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Producer, Coordinator, Facilitator: the Instructional Designer

Driving home after a long and worthwhile week at work I was meditating on why I love being an Instructional Designer. I decided to share the reasons in a short article:

Instructional Designers Produce– We create instructional materials. We make videos, we make guides, we produce training sessions and workshops. We bring content and learning materials to the audience as their needs require. If we don’t have the skills to do these things ourselves, we work with very skilled people to accomplish our design goals.

Instructional Designers Coordinate– We connect people with the right content. We might not know everything, but we work with Subject Matter Experts and work hard at finding information that is needed to make instruction successful. Connecting people to their needs is exciting!

Instructional Designers Facilitate– We share ideas and instruction to make things easier for our learners. We facilitate learning so our audience can do their work better.

learningAdults need to know why they need to learn something and how it benefits them. Making this transparent is the start to good Instructional Design.

Learning should be about connecting to the content and then sharing your knowledge and interests with others.

Adults learners need to interact with the content, demonstrate their use of the content, and share the content with others to help retain the learning.  Designing instruction for hands-on practice and collaboration makes for intriguing and exciting training.

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Web Conferencing- Wimba

Tool: Wimba

Category: Web Conferencing

Description: Web conferencing tools are an Internet software that participants use to communicate with one another over Voice Over IP (VoIP) or dial-in services. Many Web conferencing services offer features such as a digital whiteboard, screen sharing, private chat and breakout rooms to make the conversation more than just a phone call. In addition, there are options to record the Web conferencing session, which is beneficial for those who miss a scheduled meeting or would like to review the content. Web conferencing services are beneficial in many different sectors, including corporate training and development departments, higher education, and education. The system can be used to conduct conference calls with remote employees, host virtual webinars at conferences, or conduct a synchronous class or training lesson.

Application/Example: I have trained Professors and students on how to effectively use Wimba as a meeting space for online classes. My work includes best practices such as muting microphones, engaging student participants with polls and questions, annotating PowerPoint slides to direct students’ attention to the content, and breaking an hour long session into 15-20 minute segments.

In my Wimba training course, I used examples of each of the Web conferencing features so that professors would see exactly what the features look like in the context of the online environment. I conducted training of these tools in two different segments- the first in which the professor takes on the role as the Moderator so they can learn to effectively use the tools. The second segment allows the professor to enter the Web conferencing system as a participant, which has limited access to the admin tools.  In this role, the professor experiences the Web conferencing tool from the viewpoint of the student and thus, is able to better design their own synchronous online lessons.

I also created visual User Interface quick guide for Professors to have as a reference when they are hosting a live session.

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LMS- Moodle

Tool: Moodle

Category: Learning Management System (LMS)

Description: LMS are Web based software that is used to deliver online education and training programs. LMS can be beneficial in many different sectors, including corporate training and development departments, higher education, and education. The system is used for the administration, documentation, and reporting of eLearning. Typical features include resources, web links, discussion boards, and assessment tools. Training and online courses can be designed for instructor-led or self-paced study. Users (students or employees) securely log into the LMS to retrieve resources such as documents and videos. They can then be assessed based on quizzes and tests; the tool also allow for the submission of written work.  Communication tools include discussion forums, email, and messages (instant messaging).

Application/Example: I designed a Moodle course to train faculty members in using Moodle to instruct their own online courses. Faculty specializes in Management, Engineering, and the Sciences.

In my Moodle training course, I used examples of each of the Moodle features so that professors would see exactly what the features look like in the context of the online environment. I also created assignments, quizzes, and discussion forums so that the professors could experience these features from the viewpoint of the student and thus, be able to better design their own courses.

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The Great LMS Transition

BB_Moodle_icon_blog_31As an Educational Technologist, you may encounter a time in your career when you must evaluate and select a new vendor. I would like to recount one such experience. My department- an Online Graduate school- decided to evaluate learning management systems to see if a change would be beneficial and effective. Our analysis of several different vendors led us to the decision that, yes, a change would be positive. Now we needed to determine a transitional plan so that the change had a lesser impact:

Design the Layout of the Courses – A lovely and exciting task for an instructional designer! The online education department met several times to discuss and deliberate on the course layout, with our professors and students in mind. The professors would eventually take over the building of their courses, so we needed to make sure they had every feature they typically use. The students would be the end users. We had several faculty members act as Subject Matter Experts to help us with final decisions.

Have a plan­- The online education department had an agreed upon plan for the migration of the course sections (roughly 200 unique sections per term or 600 course sections total). Each member of the department would:

1) “Sign out” a faculty member, and document this information on the department-shared data sheet

2) Inform their faculty member that they would be working on transitioning the faculty member’s courses

3) Back up the course section

4) Copy the content from the old LMS to the new LMS system

4) Move content within the course according to the previously established course design

5) Confirm with the faculty member the successful migration of their course

6) Train the faculty member on the use of the new LMS and in doing so, verify that all course content is accounted for

Communicate with Your Faculty- We informed faculty what needed to be done, why it needed to be done, how it was going to be done, by whom, and in what time frame. Answering these questions thoroughly helped eliminate fears of the transition. It was also important that each faculty member had a single point of contact within our department so that communication was stream lined.

Start Early- The migration started during the Spring term and needed to be completed by August to ensure that every course was migrated and faculty were properly trained before the start of the Fall term. It was also important that the migration process was completed well in advance of the termination of the former LMS contract. This way, we could be sure that we retrieved all course content for each course before we lost access to the former LMS.

Backup and Make Duplicates- to ensure that if a course transition failed from one LMS to the new one, we still had access to the original course.

Communicate with Your Colleagues- We created an Excel Spreadsheet on a shared department drive (GoogleDrive, DropBox services will suffice as well). Each member of the department needed to “sign out”a faculty member to work with BEFORE they began the process. This limited the chance of a multiple people doing the same (and conflicting) work.

Document the Progress- The previously mentioned Excel Spreadsheet, shared by the entire department, also helped us keep track of our progress as a department and give updates to those who inquired.

Follow up with and Train Faculty- Finally, we made sure that each faculty member was trained in the new LMS so that they could effectively create their own future courses. In addition, we followed up with them in the first two weeks of the semester to make sure that they were okay with the new system.

Instructional Design Defined

In a few of my more recent blog posts, I’ve talked about what it means to be an Instructional Designer and how I had an interest in Educational Technology at an early age. I thought it’d be a good idea to continue down this path of origin by defining Instructional Design and Educational Technology. This blog post will focus on Instructional Design, but feel free to read my post on “Educational Technology Defined”.

Most people get a slightly confused look on their face when I tell them that I am a Manager of Instructional Technology. But when you really think about instructional design and educational technology, it is all around us.

For example, if you have ever had to complete a training seminar for work, maybe a harassment or safety course, you’ve experienced Instructional Design.  If you’ve ever read an instructional booklet for a consumer product, it was instructionally designed by a technical writer. If you’ve ever traveled by airplane, the pre-flight safety demonstrations were instructionally designed. Ahaha! Instructional design IS all around us!

classroomMost people associate Instructional Design with the education industry only, but it is used prevalently in businesses and other industries, too. Interestingly, Instructional Design first originated during World War II by the Military. Training materials and assessment tests were developed based on learning theories and principles of instruction.

Instructional Design, also known as Instructional Systems Design, is the act of creating an questionexperience with the purpose of increasing a person’s knowledge or skill in a way that is effective and appealing. It must be effective because the objective of increasing knowledge or skill must be achieved. It must be appealing because the person (or learner) must want to partake in the instruction.

An effective Instructional Designer will conduct an analysis to determine the current state (what the learner currently knows or can do) and the needs (capabilities or hindrances) of the learner. Another component of Instructional Design is properly defining the end goal of instruction. And of course, an Instructional Designer must create an “intervention” to assist the learner in achieving that defined end goal. An example of an intervention would be a hands-on laboratory experiment in a science course or a video showing the correct way to change the oil on your car.

Analyze                Define                  Intervene

Instructional Design is often associated with pedagogy or “the process of teaching”, but the field is also associated with andragogy or adult learning theory, since many of the instruction is created for adult learners.

There are also different methods for which the instruction is given. For instance, student-only instruction is self-paced learning like the tutorials you can find on YouTube or are asked to complete by Human Resources via an online website. Another mode of instruction is Teacher-Led instruction. This is what most people associate with education- a traditional classroom experience. Finally, community-based instructional settings provide learners with an opportunity to conduct hands-on learning in a supervised environment. An example of this would be a Fire Department having its members extinguishing a controlled fire.

The main result of Instructional Design is the outcome. The outcome can be measured and assessed or other times the outcome is hidden and therefore, not so easily measured.

Instructional Designers typically follow a model for creating instruction. The most common design model, which is discussed in length here, is the ADDIE model. The ADDIE Model has five phases:

1)      Analyze – Determine the Needs and Outcomes

2)      Design– Plan the instruction

3)      Develop– Build the instruction

4)      Implement– Bring the instruction “to market” or give the instruction to the learners

5)      Evaluate– Determine the success of the instruction

Instructional Designers also work with different learning theories such as cognitivism, behaviorism, and constructivism. Each of these learning theories are discussed further in the post- Learning Theories.

The thing about instructional design (and audio editing and movie editing for that matter) is that you only notice it when it’s of poor quality. A good instruction will result in a change in the learner’s knowledge or skill with little notice of actually being taught.

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