Development Timelines: Are They Real?

You ask how it feels to work on a professional timeline given that many corporate ID projects last three weeks. My first response was that I am glad I don’t work for a company that only gives me three weeks to complete a project. In my current role, a design project usually last six to eight weeks, which is consistent with the timeline of this course; however, the biggest difference is I don’t have to work alone, learn a new LMS, review other people’s work, and write blog post during the development process.  All of this takes extra time, which is making this project very stressful and I feel pressed for time.

Add to this pressure the that fact that I have to go to work everyday and write content for my employer and it is summer and there are lots of summertime distractions, like holidays and vacations, I would say that working to complete this project in the time allotted is very difficult. But difficult and impossible are two different things. I believe that this can be done and I anticipate delivering a quality final product. And the reality is, I already know that this does not exactly mirror the real world.

In many corporate jobs, there are teams of developers who work together to create training projects. For example, on my development team, we have a project manager who onboards the project, sets the timeline, estimates the level of effort, coordinates and tracks the activities, and reports progress to the stakeholders. We have a lead developer who conducts the needs analysis, develops the design blueprint, creates a design storyboard, and works closely with subject-matter experts. We have a multimedia developer who creates the images and interactive activities for the online content. And, we have supporting content developers who write content based on the lead developer’s design documents. There are editors who edit the content, and operations specialists who upload the content into the LSM and assign the training it to the learners. Even on the smallest project there will be a content developer, multimedia developer, editor, and operations specialists. So I am wondering if working independently on an all-inclusive project like the one for this course is typical in the real world, or do most instructional design developers work collaboratively.  Am I just lucky to work for a company with lots of resources?

As for this week’s revisions, I have not made many.  I am still creating the first draft of the content, much of it outside the LMS. I find it is easier to create content without the distraction of the LMS challenges. That way when I go to build each assignment in Canvas, all the content is complete I just have to figure out the logistics.

How Rough is Rough?

This week I continued to work on inputting course content in Canvas. Progress is slow, but I can already see that the effort put into the design document is paying off. The document keeps me honest and helps me ensure that I have adequately addressed the goals, objectives, purpose, problem, and assessment in the design. As for the learning theory, I naturally design content that follows the social constructivist learning theory and this should be evident to anyone familiar with this learning theory as they review the assignments in the course.

One of the challenges with this course is the fact that it is a pass/fail course. This makes assessment of learning using traditional methods like graded assignments challenging. There will be quizzes for each of the reading assignments for learners to self-assess their understanding; however, there are no rubrics for any of the other assignments. The way I plan to address this is through the use of confidence surveys. A pre-survey and a post-survey will be administered to the learners. This course is designed to be an enrichment course and the goal is for student to feel more prepared for college after taking the course than before.

What continues to make development slow is learning the LMS itself. I am not a fan of text-only content. I like to include images and other multimedia to make the training more engaging. I also like pages that are visually appealing so I tend to spend a lot of time trying to make sure things look good on the page. When I want to add a design element, I have to take time to learn how to do so in Canvas. This is time consuming and slows down the development process. What I need to do is learn to just put all the information in, and then go back and refine my draft. This is not only a challenge for this course, but for how I work in general.

So far, I have created the course, began entering information in the syllabus, created 16 weekly assignment pages. Outside of Canvas I have created most of the lessons ad handouts. My plan is to copy and paste the text into the assignments and attach documents, videos, and other supplemental material for each lesson. I have also started documenting information that I believe should be included in a facilitators guide so that instructors teaching the course for the first time will know how to navigate Canvas and what the expectations are for each assignment.

After reviewing the peer feedback, I can answer the question, “How rough is rough?” I would say very. I have a lot of work left to do with the biggest change being to continue working on the syllabus and making sure the it informs the students why this course is valuable, what they can expect to gain from taking the course, and what the expectations are to pass the course.

Lessons Learned During Design

Developing a course is of course the course of action I wish to take. But just like reading this sentence, even when each individual component is easy, putting the entire process together can be challenging; especially when there is a very tight timeline. I began the process by working on a design document that details the purpose and goals of the course and outlines how the course should be structured.

I have written several course design blueprints for my current employer and other courses. What I have learned is that each client has different expectations, so writing a design document can be different depending on who you are writing for. This can be frustrating at times because there is no “right” way or standard way to developing a design document. Based on the feedback I received in this course, my first draft of the design document was overkill in some areas and under developed in others.  Specific feedback included the following:

  • I outlined the course twice.
  • I used a confusing layout that made it difficult to clearly identify the goals and objectives,
  • My use of titles was confusing at times.
  • The assessment section was deficient.
  • There were spelling errors within the document.

In addition to learning how to improve my own design document, I was able to review a peer’s design document and learn from her as well. What I observed is that when creating content for oneself to deliver, there can be a tendency to provide less details about the purpose of the course because the developer knows what they intend and knows how to carry it out.

After completing the design document, I began developing my course in Canvas. This process is not easy. For me the first challenge is conceptualizing how to take the theory, goals, and intentions of the design document and create a visually engaging product that actually meets the learning objectives inside an LMS.

Why is developing in an LMS so difficult? There are many reasons. One of the primary reasons is that the developer has to first learn how to navigate and use the LMS tool itself. In my current role, I develop online course content in DreamWeaver and use a basic HTML editor to make modifications. I SCORM my content using a tool call Reload Jar and then I upload my content to a CMS. From there a training operations specialists adds it to our company’s LMS. I have very little knowledge of how to use the LMS other than to locate and review a course once it is published.

In this course, I have been tasked with using Canvas to develop and publish course content. I would rate my Canvas skills as basic at best. Therefore, as I add content, I often have to stop and locate how-to information for the feature I am trying to use. Thus far, I have learned how to create a new course, import content, update my file structure, add others to the course, create links, and add pages. The components that I have added so far are working and in the end I believe they will look good and function properly. I am looking forward to delivering the finished product.

What would I do differently next time? I would make sure to allow plenty of time to learn the LMS tool. I would create a sandbox and explore different features and functions within the tool. In Canvas, I am interested in learning how to incorporate the use of third-party tools to add some variety to future courses I may develop.  As far as difficulty creating future courses, I know that it will get easier and easier with each subsequent course I develop in Canvas. I can already see how understanding the LMS can influence the design document by  making it easier to visualize the course in the LMS as you write the design document.

Backward Design: A Novel Way to Design Training

Instructional design is the process of analyzing performance problems, then developing instructional products aimed at resolving the problem through skills development and knowledge transfer (Reiser, 2001a). Strategies to accomplish this goal are known as instructional design models. While there are several popular models, to chose from, I believe most developers have a favored model that the follow. Beginning in the 1960’s, a framework for thinking about instructional design began to germinate (Rieser, 2001b). One of the earliest, and most common models is ADDIE, even though Michael Molenda (2003) reported that he could not find an originating source for ADDIE, and believes it is simply a generic framework for the instructional design process in general. Since then, several other models have evolved. One of these is the backward design model.

The Backward design method was introduced by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe (2005) in their book Understanding by Design. This model has been used in the education, manufacturing, and medical fields (Bruce & Doherty, 2011), and is a three-step approach for planning instruction. During the first stage, the goal is to identify the desired outcomes. During the second stage, it is important to determine how you will know the students have achieved the desired results. Then, and only then, during the third stage, do you think about how the content will be delivered and plan instruction. According to Fox & Doherty (2011), the reason to use backward design is to shift the focus from a a specific instructional method to the learning objectives and to increase intentionality. They reason that traditional methods often fall short of solving performance problems because of the their tendency to focus on how the content can be delivered. Backward design overcomes the shortcoming by shifting the focus to the desired result and forcing the developer to be more intentional about the instructional methods used in a backward designed course.

Prior to this assignment, I had not heard of the backward design instructional method. What I like about the model is that it places the focus on what is most important, outcomes. Working in a business environment, I know how important it is to be able to show that training has made an impact toward improving performance and resolving problems. By starting with the objectives and outcomes in mind, I believe it is easier to backwards engineer a viable solution and to gain stakeholder buy-in for innovative ways to deliver training. The development team I work on recently began moving away from using ADDIE toward using SAM due to it SAM’s iterative nature. So these two models are the ones I am most familiar with. I do spend most of my time in the analysis phase trying to understand exactly what the stakeholders want and identify learning objectives, so in many ways I am primed to move toward the backward design approach. I have several training projects in my pipeline for the rest of the fiscal year and I am going to experiment with using the backward design approach on one of them. I am curious to discover how this differs from what I am already doing by heavily focusing on the A in ADDIE.

Although I plan to experiment with the Backward design approach, my intention is to still apply social constructivism theories to the actual design of the instructional methods and learning activities. The difference between an instructional design method and the learning theory is that the instructional design method provides you with a framework by which to approach the development of the training content, while a learning theory provides you with research-based concepts and methods for developing specific learning activities. In my experience, I have found that the focus of the instructional design method is the course developer and the focus of the learning theory is the learner. It is important to differentiate between the two only in terms of developer understanding. Stakeholders do not need to know, and in most cases that I have been involved with, don’t care about the instructional design method or learning theories. What they care about is what is included in the training, how will it be delivered, and how will the learning be evaluated.

Resources

Fox, B. E., & Doherty, J. J. (2011). Design to learn, learn to design: Using backward design for information literacy instruction. Communications in Information Literacy, 5(2), 144-155. Retrieved from https://libproxy.library.unt.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/

Molenda, M. (n.d.). In search of the elusive ADDIE model – molenda_03.pdf. Retrieved April 23, 2016, from http://iptde.boisestate.edu/filedepository.nsf/bf25ab0f47ba5dd785256499006b15a4/693b43c6386707fc872578150059c1f3/$file/molenda_03.pdf

Reiser, R. A. (2001). A history of instructional design and technology: part I: A history of instructional media. Educational Technology Research & Development, 49(1), 53–64. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02504506

Reiser, R. A. (2001). A history of instructional design and technology: part II: A history of instructional design. Educational Technology Research & Development, 49(2), 57–67. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02504928

 

The Art of Documenting Design

An important part of the instructional design process is to document your design plan. However, documenting the vision you have in your mind is not always easy. Your client, stakeholders, funders, and other interested parties need to see the vision in writing in order to determine if the proposed training meets their needs and addresses the specific problem being presented.  Additionally, the completed design document becomes the road map you use during development and keeps you honest throughout the process. It may also be used by other developers who may be contributing to the development of the course.

This week I set out to create a design document for a course designed to teach new college students success skills. My first thought was, “I got this. I am really familiar with the course content and I have designed online courses before so completing this assignment should be easy.”  The reality turned out much different. One of the first things I realized is that the design document format itself may need to change depending on your audience. As a graduate student in learning technologies, I have taken several courses that required me to create a design document. Each instructor has a slightly different expectation of what the design document should look like. Additionally, I work as a content developer and my employer has a different design document expectation than my instructors.  In this course, the instructor did not specify a specific format. He provided requirements for the document and left it to me to decide how to present the information. Without a specific guide, I struggled to determine which layout to use and which sections to include (beyond the stated requirements). As a result, I over delivered in some areas and under delivered in others.

My design document had some sections that were redundant. I was trying to hard and ended up saying the same thing in more than one way.  This is a waste of time and does not help others understand what you are trying to accomplish. I also used labels for some of the sections that were not explicit enough. For example instead of labeling the goals sections as Goals, I labeled it as Learning Outcomes. This was confusing for both the instructor and the peer reviewer. My take-a-way from this mistake is to just call a thing what it is and keep it simple.

Another area I under delivered on was the assessment and evaluation sections. I included a summary statement and after reviewing the feedback I received, I realized that I could have done a better job of providing more details. A real client or stakeholder want to know how they are going to be able to assess the return on investment. In other words, how are they going to know if the training does what it says it is going to do, and how are they going to know if the way it is presented to the learners is engaging and enhances learning or distracts from learning.

My final product was definitely better than my original draft. I would feel confident sending this design document to a paying client and I believe that they would be able to positively, and enthusiastically sign-off on the project. But, I can’t take full credit alone. The most important lesson I learned is that it is best to share often and share early.  Feedback from others helps identify gaps, mistakes, and opportunities for improvement that the original developer would otherwise not be aware of.

This Week’s Reflections on Instructional Design Articles

There is a lot of literature on various elements of instructional design, especially related to online learning. This week I reviewed three articles that each looked at instructional design from a different perspective. Regardless of how many times I design and develop training content, I always learn ways to improve the process and the product after reading what researchers have to say.

In their article, Lim, Morris, and Kupritz (2007), discuss the outcomes of a study conducted to see if learner perceptions and learning outcomes differed between blended and online courses. They found that there is a significant difference in the learner’s perception of the experience, with blended courses having higher favorability outcomes; however, there were no significant differences noted in learning outcomes. I have been promoting the idea of blended learning in the corporate environment I currently work in with little success. In some ways this article provided me with ammunition to further promote the idea by highlighting some of the pitfalls associated with 100% online learning. It also provided statistical data that shows an increase in learner satisfaction in blended courses. In other ways, this article left me feeling worried that since the ultimate goal of improving performance is not significantly impacted when training is delivered using blended methods, I will continue to have difficulty selling the idea to the decision makers in my organization. Given that this article was written a decade ago, I hope to discover that additional research has been done that shows a positive, quantifiable correlation between blended courses and job performance.

After reviewing an article by Savory and Duffy (1995), I was reminded of some basic principals of instructional design that quite frankly I don’t always follow. The principles provided in the article work well when creating content based on constructivist theories and values. One specific principle that stood out to me this time was the concept of giving the learner ownership of the process used to develop a solution.  According to the researchers, when you provide the solution, you are dictating or proceduralizing thinking. Currently, I am part of a development team tasked with teaching managers in a technical call center how to conduct root cause analysis to determine the underlying behaviors driving performance. The development team has developed a specific model and the goal is to teach managers how to use the model to accomplish the goal. After reading this article, it occurred to me that we are dictating how to conduct root cause analysis and expect all managers to mimic what is being taught in the course. Ultimately, this may negatively impact adoption and on-the-job-performance since managers motivation and sense of ownership in the process may be low. I sent my thoughts and concerns to the development team and I am looking forward to their responses. I don’t anticipate a change in direction, but I do hope that they will at least challenge their own thinking and keep this in mind for future trainings.

Student perceptions of the learning experience is another instructional design area I took at look at this week as part of my literature review. Picciano (2002), conducted a study where he attempted to understand issues that arise around presence, interaction, and performance in online learning. What he found is that the more interaction and sense of presence students perceive, the more favorable the students rate the learning experience. While there is not always a direct correlation to performance, there is evidence that students’ perceptions and students’ outcomes are linked in some ways. This  study focusses on a specific graduate course and the outcomes and details provided in this article will assist me as I look to convert a classroom-based course to a 100% online course for this class. I am going to remain very aware of how I am creating presence, belonging, and interactions within the course. I am going to be on the hunt for additional studies and resources that help me identify specific ways to accomplish this goal.

Resources

Lim, D. H., Morris, M. L., & Kupritz, V. W. (2007). Online vs. blended learning: Differences in instructional outcomes and learner satisfaction. Journal of       Asynchronous Learning Networks, 11(2), 27-42.

Picciano, A. G. (2002). Beyond student perceptions: Issues of interaction, presence, and performance in an online course. Journal of Asynchronous learning networks, 6(1), 21-40.

Savery, J. R., & Duffy, T. M. (1995). Problem based learning: An instructional model and its constructivist framework. Educational technology, 35(5), 31-38.

Technology-Based Learning Environments

As I continue my journey towards a Master’s degree in Learning Technology, I look forward to creating a training product that demonstrates my ability to integrate everything I have learned in the program thus far. This blog will be used to provide reflections and insights on readings, assignments, and lessons learned throughout the course.

Stay tuned for reflections to come….

Bringing Instructional Design To Life: Lessons from 5211

This course has been challenging and has definitely changed the way I approach a training project. Early learnings came from systematically going through several rounds of analysis and needs assessments with the client. Although I do some needs analysis in my current role, I was missing out on the opportunity to gather critical information early in the project. By implementing some of the analysis questions from the course text and by seeing what we missed between the analysis and the development phase with our client for this course, I now have a pre-prepared assessment tool that I am confident will yield better results on the job.

The other lesson I learned over the past several weeks is that you benefit by sharing often and early with the client. When we did meet with our client, she was very forthcoming, provided great input, and was able to answer questions we had about the process. The problem was we did not meet with her often enough nor did we share developed content until we were very near the end of the course.  I think our course would have been even better if we had time to incorporate the client’s refinement requests. As it is, our course is good and meets all the requirements, but it may be looking the corporate look and feel the client would have preferred.

The biggest take-a-way from this course for me is learning more about using an LCMS. In my current role 90% of the content I develop is online, self-directed training for managers. I create the courses in DreamWeaver using HTML, CSS, XML, and Java script. Although we have some templates available to us, the process of creating everything outside an LCMS is time consuming and it is easy to make mistakes that are hard to find. For example, today I had to go through lines and lines of code looking for one missing <tag> that was preventing one element in my module not to work. I finally found the error, but lost half a day. Working in Canvas has shown me the benefit of using an LCMS where you can use built-in widgets and WYSIWYG interface to create training content. I also like that in an LCMS you can repurpose content and you can create workflows to help guide developers through the development process.

All in all this has been a great course and worth all the time and effort it took to create the final project. I want to give a special acknowledgement to my peers in team Corporate. Without the help of Cheri and Greg, I would not have made it through this course. And that is another lesson learned. It is easier to collaborate on large training projects and leverage the strengths of each individual team member. In our case Greg was the Canvas guru, I was the organization and documentation queen, and Cheri became a great subject-matter-expert for one of the primary content areas.  Thanks team!

Dodging a Bullet: Lesson Learned

Over the past few weeks, the biggest lesson learned is the importance of identifying risks to the project during the analysis phase. After working on developing the course outline, my team discovered that the initial plan to create training to support internal processes at the client company had hit a roadblock. Several intellectual property a confidentiality constraints were going to prevent us fro accessing information and media we needed to fully develop the course content for our project. Our initial response was, “Oh we can’t develop two-thirds of the content, what do we do now.” After consulting with a tenured instructional designer and educator and brainstorming as a team, we landed on a solution that we felt met the needs of the client and the requirements of this project. Thankfully, when we presented the revised proposal to the client, she enthusiastically approved the new approach. The client decided to use our content as a pre-requisite for instructor-led workshops and stated that our course description actually exceeded her initial expectations. We dodged a big bullet, but in hindsight the stress and anxiety could have been avoided if we had thought about risks to the project earlier in the process. Lesson learned!

Speaking of learning, this week I took a learning styles inventory. The results are generally consistent with what I already know about myself. I am a interpersonal and interpersonal learner. While this may seem contradictory, it is in fact true. I am a person who is both introspective, needing to do things on my own and by myself, and relational, needing the energy and input of others to proceed.  There are aspects of learning that I accomplish better when I am in a quite place by myself. These tasks include writing, research, and any production related task. At the same time, there are things that I struggle with on my own and need the interaction and input from others to accomplish. These tasks include brainstorming, refining, and planning. The benefit of having these two learning styles is that I can easily adapt to just about any learning environment. Although it was not rated as high as the other learning styles, linguistic learning is was also indicated as a strong learning style on my assessment. I believe this is because of my early educational experiences. I went to parochial schools where the emphasis was on reading, linguistics, and writing. Whether this would have been a natural strength or not, I don’t know, but I do believe environment played a big part in the development of this learning style. Interestingly enough, I actually had a 0% rating in Naturalistic learning. I guess learning from nature is not something I have ever done. Overall, I believe there is some value to the individual in recognizing how they learn best. This empowers the individual to identify and create learning environments that are more likely to promote their individual success.

Learning Theory and Reflections

Learning theories help explain how researchers believe that humans acquire new knowledge and skills. One of the earliest learning theories is behaviorism. This theory suggests that learning occurs primarily through observation and response to environmental stimuli in the form of reward and punishment. The theory is based on observations and outcomes from research done by Pavlov and Skinner. In both cases the subjects (Pavlov’s dog and Skinner’s rat) learned new behaviors through conditioning. A good example of behaviorism in education is the use of positive and negative consequences when students are able to duplicate a task at the teacher’s direction.

In a classroom where behaviorism is practiced, a teacher may reward students who perform well with better grades and with praise. The parents of these students carry the reinforcement further by providing additional praise and possible monetary or other types of rewards. For students who perform poorly, the teacher provide corrective feedback and lower grades. With the expectation that students will work harder to avoid the negative consequence next time. Parents contribute to the negative reinforcement ideal by taking away privileges, providing criticism, and in some cases implementing other forms of punishment.

In reflecting on my own early childhood education, I did not experience anything other than behaviorism until the seventh grade. I attended private schools that utilized behaviorism strategies to accomplish the educational goals. Al of my teachers were directive and were quick to deliver punishment and praise based on my ability to carry out their instruction.

This I learned that even though there is lots of discussion about alternatives to behaviorism, when I look at the way my company evaluates training outcomes, it still seems to be rooted in behaviorism. We push training to learners, we force them to complete all of the activities in the lesson (even if the learner has prior knowledge), and we force then to take an exam and get a minimum passing score. This shows me that we have an opportunity to move beyond what has always been done in a standard educational setting and start looking for ways to help learners develop skills while maintaining a sense of agency and by interacting with each other.

Reflecting on past learning in this course, I was intrigued by the possibilities of the blended courses we read about in week four. At our company, we are starting to create more blended courses that use online content to supplement shorter instructor-led courses. We do this to reduce the amount of time learners have to spend away from the job and we also do it so that classroom activities can focus on practice and feedback rather than teaching the basics. I discovered trough week four’s assignment that discussing a blended approach is best done during the client needs assessment stage.

In week five, my biggest take-away is the importance of providing enough detail in the documentation you provide to the client. While you don’t want to overwhelm the client with the needs assessment or the project analysis worksheet, it is important to provide enough information for the client to fully understand the expected outcomes, and the time it will take to meet the client’s request. I spent a lot of time over the past few weeks updating project timelines, so I know first hand how important this information is not only for the client, but to keep myself on track as the developer. Especially since I am managing multiple development projects with close deadlines at the same time.