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Computer aided publishing as a tool for preparing instructional text: A case study

John Dekkers
Director, DECE
Neale Kemp
Production/System Manager, DECE
Capricornia Institute

Although there have been considerable advances in media technology in recent years, print remains the most widely used medium for providing instructional materials, especially in distance education. Further, print materials make up the majority of any instructional package and the key to providing quality instruction through print lies in the presentation, instructional layout and textual format of the materials, all of which can contribute to enhancing the learner's educational experience.

The emergence of relatively low cost sophisticated computer aided publishing equipment has meant that organisations which are engaged in the development and preparation of course text, training manuals and other instructional materials can now, within their own environment, manage and monitor the total preparation of print materials thereby obviating the necessity for outside typesetting facilities.

This paper details the implementation of a computer aided publishing system, based on an integrated network of Apollo Domain workstations coupled with laser printers and scanner, by an organisation involved in the design, development and preparation of a high volume of instructional materials. Reasons for adopting computer aided publishing are presented together with specifications of the chosen system in terms of production, operator and course development needs. The instructional materials which have since been developed by computer aided publishing are described with particular reference to page layout, typography, use of instructional icons and integration of graphics. A key element in the development of materials and utilisation of the system has been the establishment of typographic and instructional style which maximises the potential functionality of the computer aided publishing system. This style has been documented for use by all involved in the development and production process.

The paper then discusses unpredicted shortcomings of the chosen system and provides a set of recommendations for organisations anticipating the implementation of computer aided publishing for similar purposes. Finally future directions and developments that are likely to occur in the use of computer aided publishing systems are considered.

In Australia, because of the nation's geographic and demographic peculiarities, distance education remains the only way by which an increasingly significant part of the population can obtain an education. For a further group, it is also the preferred mode of study. As at the time of production over 48,000 (approximately) higher education students and 60,000 TAFE (approximately) students study by distance education.

Although there have been considerable advances in technology in recent years, print remains the most widely used media for the dissemination of instructional materials at a distance. This is not to say that the way print media is being prepared and used for instruction has not changed. To the contrary, there have been a number of dramatic and significant changes brought about by: the need for students to receive high quality stand alone self instructional materials; the need for providers to have the ability and capacity to produce high volume print runs; and the need for providers to achieve greater efficiency and cost effectiveness in the production of print materials.

Consequently, whereas in the early eighties when the majority of study materials for distance education courses consisted of "lecture notes" prepared by an academic, a vast amount of material now consists of self instructional packages that may include a variety of other media such as audio and video cassettes, computer aided learning programs and home experiment kits, all of which have been developed by course development teams.

Whilst these changes have been occurring there has also been quite a revolution in the publishing of print material. In the past there were essentially two options used for the preparation of print materials for distance education: the typewriter, a low cost, low quality, production option; and the typesetter, a high cost, high quality production option.

However, the advent of the microcomputer and the simultaneous development of word processing software has had a significant impact upon this situation and more recently, the introduction of the laser printer for high quality output has provided the impetus for a quantum leap in the sophistication of in house word processing technology. The new "desktop" technology based around personal workstations has afforded the distance education provider the means by which to produce typeset quality publications without the expense of the traditional equipment required to do so. In this paper, computer aided publishing, as a term to describe this technology, refers to all methods of electronically capturing, combining and manipulating page elements prior to output as paginated print ready materials.

For the distance education provider an implication of adopting a computer aided publishing system for the preparation of instructional material using a course development team approach has been that it has enabled the development of increasingly sophisticated educational materials. However, at the same time the production process has become more complex and, as a consequence, more difficult to manage. For instance, a greater variety of skills input are necessary during the development phase and operators using the system require significantly greater training in the aspects of system operation, typography and page layout.

This paper details the implementation of a sophisticated computer aided publishing system by a distance education provider for the development and production of a range of self instructional study packages.

Why computer aided publishing?

Two major concerns of distance education providers are to contain costs and maintain the capability to produce materials of high instructional and technical quality. These can be attained through the development and preparation of materials using computer aided publishing systems and a course development team approach. This process typically consists of three distinct phases:

1.Materials design, information
gathering and generation
Course team:
  • author
  • instructional designer
  • typographic designer
  • editor

2.Information transformationProduction team:
  • keyboard operators
  • graphic artist
  • editor

3.Information deliveryPublication team:
  • printer binder
  • dispatch staff

The main advantages of computer aided publishing are:

  1. It offers a low cost, high quality alternative to word processing - an alternative which allows far greater flexibility in textual layout than has been possible with typewritten output.

  2. Generally these systems provide a "friendly" user interface with features such as a "WYSIWYG" (What You See Is What You Get) display, pop up option menus, mouse controlled cursor etc. Together these features allow greater ease of operation for the user who is untrained in typography.

  3. It enables the generation and integration of a wide variety of textual and graphic components within a single system as shown in Figure 1. Inputs can be from a number of sources (e. g. text may be captured from online word processors, remote terminals, optical character recognition scanners (OCR), transmission via modem, with graphics generation through CAB systems, paint/drawing packages or digitising via an electronic scanner. Output is normally via laser printers or typesetters depending upon the desired quality.

Model and approach for the development and production of instructional texts for distance education

Distance education ideally aims to be independent of both time and place of delivery of instruction. To achieve these ends, instructional media, whether print, audio, video, teaching or a combination of these, requires the use of techniques that emphasise self instruction on the part of the learner. In other words, the instructional package for distance education can be envisaged as assuming the role of the teacher. Thus the media used must not only guide the learner through well defined steps of the learning process, but to be successful must be able to perform functions such as the motivation of the learner, the provision of feedback and solutions to problems, the direction of the learner to additional experience and so on. Thus the features and requirements of print materials will have a considerable bearing on the choice of the computer aided publishing system for the distance education provider.

Figure 1

Figure 1: Variety of input and output options with computer aided publishing

In the development of self instructional textual materials, the authors of this paper adopted the use of an instructional sequence teased on the work of Gagne and Briggs (1979) who defined instructional elements which typically apply to a lesson segment. These elements are: motivation enhancement; revealing the structure of the content; objectives; the content; self assessment; feedback; prerequisite learning; learning guidance; and formal assessment.

In addition, attention was also given to the following macro textual features (Reigeluth, 1983) to guide and facilitate student learning. These included: logical/schematic presentation of the total content; features to demonstrate interrelationships between content areas; use of structured overviews; use of flexible study routes; devices to attract learner attention to important information; information access devices to enable learners to readily access any material in the whole text; reference guides to additional sources of information and other media for learning.

It is acknowledged that the development of high quality instructional materials requires;

Regarding the latter aspect these authors have developed a style guide for materials preparation for use by all members of the team. The different elements of style and style features were determined on the basis of specification of the instructional model that was used and the final print product, course team requirements and capability and functionality of the production system.

Thus materials developed is limited within the constraints of a chosen instructional model and the capabilities of the computer aided publishing system.

Tailoring a publishing system to address specific needs

The hardware components and software upon which computer aided publishing systems are based can vary greatly in terms of sophistication and quality of output. Typically, the level of sophistication and consequent quality of output tends to be proportional to the initial cost of these systems. The institution around which this case study is centred resolved to evaluate its requirements for a publishing system on an analysis of needs based on those persons involved in the publishing process and the desired end product, namely: the authors; instructional designers/typographers; system operators; the system administrator; and students.

The needs of these users are now dealt with individually in order to illustrate the importance of many of the technical issues involved in making the transition to computer aided publishing.

Author's needs

Computer aided publishing, if fully integrated, enables authors to input their own copy directly, when generating and amending initial drafts. Thus the author has greater control over the text - especially in terms of its structure. Further, the transfer of text files between the author's remote microcomputer and the publishing system is of value to both the publisher (saving rekeying of the text) and the author (integrity of copy is retained and proofreading is minimal).

As well as transferring files into the publishing system it is highly desirable for the author that any amendments made to the document whilst in the publishing system are transferable back onto the author's disk. This may provide some problems due to format changes between particular systems, but if the author is seen as being an integral part of the computer aided publishing system, this functionality is necessary.

Instructional designer/Typographer's needs

It is well accepted that the instructional designer and typographer have an essential role in the design and development of instructional materials with respect to expertise and advice on the readability of text formats and page layouts and so on. Thus the selection of a publishing system must take into account the ability to meet these requirements including the capability of generating, merging and manipulating graphics within text.

In this case study, the following features were seen as essential instructional and typographic needs and, as such, criteria upon which to base the choice of system.

Figure 2

Figure 2: A variety of layout styles for an A4 page

Figure 3a

Figure 3b

Figure 3c

Figure 3: Examples of different types of graphics

Figure 4

Figure 4: A comparison of typeset quality (left) and laser printer quality (right)

System operator's needs

Central to the needs of the system operator in this case study was both the hardware and software ergonomics of the publishing system. One of the major implications of computer aided publishing is that of creating the paperless production environment via the total electronic integration of all page elements. The significance of this to the operator is that he/she spends more time in front of a computer screen. Therefore the quality and size of the screen becomes an important consideration for operator comfort. A further consideration is the necessity for displaying a full page (or even two pages) on screen for editing purposes and whether satisfactory editing and page make up can be achieved by page scrolling.

In regard to operation, it was desirable for the publishing system to incorporate as much automation as possible to economise on operation time. Several areas identified for automation were: page numbering; figure/table numbering; footnote/reference numbering; index compilation; table of contents generation. In addition a spelling checker was seen as necessary to conserve the time required for proofreading.

System administration needs

Two aspects of administration were identified as major considerations in system selection, storage and power. It was necessary initially to ascertain the amount of disk space required for the storage of software and data files (especially as graphics were to be stored electronically). Further it was desirable that the storage of data files should be on hard disk and the handling of these files should he transparent to the system operator. In this way the operator's time would not be wasted loading and retrieving information from removable media such as floppy disks and cartridge tapes. As the hard disk was to be backed up on a regular basis (ie. nightly/weekly), the backup procedure was to be simple with the least amount of operator intervention.

The complexity of the graphics creation and pagination tasks makes enormous demands upon the power of the publishing system hardware. Also the ability to share files across the system and access other user accounts from any terminal was seen as a useful feature. These requirements encouraged the exploration of networking as a means of integrating the publishing system hardware.

Student needs

The needs of the student (end user) was paramount to all others in this analysis, however, the student places the least amount of demands upon the functionality of the publishing system. Students would normally be more concerned with the content of the material rather than its aesthetic appeal. However, typographically consistent, instructionally sound, study materials can only improve a student's educational experience. Ultimately, typography must be functional - its purpose to communicate (Morison, 1951) and the means by which the typography is prepared is of no consequence to the end user.

Description of the chosen publishing system

The specific needs of the personnel listed in the previous section could not comfortably be met by one publishing system and it was necessary to integrate a variety of components from a number of vendors. This, of course, was not the preferred path as there was then a necessity for some degree of on site system support where the user became the system integrator. The configuration of the publishing system is shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5

Figure 5: Configuration of computer aided publishing system at Capricornia Institute

A network of 7 Apollo Domain engineering workstations was chosen as the hardware platform upon which the publishing software Interleaf would run. Interleaf allows for the creation and integration of textual and graphic elements as well as provides a considerable degree of typographic flexibility. The Apollo workstations, each with four megabytes of main memory, provide the operator with a large, high resolution screen and the capacity to operate on very large documents containing text and graphics with no degradation in speed.

The graphics subsystem comprises another Apollo workstation upon which the computer aided drafting program Autocad is used to generate the complex scientific graphics alluded to earlier in this paper. As the Interleaf software is also resident on this machine, Autocad graphics are transferred into the publishing software and then become available to the operators for integration with the text. An integral part of the graphics subsystem is a Datacopy flat bed laser scanner for the electronic digitisation of supplied illustrations (photographs etc.). These illustrations, once scanned, are also transferred to Interleaf for integration with the text.

Output from the publishing system is via two Apple LaserWriter Plus laser printers capable of 300 dpi resolution on plain paper. Each of these system components is an integral part of the Apollo Token Ring Network making each device accessible by all operators on the system.

For the provision of file transfers there is a serial link with the superseded word processor to allow the transfer and updating of existing files. There is a second serial link to a microcomputer for the transfer and retrieval of word processing files in other locations within the institution.

Implementing the publishing system

Before the installation of the publishing system, several issues relating to its implementation were identified:

Operator training

The transition from word processing to computer aided publishing is, for any institution, a major step - more noticeable to the operator than anyone else. For these people the transition is not just to a new system, but essentially to a new industry - professional publishing. The word processor operator moves into the field of composing (typesetting) with usually no expertise whatever in the typographic subtleties of this traditional craft. With this in mind this institution undertook to train its operators in basic system hardware knowledge, publishing software and typography.

Due mainly to its geographic isolation, Australia suffers greatly from a lack of support, especially in the area of computer software. This problem was exacerbated at the authors' institution as it is further distanced from a major city. These problems, coupled with the fact that the Interleaf software was still a very new product in publishing, meant that software support and user training was virtually non existent. Due, however, to the very comprehensive Interleaf documentation, operator training was carried out initially on a self paced "work through the book" basis until such time as a structured training manual was prepared by one of the authors (Kemp).

The complexity of the publishing software demands that operator training is ongoing as is training in various aspects of typographic style relevant to the preparation of study materials.

System management and operations

It was evident from the beginning that the skills within the existing production unit were insufficient for the transition to the new publishing system, particularly with respect to: As a result, a typographer/system manager with a background in traditional computer based publishing/printing was appointed as well as two operators with backgrounds in the typesetting/ printing industry.

Defining a typographic style

While the newly installed publishing system offered an enormous degree of typographic flexibility in comparison to the superseded word processor, it soon became apparent that if there was no control on the operators' use of these facilities, there would be, ironically, a degradation in the quality of instructional materials produced by the unit. In order to develop a coherent typographic style, the typographer and instructional designer requires an intimate knowledge of the functionality of the publishing system. This information was adapted to the instructional model, as discussed previously, to enable the development of the unit's Style Guide as a reference source for writers, instructional designers and operators, detailing the instructional and typographic format of all publications produced by the unit.

A typographic style was seen as essential for a variety of reasons:

To outline the entire typographic style would not be possible within this paper, however, a brief overview may be useful. The basic page format for study guides utilises a single 5.5 inch column of text on portrait A4, allowing generous 3/4 inch margins at the top, bottom and right side with a 2 inch left margin for the inclusion of instructional icons, concepts and pointers.

Flexible study routes and information access imply the employment of access devices. These instructional aids need to be readily identifiable and distinguishable from the main body of text. The use of the larger "concepts margin" allows students quick access to important information within the text through the use of a wide range of instructional aids. In this particular style the following methods are used to distinguish instructional features:

The typeface used for the main body text of study guides is 12 pt Times Roman - one in a range of classic serif typefaces which research has shown to be more readable than sans serif faces (Wheildon, 1984). This particular size of typeface was chosen for two reasons: Four levels of sans serif headings from 14 pt to 12 pt are available for the structuring of text into cohesive hierarchical units. Advance organisers such as graphical concept maps indicate ways in which new material will be related to what the student already knows (Hartley, 1981). The creation of concept maps and other diagrammatic representations of subject content has been greatly facilitated and expedited through the graphics capabilities of computer aided publishing. With pattern shading capabilities, the publishing software allows components of diagrams to be highlighted in order to accentuate their relative importance.

Course development teams

Once a typographic style was developed and published it was decided that the team approach to course development would provide the best means of "selling" to the author, computer aided publishing and its inherent instructional advantages. These teams would typically comprise various skilled personnel from the writing, development and production areas, and the Style Guide would act as the blueprint upon which the instructional and typographic format of the new materials would be based.

The implementation of style through the course development teams has provided a proving ground for the initial Style Guide in terms of its adaptability across a wide range of academic disciplines. It was soon found that the initial style was somewhat over restricting in trying to tie authors down to a regimented method of content presentation and did not sufficiently accommodate a range of instructional strategies appropriate to different subject areas. The recently revised version of the Style Guide has made provision for these areas and is seen as a more flexible document which is still based on sound typographical principles.

Implications of computer aided publishing

Production throughput

Many vendors of computer aided publishing systems have heralded this new technology as time saving. However, while the on screen integration of text, graphics and other page elements certainly saves much labour intensive manual paste up, the time taken to carry out these tasks electronically and then to print the finished product would probably be equivalent. But further to this, the availability of a wider range of instructional and typographic features encourages the author, instructional designer and operator to experiment with the document whilst in production and this can greatly extend preparation time. The major offender here is often the operator who, unaccustomed to the WYSIWYG display (showing each page element exactly as it will appear on paper), will painstakingly labour over each component to ensure its exact positioning in relation to other objects on the page. Also the preparation of simple graphics, while providing a sometimes welcome relief from text setting, can often tie up operators for far greater periods of time than is necessary for the graphic artist to produce the same graphic.

Some measures have been taken to avoid these delays:

Enhancement of educational quality of material

With the availability of a greater range of typographic features and page formats, authors and instructional designers now have the opportunity for more creative expression and enterprise in the design of instructional materials. Whilst the presentation of material has been contained within the requirement of the Style Guide there has been a noticeable increase in the use of tables, graphs, illustrations and charts, the use of icons and a greater interest shown by authors toward exploring improved and alternative methods of displaying textual information than was the case with previous technology. The outcome has been that instructional materials are now far more sophisticated than before. However, their effectiveness is dependent upon expert instructional and typographic design input.

In the absence of this expertise, these authors consider that the publishing system capabilities cannot be exploited and thus would serve as little more than a word processing system. It wasn't until the Style Guide had been developed and based upon an instructional model for distance education that there was clear evidence of enhanced educational quality of materials.

Print quality

There has been a major leap in the aesthetic quality of documents produced with computer aided publishing. The quality of the next stage of production, printing and binding, has, as a consequence, become more critical. The printing machinery used to reproduce study materials in most institutions is high speed duplicators. These machines, while performing this task admirably, were not designed to capably reproduce the higher quality line work, finer text and range of patterned tints generated by publishing software. Whilst considerable effort has been made to improve output through strict quality control measures, higher quality printing equipment is now seen as the next step in the production of high quality, professional publishing.

The quality of binding and the cover typography can also impact greatly upon the professionalism and credibility of the publisher.

Production and maintenance costs

Depending upon the type of publishing system installed, the initial and ongoing costs can vary greatly. Whichever system is installed, the costs are normally much greater than replacement costs of traditional word processors as was the case in this study. Also as can be expected with the more sophisticated publishing systems, software and hardware maintenance costs have also been high. It is inappropriate to justify the requirement for computer aided publishing for an educational institution based solely on cost saving. The costs have been justified in this case study on the basis of increased educational quality of the end product, which in the long term will be offset by sale of materials to other institutions, commerce and industry.

Recognition as a professional publisher

Until the implementation of computer aided publishing, the production unit was viewed as a typing pool for the preparation of "lecture notes". Such an image has been gradually dispelled as the unit is now capable of producing a very professional product. The majority of authors (lecturers) has become cognisant of this professional image and, as a result, is adhering to the expectations of the production unit in regards to the presentation of manuscript copy, the prompt return of proofs, and an overall involvement in the development and preparation of materials. In return, the unit provides authors with an assured turnaround time for typesetting and proof correction in a professional client/publisher relationship.

It is important to note that the technology to publish is becoming increasingly accessible to the author through his/her own equipment. This being so, there is an increasing need for the author to realise the importance that the structure and typography of the material plays in relation to the presentation of the content.

Staffing issues

The importance of the need for the appropriate publishing expertise in order to successfully implement computer aided publishing has already been alluded to. Because of the newness of this technology, replacing skilled staff can prove to be a problem, especially if the institution is geographically isolated. This institution has committed much time to initial operator training and has recently increased the number of part time operators so as to provide a reasonable degree of backup. In addition, negotiations are currently under way to make allowances for various levels of skills in system operation available to operators.

System integration

As mentioned previously, publishing systems can often comprise components from a variety of vendors. In these circumstances the publisher has to assume the role of the system integrator with the responsibility of interfacing each of these components. It is therefore necessary to write the initial system specification in such a way as to allocate to the supplying vendor the responsibility of interfacing each system component. In this way, vendors tendering for only part of the specification must ensure compatibility with the remainder of the system.

This institution was faced with some problems of integration regarding the graphics subsystem. Although the Autocad drafting software satisfied specification regarding functionality and would, in fact, interface with the Interleaf software, this capability was not available on the Apollo platform. Fortunately the graphic artist was able to write a software interface to overcome this problem, but as one could well imagine the development of this software was a time consuming task.

Learning curve for implementation

The initial absence of a style guide for document preparation and a procedures manual for operators resulted in very minimal output from the system for a number of months. Further, it was found that operators required experience in drafting and redrafting text to gain confidence in the system and develop a "feeling" for its capabilities. Added to operator training problems was a need for experimentation with type faces and format layout etc. in the development of a style guide. This hampered productivity but was seen as an essential step in the learning curve in determining the full potential of the system in terms of the "needs" outlined earlier in this paper.

Now that there exists a pool of user expertise, these persons train other users with the aid o' training manuals that have been developed. This is not only seen as a way of acknowledging the expertise that is necessary to be a user but in the process of "teaching" new users, the "teachers" (operators) learn more about the system as a whole.

Preparation of instructional materials as a team effort

The addition of a computer publishing system for the production of instructional materials using a team approach has meant that the production process has become far more complex and difficult to manage. There are multiple inputs and interactions between teams in the development phase. Also personnel using the system require significant training in aspects such as operation of the system, typography and page layout.


Based on the authors' experience of this case study it is recommended that institutions contemplating the use of a computer aided publishing system for the production of instructional material need to:
  1. Formulate a needs analysis based upon the desired instructional and technical quality of the materials to be published. This analysis should accommodate the specific needs, present and future, of all involved in the publishing process.

  2. As a means of maintaining quality assurance over the range of materials which is to be produced, there is a need for a documented style guide that not only details typographic and instructional features, but also details the potential functionality of the computer aided publishing system and the publisher.

  3. Because of the complexity of the computer aided publishing technology and the inherent range of expertise required to fully exploit the potential of these systems, develop a program of workshops for initial and ongoing training of all users.

  4. Computer aided publishing provides the means to produce high quality and educationally sophisticated print materials. This goal cannot be achieved, however, without employing specialist expertise and as a consequence modifying the organisational structure of the publishing department. It is important to recognise that because the publishing process will be more complex these specialists will fit into the organisational structure at various levels.


Dekkers, J., Griffin, H. and Kemp, N. (1988). Style Guide. Rockhampton, Capricornia Institute Publications.

Gagne, R. M, and Briggs, L. J. (1979). Principles of Instructional Design. New York, Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Hanley, J. (1981). Eighty Ways of Improving Instructional Text. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 24(1), 17-27.

Hartley, J, (1986). Planning the Typographical Structure of Instructional Text. Educational Psychologist, 21(4), 315-332.

Morison, S, (1951). First Principles of Typography. London, Cambridge University Press.

Reigeluth, C. M, (1983). Instructional Design Theories and Models; An Overview of their Current Status. New Jersey, Erlbaum.

Tinker, A, (1963). Legibility of Print. Ames, Iowa, Iowa State University Press.

Trevitt, J. (1980). Book Design. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Weildon, C. (1984). Communicating - Or Just Making Pretty Shapes. Sydney, Newspaper Advertising Bureau of Australia.

John Dekkers BSc MSc PhD
John is the Director of the Department of External and Continuing Education at the Capricornia Institute in Rockhampton, Queensland. He was previously Director of the Science and Mathematics Education Centre at the Western Australian Institute of Technology. His research interests are in distance education and science education evaluation studies.

Neale Kemp DipT(TAFE)
Neale is the Production and System Manager in the Department of External and Continuing Education at the Capricornia Institute in Rockhampton, Queensland. He was previously a TAFE teacher in the area of typesetting and graphic design and gained a Churchill Fellowship in 1985 to study computer aided publishing in the USA, UK and Europe.

Please cite as: Dekkers, J. and Kemp, N. (1988). Computer aided publishing as a tool for preparing instructional text: A case study. In J. Steele and J. G. Hedberg (Eds), Designing for Learning in Industry and Education, 190-205. Proceedings of EdTech'88. Canberra: AJET Publications.

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