Archive for June, 2009

Lessons in Instructional Design

June 30, 2009 7 comments

I’m creating a course, well more like a self-help area in our ANGEL system, on Instructional Design. Since I’m new to the field but am a veteran online student, most of my information comes from personal experience from the student side of things and how I always wished things would be. A lot of what I write is completely of my own making from my own logic which can be dangerous ground. SO, before I unleash my lessons on the poor, unsuspecting faculty at our university I thought I would show them here. Keep in mind, none of the lessons are supposed to be long or overly bossy. Our faculty, in general, do not take well to any pedagogy instructions especially ones given by someone they deem as inexperienced. So I have left these as light-hearted suggestion.

The following are the first 3 pages (there will be 3 more when I get them written).

Let me have it. Tell me exactly what you think. 🙂 I promise I’ll try not to cry….too hard anyway. 😉

How Would I…

418215_2815_smallWhen thinking about the design, structure, and content of your online course you should always keep the learner’s view close to your thoughts. After you create something, look at it from the student perspective. Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Would I get the point of this learning object?
  • Would this object interest me?
  • Would I find this object boring or unnecessary?
  • Is it obvious why this object is here?

I’m sure we can all agree, excessive, boring, unnecessary information and tasks are not good for learning. We don’t want to turn the student’s learning experience into a painful one. If the objects you create are not things you personally would find interesting then I’m sure a typical college student would not find it interesting either.

If your objects are interesting to you, go that extra step and try to put yourself into a student’s shoes. Make sure it is something that would interest them. Give them a reason to want to learn from you. Make it interesting and entertaining (if possible). But remember, there is a fine line you will need to learn to walk. You want to make it interesting and entertaining without turning the course into a joke.

I know that is a lot of work and that balance is a hard one to find, but you are a good instructor, you can do it!

The Dark is Scary

474426_67978012_smallNo one likes to be left in the dark about things they are supposed to be involved in. Information is light to your students. The more information you can give them about what you expect of them and how you expect them to achieve goals, the better. This includes a well established syllabus, ease of navigation through the course, and feedback, feedback, feedback.

The best way to start creating a well lit course is to create an informative syllabus. Once again, you will find yourself walking a thin line. You need to make it informative enough the students feel confident in your requirement without overwhelming them with verbiage. Make your requirements clear and concise. No one wants to wade through a 20 page document just to understand what is required of them. If you do find you need a 20 page syllabus (or even a 10 page one) you might want to think about making a condensed version to go along with the detailed version. This way all bases are covered. You can provide the students with a quick reference on what you expect while also providing them with a way to find additional information if the quick reference isn’t quite deep enough for their understanding.

The next step for a well lit course is good navigation. You need to provide your students with a clear path to follow. If the course you are teaching doesn’t require linear learning (which is also a great teaching method) be sure all resources are clearly labeled and categorized appropriately.

The final step is to always give the students feedback. Let students know what they are doing wrong AND right. It’s easy to find yourself only providing feedback for wrong answers (I am as guilty as anyone else) but it is just as important to reinforce when students do something right.


1055796_39177408_smallAs much as we all would like to live in a perfect world, where young adults have been properly taught the delicate art of respect, we don’t. Although, to be fair, even if a young adult has been taught the art of respect, the rules do seem to change occasionally from person to person and confusion is inevitable. Throw these confused young adults into an online environment where it is hard to distinguish the fact they are dealing with real people, and mass chaos can ensue.

What do I mean by that? Online students are not always the best about respecting their instructors. I honestly believe much of that problem stems from the anonymity of the online world. But, for whatever reason may cause it, I have a solution that may help.

Much like lighting a student’s way through a course, information is the key here. At the beginning of the course, lay down YOUR laws as to what constitutes respect and how you expect to be treated. Along with that, lay down the laws as to how they can expect to be treated. From my own person experience, I find letting students know they will be receiving respect from you until they do something to lose that privilege is the best way to keep the respect ball rolling.

Categories: eLearning Tags: ,

Learner Accountability

June 12, 2009 2 comments

Social Learning and Learner Accountability

I think social learning makes the learner far more accountable in learning. With social learning you (as a learner) are in charge of what you learn, how much you learn, and where you learn it. You need to be awake and aware and ready to soak up anything you might come across.

The thing I notice the most with social learning is how easy it is to do. Humans come by it naturally. We want to teach each other and learn from each other. I think we have tried to make things far to easy for learners and while doing that we have killed their desire to learn. People aren’t meant to sit in classes for hours every day trying to gain abstract skills they may never use.  Instead of spoon feeding learners information in a boring environment, we need to make them accountable for what they feed themselves in a real life situation.

Encouraging Learner Accountability

I think the easiest way to convince anyone to do anything is to show them how it will benefit them. Now, I’ve never really had the experience to try out any of my theories but it looks good on paper. So, in theory, it would be a matter of saying (as a boss or instructor), “If you don’t want to sit through another boring course on this subject, you need to go out and see how this subject affects you and what you do. Figure out why I think it is important for you to know. If you don’t think it is important tell me why.” This relies on the learner to put the pieces of the puzzle together and form their own ideas. Maybe they find a reason why it isn’t necessary. Maybe they learn something you didn’t know. Maybe they form their own puzzle.

I’m not sure we need to go out of our way to encourage leaners to learn. I think we need to get out of their way. Quit trying to control the situation so strictly. Instructors need to step back from the controlling dictatorship mindset. Instructors would be best to point a learner in a direction and give them a shove. When the learner comes back, review what they have found and correct any misunderstandings. I’m sure there is a reason this isn’t done regularly, I’m just not sure what it is.

Categories: General

Why Twitter

June 8, 2009 2 comments

I began a conversation with Christy Tucker this morning that has me thinking and trying to reflect on the purpose of Twitter. Here’s the conversation so far so I can try to continue it here:

Me: Just read your blog, Twitter is different due to searchability, reaching masses, and being asynchronous.

ChristyATucker: I’m searchable via my blog w/o Twitter and I don’t want thousands of readers/followers. Blogs are asynch conversations too.

Me: True. But blogs are more like monologues. Twitter is for the quick and dirty info. in reply to ChristyATucker

ChristyATucker: Not sure blogs are monologues if you have comments or responses. But I agree that Twitter is good for quick & dirty.

Me: Right, they can have a conversation element. Twitter is like chat meets blog.

ChristyATucker: I get the analogy of Twitter as blog + chat, but why do we need that combo? What can we do here that we can’t elsewhere?
Yes, you can share information on a blog and carry a conversation through comments. This is much easier for the blog writer to do because they can be notified when new comments are posted. Often, the commenter can only tell when comments were replied to by checking back to the blog (Yes, I know some blogging services do allow commenters to be notified also but not all do).  Yes, you can have a conversation on a chat or IM but that requires both parties to be logged in at the same time and is private between the two people. (Which is great if it needs to be a private conversation, but what if other people could benefit from it as well?) As far as I know (and I do not claim to be an expert because I am not a cell phone fan), many IM and blogging services are not cell phone friendly. With Twitter you can interact with not only other computer users but also people who are away from their computers and using their phones. You can get up to the minute reports from all different venues. We need the combination of a blog and a chat because we are impatient people who want to know everything. Twitter allows us to spread news quickly and in just enough words to get our point across without losing interest. It isn’t a matter of not being able to live without Twitter because we know we can. We could go to the blogs to voice our opinions, the news feeds to get our news, chats to interact with each other, IM’s for private conversations, and wait for the people at conferences to come back and tell us what happened….but why would we? We can do that all right there on that one little site. (Oh ya, and it is great for networking too.)
You know, I never really thought of myself as an active Twitter spokesperson….guess I was wrong.

Categories: General

Learning vs Training

June 5, 2009 4 comments

Learning vs Training

So, what is the difference between learning and training? My immediate reaction is this: learning is what the receiver of training is supposed to be doing. In my mind learning and training are very closely tied but not at all to be confused. An instructor or trainer gets up and does training (or goes online depending on the situation). The user or student attends and does the learning (or is supposed to but usually that isn’t the case).

Education vs Training

Now, Jane Bozarth took this a step farther by changing learning to education. While I wouldn’t usually equate the two, I did find the resulting comparison very intriguing. What is the difference between education and training? The average, ordinary, non-training, non-education based person would probably say they are the same thing. Both require someone to present information which then must be sucked up by someone else.

The key here is the type of information presented and what that information will then be used for. Sometimes it is even distinguished by the user. I suppose I should delve a little deeper on those ideas to make myself clear.

Type of Information Presented

Most people would probably agree what you learn in school is education. These are usually basic concepts and skills to be used later in life.  I think I would also classify education as finding information on your own that will help you out in your life. Most people would probably agree what you are forced to learn to do your job is training. These are usually specific instructions on how to do tasks related to your specific job. They won’t necessarily help you in any other aspect of your life.

The User

Some people are just natural born learners. They thrive on learning new things and can turn even the most boring training session into a wonderful learning experience. In this case, the learner turns the training into education. Some people are not natural born learners so I guess you could say they turn the wonderful broad education into a horrible training experience (but this often isn’t the case).

So, after much rambling, what I’m trying to say is: education is information you can use through many parts of your life and training is much more narrow and specific, learning is what the person gaining the knowledge is doing and training is what the person sharing the knowledge is doing. These definitions show the extreme difference between training as a verb and training as a noun and how negative many people (including myself) have begun to perceive it….and I’m a trainer.

Categories: General Tags: , ,