What exactly is instructional design and what are the practices that need to be in place to make learning efficient, effective and appealing? I think this an age old question considered by all educators; whether the learning is taking place in a classroom or workplace. My interpretation is that instructional design is a systematic process of determining learning needs and goals and developing the most effective delivery system to meet those needs; however I would extend the meaning to include theory and science as all units of learning must be considered.
But let’s take a moment and talk about learning itself; learning is continually happening as we take in new information, explore and solve problems. We learn all the time; we cannot turn that part of our brain off. So what exactly does good instructional design do? My take – it supports the natural learning process and helps us to learn more efficiently and effectively.
I appreciated Branch’s (2009) description in this week’s readings that “effective instructional design focuses on performing authentic tasks, complex knowledge, and genuine problems”. My own organization began to make the shift to online learning through a provincial learning management system (LMS) four years ago. With a workforce that is predominately decentralized and virtual, eLearning began to peak interest with senior management as they recognized fiscal savings from travel and a new learning delivery system that offered flexibility. Adobe Captivate was purchased as the eLearning authoring system and I was asked to begin exploring how some traditional face to face content could shift to online delivery; a task that I very quickly discovered was not only daunting but required a new way of thinking as designer. How could I create content that embodied active engagement and wasn’t simply a ‘tick the box’ read only course.
I’ll be honest; the first courses created were primarily text based with a few clip arts thrown in. Move on three more years and now the eLearning includes avatars, royalty free images and better use of the system such as branching in hopes of providing the learners with more decision making and transfer-ability to their roles and the organization. However I was so glad to read in the Conceicao, S., & Lehmann, R. (2009) article the impact of workload on the instructor with online learning; the fact that teaching online can be ‘time consuming’. The planning is significant and in my organization requires constant communication with stakeholders who own the content; to ensure the design is meeting the desired outcomes. I also think about the technology itself and ‘challenges’ it can throw at you as designer; suggesting a close working relationship with IT departments. A strategy that is often used is to pilot the elearn content with a small group of learners; to test if the navigation works, if learners can connect the learning to their roles through case studies and if the intentional activities provide authentic learning. In terms of design, Conceiscao & Lehmann (2009) also referenced ‘course tasks’ as being helpful strategies (loved table 3.1 pg 53!) Over time I found myself getting very muddled in navigation elements, content and the need to achieve the desired outcomes; eventually I designed my own blueprint template or storyboard as a tool that captured all the succinct points and content required plus it could be shared with stakeholders as support. Both strategies have been helpful for me.
Whereby eLearning is used as asynchronous learning in my organization, I believe the more support learners can receive with navigating the technology and sense a virtual presence; when “the instructor places the learner at the center of the online course development and creates the course for that learners….” (Conceicao, S., & Lehmann, R.,2009), the learner is being set up for success.
Branch, R. (2009). Instructional design: the ADDIE approach. Athens, GA: Springer
Conceicao, S., & Lehmann, R. (2009). Managing online instructor workload: strategies for finding balance and success. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.