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.

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