Sunday, September 27, 2009

3.0: Instructional design for online courses

A link on IT Forum pointed to "An Instructional Strategy Framework for Online Learning Environments [PDF]"available from the University of Southern Mississippi. The article is, apparently, from New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education 100, 2003, pp.31-43 (incidentally, I have two booklets in the series assoicated with my PhD studies relating to spirituality in higher education).

The article points out, quite correctly, that instructional design - well-established in distance education circles - must underpin e-learning design. The authors (Johnson & Aragon) also point out that the 'no significant difference' phenomena established by Thomas Russell cuts both ways; while e-learning and distance education have similar outcomes to on-campus education, there is no significant advantage to them (but note recent evidence Becta). This quote from the article is key:
The obvious conclusion from many studies in this field is that the technology used to support instruction has little impact on students’ attainment of educational outcomes. The primary factor in any instructional initiative, regardless of format or venue, is the quality of the instructional design that is ultimately implemented (2003, p.32).
I remember well when an e-learning colleague from another instution first discovered instructional design; [s]he recognised its importance straight away, even though it was a singnificant length of time after they became involved in e-learning!

Johnson & Aragon argue that effective e-learning practice begins with identifying and adopting "a philosophy of teraching and learning that is appropriate for online instruction", consisting of matching "their desired learning goals and instructional methods to the appropriate learning theories" (p.33). They suggest NOT becoming an avowed social constructivist, but rather a flexibel practitioner who is able to exploit whatever approach will meet the learning objectives.

Nice one.

Johnson & Aragon proceed to offer seven principles for "powerful online learning environments", as follows:
  1. Address individual differences.
  2. Motivate the student.
  3. Avoid information overload (follow 'The Rule of Seven').
  4. Create a real-life context.
  5. Eencourage social interaction.
  6. Provide hands-on activities.
  7. Encourage student reflection.
Grab the article and have a careful read. It's excellent.

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