Instructional Design: Online and Face-to-Face Are Not So Different

On Monday, two of my annual online courses start. I’m also in the midst of designing websites for blended (a.k.a. hybrid) and web-enhanced courses that will begin in the fall semester. Every year I see the firewall between the traditional face-to-face classroom and the online environment disappear a little bit more. Now I’m recognizing that instructional design for online teaching is essentially the same as that for the traditional course.

Articulate.com (I have no financial interest in the company) has a great blog on effective instructional design for  e-learning. The blog has a ton of useful information, such as what we can learn from Post-It™ Notes. Everyone has had the experience of unbearably long training sessions that present reams of complex information in minute detail (academics excel at this). Once we return to our work space, we write the instructions that we really need on a cheat sheet or Post-It Note and stick it somewhere that’s easy to see. Sometimes the process has an intermediate step: stopping at a colleague’s office on the way back from the training session to ask, “how do I do this?”

Tom Kuhlmann, author of the Rapid E-Learning blog, recommends that we keep five simple principles in mind when creating any instructional activity:

  • Determine the objectives
  • Select the information that will help meet them
  • Organize it in a manner that makes sense to the learner
  • Create a learning experience for the learner to practice using it
  • Provide feedback to the learner

These principles lend themselves to course design according to a simple table: create a row for each activity students encounter in a course and five columns with these headings:

  • Learning Objective(s)
  • Assigned Content/Necessary Resources
  • Organization/Delivery Method
  • How Practiced or Applied?
  • Assessment and Feedback

If you can’t easily identify how an activity meets all five criteria, then it’s probably not as pedagogically useful as you initially assumed.

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