Posts Tagged ‘ID’

Well Lit Course

July 8, 2009 Leave a comment

So, inΒ  my last post, I showed you some elements of an online “course” I’m creating on Instructional Design. Daniel Stevens asked me to expand on the idea of a “well lit course.” I’m not sure how far I can really go into it but I’ll give it a shot.

The Light of Information

Traditional learning has been happening for hundreds and hundreds of years. Most students have been shown from a young age how to learn (or at least behave) in that environment. If not it is fairly easy to figure out what you are supposed to be doing through visual and auditory clues. The desks are set up in a specific way to face the correct area of the room. The instructor speaks to you and tells you what page you should be on during the lesson. The instructor can see if you are struggling and can offer assistance. The instructor can even somtimes tell when you are sick or unable to perform to your normal standards and make arrangements accordingly.

light_bookOnline learning is new enough, even a technically savvy individual taking an online course isn’t necessarily well versed in how an online course works. It isn’t always apparent where to go first or what is expected of the student. It is up to the online instructor to light the way. Information is your light. (I’m probably going to take this metaphor a little too far, but here it goes.) A spot light needs to be shown on the place you want the students to start (by creating an announcement pointing them there or by making it big and colorful). Put some twinkle lights on the syllabus (by including instructions on what being an online student means to you and what you expect from them). And always provide ample illumination to submitted work (whether that be in the form of discussions, assessments, or assignments by giving feedback on both correct and incorrect responses).

Pretend the students have never set foot in a classroom in their lives and tell them everything they need to know, highlighting the extremely important parts in bold (never all caps, that is shouting). The idea here is if the student already knows the information they can skip over it, otherwise it is there for anyone who may be confused. This is how you provide the light for your online course. Don’t make students wander around in the dark. That is aggravating for not only them, but you as well (as soon as the questions start rolling in).

Sometimes it is hard to know what all to tell students about, especially if you are extremely comfortable in the online learning environment. It is easy to forget the little things that were confusing at first once you have mastered them. When you run into this problem, be open. Let your students know that you need their input. Ask them what they found most confusing about your course and create a Frequently Asked Questions area. You can add to this as a semester goes on and even use it from semester to semester.

I guess what I’m getting at is there is no such thing as too much information…

Focused by Organization

…as long as it is well organized. Once you start providing all this information to students you have to find a way to present it that won’t overwhelm them. Too much information in an unorganized fashion is blinding. You must develop a system that puts the information in a logical order or provides clear labeling. Providing snippets, teasers, or descriptions of the information can also be helpful because it allows the student to really see if the information is what they are looking for.

Unorganized books blue_arrow 804360_33720836_small

It is also helpful to create skimmable documents. Basically, this means utilizing header text and text formatting to break down the document into parts and highlight the really important information. Highlighting doesn’t have to be simply using bold text or a yellow highlight. You can highlight information by providing an accompanying graphic or bullet points.

Creating well organized, skimmable materials is extremely helpful to students. It allows them to find the document they need quickly and then skim through the document for the exact information they are looking for.

And Reinforced by Feedback

Once your students figure out what they are supposed to be doing and find the information they need, they will need to tell you what they have learned through discussions, assessments, and assignments. Your information flow should not stop short. You need to finish out the lighting of the way by letting them know if they have successfully navigated the road you laid before them. Many instructors simply tell students if they have not completed something successfully and what to do to fix it. It is also necessary to let them know when they have mastered what was put before them.

Categories: eLearning Tags: ,

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. πŸ™‚ I promise I’ll try not to cry….too hard anyway. πŸ˜‰

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: ,

Which Learning Style?

April 27, 2009 Leave a comment

Most of my days are spent doing one-on-one type support over a large array of software and hardware issues. I’m like an in-depth tech support. Over the past month I have been able to do work with my favorite thing: online courses. It’s been great but it has also been extremely challenging. In my past experience with creating content for online learning I have had the benefit of knowing my audience was one that liked to learn online. This is extremely helpful. As we all know, teaching someone who is comfortable with learning online is a much easier task than teaching someone who is not comfortable with learning online. Suddenly, I found myself dealing with 6 courses worth of people (instructors) who taught online but did not necessarily learn well online. In the beginning, I had an idea what type of problems this would cause but really didn’t have a clue.

Problem #1 – The majority of the “students” really had no desire to learn anything new. They were being forced into it because we are changing the LMS whether they like it or not.

Problem #2 – The change from WebCT to ANGEL is pretty substantial. WebCT is a very structured area only allowing you to place content in specific locations. ANGEL is a very open area allowing you to create the entire design of your course on your own. There was a pretty even split of people who liked this and hated this.

Problem #3 – The majority of the “students” do not do well in an online format even though they are online instructors. We did provide the opportunities for them to come to face-to-face sessions but many did not attend.

Problem #4 – Due to the large number of “students” we had an extremely wide variety of learning styles. Creating content that suited them all in one shot was nearly impossible.

So I found myself (the only Instructional Designer and one of the only SME’s) juggling what I thought was best for the learner, what I could produce fastest (we are on a strict timeline), and what I knew the most about. This was not a fun juggling act.

I find interactive content the best way for learners to learn and retain information. So I created Captivate tutorials whenever possible. I also know from experience in this institution that people love to have printed out instructions of specific tasks. So I tried to incorporate as many printable references as I could while putting together afore mentioned Captivate tutorials. Thank goodness for ANGEL’s doc files they were so gratious as to give to us for our editing and using as we needed. It was much easier to simply splice a piece of their instruction manual to use as the printable reference rather than have to make one on my own. Much time saved there. I’m also thankful for their in-depth instructor reference manual, Tony Suess, and the ANGEL-L ListServ from which I attained a good portion of my ANGEL knowledge.

Where am I going with this? Really, I’m not sure. My brain is pretty much friend at this point.

I guess my point was, how do you successfully balance the learning styles without overkilling the audience on information? It is my hopes to go back through the course I made and add printable references for every Captivate tutorial. But I’ve begun wondering if I shouldn’t also go through and add simple non-interactive screen capture videos for each item also. This would be for the people who don’t like to read the printed version but don’t want to take the time of doing the interactive version. So many different ways of learning. How in the world do we cover them all cohesively?


April 24, 2009 2 comments

I mean tweet.

Twitter has recently taken over my life. It took me a few months to really sink my teeth into it and I’m still making my way. I’m really trying to figure out how to get the best wealth of knowledge by adding the right people and finding the right groups. I figure, since I’m a department of one, the more people I have on the sidelines to answer questions the better.

I’ve found many corporate ID people which are very helpful but I would really like to find the wealth of ID people in higher ed. They are out there, I know they are. I just haven’t tweaked my search criteria the right way to hit the motherload yet.

If anyone can give me a hint, please do.

Categories: General Tags: , ,


April 21, 2009 Leave a comment

I’m such a confused person. I’m never sure which way to go. I have so many ideas and they get all confused in my head. I sat down and thought about it this morning. I came to the conclusion….I should be confused! I have to look at things through the eyes of a learner but think like a teacher and get in their minds like a therapist. I’m schizophrenic!! Okay, okay, I know it isn’t THAT bad. Some days it just seems that way.

I think many of my issues stem from the fact I’m still pretty new to this whole ID thing. I haven’t found my niche. At the same time, I don’t WANT to find my niche. A niche insinuates being stuck doing the same type of things over and over. I don’t like that idea. I want to be open to changes and be able to continually learn. But I’m finding it hard to know what to concentrate on because there are so many directions to go and so many things to learn. One week I’m creating a website to house how-to materials. The next I’m doing a workshop on Office 2007. And the next I’m creating an online course (as both the SME and ID). While I like to think I’m a rather diverse person, and in theory would like to stay that way. In reality, it might be a good thing for my sanity to find a niche. On the other hand, when you are a department of one, how is that even possible?

I guess I’m not feeling so heroic this week.

ID for eLearning

April 9, 2009 Leave a comment

It was pointed out to me by a friendly Twitter-er, another problem is instructional design for eLearning because “basic rules of interactive & multimedia storytelling often [are] not applied.” I didn’t even know there were basic rules of interactive and multimedia storytelling…I’m not sure if that makes me a bad ID or simply one that doesn’t do a lot of eLearning work. Anyway, my first thought, being an ID in higher education, is lack of professor knowledge about interactivity. It is a battle of knowledge. The ID knows or, in my case, has a good idea about how to implement interactivity but the professors are leery of allowing it to be used in their course. Or maybe the rules are not well enough known to be implemented properly. Or maybe the knowledge of how to use the software to create the interactive content is not known. There are so many variables that cause this problem that makes it an even bigger problem.

ELearning is SUCH a new concept for the vast majority of people. New and exciting things are happening everyday. There are so many universities and colleges moving to eLearning in large numbers, there just aren’t enough dedicated, great ID’s to go around. And as much as we would love to think professors and instructors want the best for their students, often they just want enough to get by. And that doesn’t include anything more than spewing their knowledge onto a computer screen in the only way they know how…..Word documents. It is giving eLearning a bad name….but what can we do??? We can’t FORCE instructors to teach in specific ways. We don’t have enough people or money to equip instructors with ID’s to put their content in a better format. Even when you equip an instructor with an ID, as I said earlier, it is still ultimately up to the instructor how they want their information presented. I’ve been involved, still am actually, in introducing instructors to better online teaching practices and it is a constant struggle. Basically, you can lead a horse to water but you can not make it drink.


April 7, 2009 Leave a comment

Until I studied the term ADDIE using Google and Wikipedia, I had no idea what it was or what it meant to me as an Instructional Technology major and that was just 6 months before graduation. Some people would find this disturbing: To know that an Instructional Designer in training had no idea what the #1 used model of Instructional Design was. Now that I’m in the field, I actually find it refreshing. So many people run at ID full speed using only the ADDIE or other models to profess their knowledge and create their content. I use logic and personal experience. I also use my knowledge of andragogy and psychology to help guide my way. I’m sure my perfectionism doesn’t hurt any either.

I think it should be required of anyone who creates online content to participate in an online course. You get a whole new view of the world when you are looking through the eyes of a student. I also think there is something to be said of online instructors who do not learn well in an online setting….what are you doing teaching in a setting you, personally, don’t understand??? Anyway, that is off the point a little, I’ll have to talk about that one a little later.

I think ADDIE is a great model….but that is where people get confused…it is only a model…a process….a suggestion. It is a great way to structure how you go about making sure your content is complete but it doesn’t explain how to make sure your content is effective. People need to learn to use their heads. Put yourself in the shoes of others. Think about what you are doing. Think about how YOU would like the content to be prepared if YOU were the one taking the course. Think about how your thoughts differ from others. Think about how others might see things…..the key word here is THINK. Don’t just follow a cookie-cutter model….think about how the model should be used in your SPECIFIC case. The model gives you the process…you need to figure out how that process will work for you.

Categories: Content Creation Tags: , ,