As I look back on my reflections about the first few classes, I was very nervous about the technology. I had not taken an interactive e-learning class in a number of years, and never one on D2L. I have been developing and delivering instructor led training for years, and taught at a university for six years. I’ve also written numerous online courses as a consultant, following the sponsors’ protocols, and often find myself in highly behavioral circumstances and environments. Right now, I simply want to know more and be better at this. Luckily my graduate efforts led me into Adult Education and a highly Constructivist stance about facilitated learning. I studied program development with Ron Cervero and looked at it from a power and politics stance. I came to believe that education can be truly transformative, and am passionate about adult education.
As a practitioner, I’ve found that it is easy to get bogged down in the day to day, and not continue to foster creativity and enhance one’s own learning. LT8000 is my first course in this program, and I found it to be energizing and enlightening. I’m looking forward to the next chapter in this journey.
What I’ve learned about Instructional Design this semester is that it is a very dynamic field, still evolving and establishing and defining itself. I read something the other day about Instructional Design being a process, a discipline, a science, and a reality. It seems one’s personal perspective may form one’s opinion of what it is. I would like to add to that the concept of Instructional Design also being an art. The art of Instructional Design would be associated with developers’ activities using insight, imagination, innovation and creativity in practice. It would be the manner in which the science is carried out, the style and grace with which the developer and facilitator engage learners and the environment, placing their mark on the process. I would venture to say that if each of 10 graduates of this program were to develop a course on the same topic using the same information and protocols, every course would be different – each would be a testament to the art of that developer. Is that constructivist thought or what?
I had an experience yesterday that highlighted for me the importance of competent instructional design. It was an online training class about using a new application the company I work for is adopting for recruiting personnel. For 60 minutes, 9 participants watched on their computers is various parts of the SE as a young lady named Ashley located Michigan, pointed and clicked boxes on the screen telling us what they were for. There was no practice involved, we simply watched and listened and are now supposed to be able to teach others about the application. Eventually, I booted my laptop so I could search the web for more important things, while Ashley pointed and clicked on my desktop. At the end of the session, Ashley asked if there were any questions and there was only silence. She said, “Well, no questions, you are all good to go.” Afterwards, I thought, “What a waste of time and money! I’m not even going to use this system for another month or so, how can anyone expect me to remember which of the hundreds, maybe thousands of boxes she clicked on a month from now when I’ve never even clicked on a single box to see what it will do now?” It was a prime example of, “Because I said it, you know it!” and drove home for me the importance of engagement in on-line learning. We owe it to our learners to provide thoughtfully designed courses that will engage them in the learning and not make them simply observers of our antics and assume that because I taught it, they know it.
I’ve been spending some time searching approaches to e-learning and the debate between behavioristic instruction and constructivist approaches. Constructivist as I am, I often find myself developing sessions that require behaviorist approaches, for instance having to develop measurable and observable learning objectives that parallel certain competencies to ensure my training is approved through training approval systems. In perusing approaches to e-learning, I came across Gilly Salmon who has developed a five stage model for the typical online learning process. It is quite interesting and after reviewing it, I see that my experience in LT800 is quite consistent with her model.
Here is a link to the model and the BLOG that has a lot of additional information about a MOOC she is involved in http://www.gillysalmon.com/five-stage-model.html
One of the biggest complaints I hear about e-learning is that “It’s just like looking at a PowerPoint slide show.” When I hear that criticism, I know that the learner has not been engaged by an interactive e-learning offering, but rather sat through a somewhat bland or boring presentation of facts. Even the most high quality content, polished design and easy navigability can’t overcome the lack of interactivity in an online course. So, how does one engage learners in through interactivity in an e-learning course?
Accomplished instructional designers build in interactivity, and they can do it in a number of ways. For instance they may include:
- Exploration in the form of links that learners can click on to explore a topic further.
- Videos that add real-life animation to the content.
- Reality based interactive scenarios that integrate real life examples and problems into training
- Flip Books that can support self-paced interactive in-depth content exploration
- Handouts that can be downloaded and printed for use during and after the training
- Discussion Posts that can be used to build community across participants and content.
- Interactive Games that promote hypotheses and knowledge testing in fun ways.
- Quizzes or assessments placed at the end of a module to allow facilitators to assess effectiveness of course, and learners to gauge progress and summarize content.
- Polls that can provide immediate feedback from the group to the individual student.
- Collaborative Virtual Group Discussions that allow learners to discuss issues with one another, and increase the “human element” of e-learning.
- Calls to Action that encourage learners to use the information they have learned by creating action plans, follow up reports, etc.
It is important to ensure that the videos, images, and other interactive elements included in an e-learning course should not take away from the core content. For example, an abundance of graphics on a given page may distract the learner from the content. Use only the multimedia and visual components that are relevant to course content to help highlight the major principles and engage the learner without distraction.
There are as many definitions of learning objects as there are terms for them. The IEEE definition of learning object is extremely broad and does not limit learning objects to digital components only, it is generally understood to be digital components deliverable over the Internet as indicated in Wiley’s definition above (Baldiris, Graf, Fabregat, & Mendez, 2012). The primary idea behind learning objects is that instructional designers can develop small, independent, self-contained digital chunks of content that are reusable in different learning contexts. Larger units of instruction or modules are created as strategically placed reusable learning objects are inserted into the course content and activities are developed around them. Although the learning object itself may not be modifiable, the way it is used is. For instance, a short video clip of B. F Skinner demonstrating the Skinner Box might be used in a Psychology class to explain operant conditioning. That same clip may be used in a foundational education class to talk about Behaviorism, as well as in an Instructional Design and Technology class to mark an early example of technology being used to teach. Each instructor might use it in a different way. Perhaps one uses it to start a classroom discussion; another may use it as part of a timeline, while the third might ask questions about Skinner on a quiz.
Seeking ideas for a class presentation, I came across an article on the graphic display of learning outcomes/objectives by Billie Hara in The Chronicle of Higher Education. In the field of Early Care and Education, where I practice, all training has to be approved by cognitive level through a rigorous training approval system. I typically submit an instructional plan with learning objectives keyed to specific activities to make it easy for those who approve the training to see that the objectives match the activities according to Bloom’s Taxonomy. However, when presenting those learning objectives on a PowerPoint slide during a training session, they always seem a little bland and boring. I like the idea of being able to visually enhance the objectives so that the learners can see that when they are involved in a certain activity, it is tied into a particular learning objective. These graphic displays may be just thing to do that. It is important to me that learners know how they learn best and I often encourage them to reflect not only about what they learned during an activity, but also how they learned it, relating back to the learning objective.
As for me and my learning, this is a great example of informal or incidental learning. I just picked up this information along the way and it’s now fueling some exciting ideas about how I can change my course development practices.
Check out Marsick and Watkins, Informal and Incidental Learning in the Workplace, http://caiseconveningwiki.org/file/view/Watkins.pdf )
Here is a link to the Chronicle article: