How to do a flip (and not land on your face)

At Bett 2016 Technology in HE Summit, I attended a very interesting panel discussion where Zoe Swan, Senior Lecturer in Law from University of Greenwich, talked about introducing the flipped lecture approach in her lectures. It was really exciting and refreshing to hear that the flipped classroom approach can work across a range of disciplines, including the more traditional, ‘lecture-heavy’ ones. Continue reading “How to do a flip (and not land on your face)”

E-learning project management

Recently, I have come across this interesting video about e-learning project management. Although it has been created with e-learning professionals in commercial organisations in mind, it may also be applicable in educational organisations, such as universities. 

In the video, the author, Claudia Dornbusch, identifies 7 basic stages in an e-learning project development:

  1. Planning
  2. Content gathering and analysis
  3. Instructional design
  4. Storyboarding
  5. Development and production
  6. Quality assurance
  7. Integration and delivery
The planning stage involves identifying steps to be taken, responsible parties and due dates, among other things. 
During content analysis, we identify the existing content and any content gaps that need to be filled. Then the SME, or subject-matter expert, produces the content required. Typically, in the HE environment, the SME is at the same time the designer and developer, but it can be useful to think about these roles as separate. 
The instructional design stage is the one that matters most for a lecturer designing an online learning event for her students. This is when the goals and objectives are identified and the instructional strategy determined. Instructional strategy is how the content is going to be transformed into an engaging online experience. This is where we need to think about students’ motivation and the purpose behind the learning event.

Storyboarding consists in designing the layout for each page of the course. Depending on the type of content we design and the type of environment we are working in, this may already be partly determined by the VLE implemented at a given organisation. At the same time, even with a pre-established VLE layout in place, it is vital to consider the type and amount of information provided on each page or in each section of the learning event.

During development and production the actual online learning event is created.

Quality assurance is an important stage which should not be neglected. A learning event that is well-planned and well-executed increases learners’ levels of motivation and engagement.

During the integration and delivery the learning content is integrated with the existing learning environment, for example made available to learners in the VLE.

My experience as an educator within the HE context suggests that in actual practice several of the above stages happen simultaneously, given that many of the roles such as the PM, the SME, the developer etc. are performed by one individual. However, due to their different nature and function in the process, it may prove useful to think about them as separate steps that contribute to creating a stimulating online experience. 

What does it take to become an instructional designer?

What does it take to become an instructional designer? This is what other people have to say.

The Vignetted Training blog provides an interesting compilation of job descriptions in the area of e-learning instructional design, from a Project Champion and Leader via Creative Writers and Programme Designers to various more technical and programming-oriented roles. Experiencing e-Learning has got at least six articles on the topic, all of them worth perusing.

What seems important is the ability to combine effectively the knowledge of adult learning methodologies and familiarity with available learning technologies to create learning environments that actually facilitate learning, assessment and feedback. This is the reason why instructional design requires training and experience: it is not about introducing the latest e-learning tech fads but rather about carefully designing learning events to match learning objectives and learner needs and characteristics.

Ideal features of web/e-learning instructional designers are discussed in this article on The eLearning Coach blog (an expanded version is available here). In this context, it is very interesting to note that people working in instructional design come from a variety of professional backgrounds and very often do not have a degree in the field.

I tend to agree that while a degree may be of considerable help since it would normally provide strong background in cognitive science, teaching/learning methodologies and use of related technologies, what an instructional designer needs to have in the first place is a passion for learning. She needs to be motivated to make use of available resources to stay abreast of various new developments in the field and constantly develop her knowledge and skills.

The full list of traits and competencies of an e-learning instructional designer, as posted on The eLearning Coach, is as follows:

The successful instructional designer should:

  1. Conceptually and intuitively understand how people learn.
  2. Know how to connect with an audience on an emotional level.
  3. Be capable of imagining oneself as the learner/audience member.
  4. Be obsessed with learning everything.
  5. Brainstorm creative treatments and innovative instructional strategies.
  6. Visualize instructional graphics, the user interface, interactions and the finished product.
  7. Write effective copy, instructional text, audio scripts and video scripts.
  8. Meld minds with Subject Matter Experts and team members.
  9. Know the capabilities of eLearning development tools and software.
  10. Understand related fields—usability and experience design, information design, communications and new technologies.

So, how many boxes are we prepared to tick?