Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Design a Course in 60 minutes! - Part I

Well, I realize that it has been over a year since I last posted ... shame on me! Being busy is still the reason that I have neglected to post anything of substance. I digress.

Recently, I presented two workshops at a conference for educators. The League for Innovation in the Community College - Conference on Information Technology was held in Nashville. The workshop title, the same as this posting, was intended to introduce participants to a rapid course development approach being used here at San Juan College.

The Pedagogy
As simple as this sounds, our pedagogical approach is that "learning occurs when information is presented and interactions are facilitated." While this is does not address the issue of learner motivation, it is certainly a foundation for ALL instructional design.

Stated another way, learning happens when someone presents new information and provides an experience which includes interaction (activities). For example, the learning objective is "to understand hydrostatic pressure." You can achieve this in a variety of ways, but remember - interaction continues until the information is learned (understood). So lectures and discussions and testing fit this approach. Why? Lectures typically include the giving of new information. Discussions allow learners to actively/passively participate in the clarification of that new information. Testing is a common tool for measuring the retention (memory) of that new information.

This does not mean that everyone will learn, but learning never takes place without these elements. So, consider this the least common denominators of learning. Now we can proceed to the Instructional Design model.

The Model
Taking the minimalist approach, we have identified the common characteristics of all good instruction. Every course should include three types of information - we call this the SWC Model. The model represents a) what every learner SHOULD know; b) what every learner WILL know; and c) what every learner CAN know.

what every learner SHOULD know ...
Every course has a section for information which is intended to orient the learner to the specific course. These include a syllabus, learning objectives, dates and deadlines, expectations, information about the instructor, plug-in/hardware requirements, and FAQ's. This list represents the types of information that will help the learner get acclimated to specific course.

what every learner WILL know ...
This is controversial, but I will share it anyway. When learners are paying money for a service/product, they should receive some identifiable returns. Assume that the learners enter the course with different levels of knowledge, but that the aim has to be to provide a certain level of knowledge upon exit or completion from the course. Or, we could say, every learner will understand a minimum amount of information which is typically required for them to continue their studies of the target subject.

This impacts the instructional design by focusing on less content over all and more on activities to understand and demonstrate an understanding of this information. If they do not learn what is considered essential, they will not likely succeed at learning the next level of knowledge. How often have you heard faculty complain that their students were not ready to learn at the target level of the current course. Students required refreshers or remediation? Why should this ever happen?

what every learner CAN know ...

This is my favorite section, because this allows the course to include a treasure chest of extra stuff that is not required, but available to keep the learner interested in the subject area. When they have "free time" they can explore and dig as deep as they like to learn more about what interests them. When working with passionate Subject Matter Experts, this is where the majority of their content resides. There is no limit to what can be included, because it is not required learning.

The SWC Model allows for the creation of challenging and engaging courses, while setting realistic expectations for "graded" studies. Imagine the empowerment of EVERY learner when they realize that they learned the required content. Imagine the excitement of those exceptional learners who were able to learn (without the pressure) more details, read at higher levels, and dig down infinitely into a topic that they enjoyed.

so, what then? My next posting will discuss how to use an open source course development tool to create a course in 60 minutes.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

JAWS - a portal with a "bite"

While searching for a new portal to deploy 0n the IDOLez site, I discovered the Jaws Project ... clean, crisp and easy to setup. This nifty package includes everything that you would want - Blog, Photo Manager, Banners, Blocks, Emblems, Chatbox, Friends URL List, FAQ, Glossary, Menu, Polling, RSS display for other feeds, Weather, and Webcam.

The fact that this system is Open Source is only does not mean that the interface is dull and uninviting. Look forward to an increase use of Jaws and a surge in theme development.


Friday, October 20, 2006

All about learning ...

Suprise, suprise - instructional design is primarily concerned with learning. This evasive quantity that can be observed and measured.  Personally, I am interested and devoted to online learning. Using portable and mobile technology to deliver content and facilitate a wide range of interactions. Wait! This is the same in the classroom, isn't it?

For the past 15 years I have listened to this argument between face-to-face educators and those that elected to broaden their teaching style and incorporate instructional technologies and an online delivery system. So, here we are in 2006 and we have come around full-circle.

ALL educators want to be the best they can be!
If you teach, it certainly isn't for the pay. There has to be something intrinsically rewarding about helping people learn. This being said, then instructional designers should capitalize on the desire of educators to improve their art.

ALL educators NEED more time!
The number one reason most educators don't try something new is that the time needed to learn the innovation is usually not equal to the results produced. Therefore, it is necessary that understanding existing skill sets and introducing technologies that can be exploited to produce banks of time is essential.

ALL educators want their students to perform better!
Have you ever heard an educator complain about their students being too smart or scoring too high. In higher education, faculty distribute a syllabus at the start of each academic term. This syllabus is a contract that stipulates the behavioral expectations for optimal performance.  Logic dictates that this agreement implies that optimal performance is reasonable and obtainable by everyone in the course.

The truth is ... many educators are discouraged and fatigued, but continue because they have made a commitment. Additionally, time is a resource that many educators will squander because they lack any true method for creating more. Add to the mix the pressure put on educators by administration to keep optimal performance within the limits of a bell shaped curve.

Something has to give. Instructional designers are capable of addressing these by identifying appropriate and individualized solutions for their customers (faculty). Stay tuned to this blog and I will show you how.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Pinger Messages

You have a cell phone, plenty of minutes, but your best friend doesn't ... what do you do?

You would rather send a voice message to a distribution list than a lengthy email. Besides, you can communicate more with emotion and articulation than through words alone ... what do you do?

Thanks to Robin Good and his weekly Sharewood Picnic #68, I have found a great solution. The service is called Pinger. Here is how it works -

Create a free account
(you must have a cell phone number that can accept a confirmation text message)

Add your contacts
(it is a good idea to do this manually, listing their first and last names and their email address)

Call the nearest number
(this number is assigned to you based on your location)

Speak the name of the contact
(both first and last name are required, as they entered in your contact list)

Record your message after beep
(when done recording, you can press 1 to send, 2 to play, or 3 to re-record)

After you hit send, the email with the audio (voice) message is sent to and you are finished.

One special feature is that you can also create a distribution list from your contact list. For example, I report to two individuals at work - I have both of them saved as a distribution list. So, what I say to one the other will also hear.



Friday, September 22, 2006


Here I am in the Four Corners area - living and working in Farmington, New Mexico. Recently I created a show called the IDOL Master on Blog Talk Radio. IDOL stands for Instructional Design for Online Learning. The focus is on existing and emerging technologies for teaching and learning online. Online is just another inclusive reference to the Interent, mobile and wireless information delivery systems.

The plan is to have a weekly segment targeting those in the K-16+ arena. Feel free to comment and join in the LIVE broadcast by calling in.