A curriculum that is too specialized or too narrowly focused may fail to find an audience large enough to justify the expense of development. Our initial needs assessment included national surveys of ambulatory care, which we used to choose topics for content development . As a result, our curriculum met the needs of a large number of training programs, and contributed to the success of our curriculum .

The needs assessment should not only be done during the beginning stages of curriculum development, but incorporated as a recurring process as the curriculum is revised. The needs of the target audiences will evolve over time; a mechanism to regularly gather this information for use to update the curriculum should be included in curriculum maintenance [, ]. Repeated needs assessments are likely to reveal unanticipated needs, and if acted upon will improve the curriculum . In a sense, curriculum evaluation, defined as the final step of curriculum development, can include an evaluation of the needs of current users, and serve as a needs assessment for the next iteration of the curriculum.

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