Estimating the Professional Timeline

For this week’s blog post, my classmates and I need to respond to the following prompt: Given that many standard corporate ID projects last about 3 weeks and this is week 8 of the session, how do you feel about working on a professional timeline?

The major project for CECS 5510 is building a 45-hour online course in Canvas. This could be a 40-hour (1 week long) corporate training online course, a 40-45 hour six-week K-12 online course, etc. I chose to create a 45 hour six-week online course for ninth-grade students, focusing on Fahrenheit 451 and the Reading Standards for Literature from the Common Core State Standards. So far, it has taken me one hour to build approximately one and a half hours of course content; in other words, it takes me one hour to create a day’s assignments for the course (that would take students approximately one and a half hours to complete) along with accompanying instructions for the assignments in an instructor’s guide. If this task were for a full-time job, I should be able to complete this same project in approximately two weeks (this includes all steps in the ADDIE process, not just the development aspect). As a result, the typical 3-week professional timeline is definitely doable in this scenario.

However, I believe the professional timeline varies depending on how much the instructional designer already knows about the course subject. Because I was an English major in my undergraduate studies and a K-12 writer and editor for six years, I am already a subject matter expert on my course’s subject. If I had no knowledge about the course’s subject at all, I would need at least a week to study the subject myself. This was the case for the project assignment in CECS 5210. For that course, I built an online course on lens options for an optometric practice, and I had to spend a large majority of the instructional design time studying lens options. I would say that the research step is the most integral and most demanding part of the instructional design process. It ensures the accuracy of the course’s content so that the construction of knowledge can take place, and oftentimes, a lot must be learned in a short period of time. The more complex the subject material, the longer the professional timeline.

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Instructional Design

I’ve been practicing instructional design for my entire professional career; I just didn’t realize it. As a teacher, I had to analyze the situation each day, design and develop a lesson, implement it, and then evaluate the lesson. The next day would depend on whether the goals were met the previous day. As a writer and editor for educational publishing companies, I did pretty much the same thing, but I wasn’t able to analyze the learners and their needs as effectively since the products were intended for a general audience. The companies that I worked for did not implement an evaluation process either, so I did not really have the opportunity to determine whether the instructional materials I created were effective, how they could be improved, which methodologies actually worked, etc.

The lack of analysis and evaluation felt wrong to me and led me to search for more meaningful work. I felt that it was more about the quantity rather the quality, what could sell instead of what actually worked. During my job search, I came across several job postings wanting instructional designers. The work sounded exactly like what I was doing as a writer and editor for an educational publishing company but with the analysis and evaluation processes incorporated.

As a test to see whether this field was for me, I read Julie Dirksen’s book, Design for How People Learn, and that’s what cinched it: I wanted to be an instructional designer. The field involves everything I love to do: writing, editing, designing with technology, learning, and teaching. And it places great emphasis on effective design practices and learning methodologies. Ever since then, I’ve been on a wonderful educational journey, learning more about those effective design practices and learning methodologies, the research that supports it all.

I’ve been able to learn more about what I’ve been doing right and wrong all these years and why. I’ve been able to meet with several subject matter experts, learn what they know, and then spread their knowledge with successful applications of instructional design. The entire analysis, design, development, implementation, evaluation cycle is a lot more time-consuming than the design projects I performed early on in my career, but in the long run, I know it is still worth it, because what I am doing ensures that the instruction will actually work and be used more often. Instructional design is a fascinating field that will continue to grow as more and more organizations realize how much time and money effective instructional design saves. I am excited about its future and my future in it.

Analysis/Design

My analysis of my client, his training needs, and his learners’ needs have been enlightening. A visit with the client allowed me to learn about the history of the business, the learners, the learning environment, and the problems they are experiencing. Based on what we discussed, we agreed that this design project should focus on helping the business improve optical sales, which are currently down due to a lack of familiarity with lens options. There are several different lens options, each having its pros and cons. Remembering all of the information and then being able to match specific options with individual customer profiles is a challenge. I’m planning on improving existing job aids and creating an online training module to allow learners more practice with lens options information.

In brainstorming about which activities to include in the design of the lesson, I used Cathy Moore’s action mapping process. I began with the business goal:  to increase optical sales by ten to fifteen percent. Then I asked, “What do the learners need to do to meet this goal?” To increase sales, the learners must select the appropriate lens options based on a customer’s prescriptions, preferences, and daily activities and communicate the appropriate lens options based on the customer’s personality type.

According to the action mapping process, the next step is to design practice activities to go with each action. Therefore, I will be writing mini-scenarios, where learners will be able to practice applying lens options information to realistic situations requiring them to select and communicate appropriate lens options. Learners will have access to the actual job aids they will have access to in real occurrences, and the job aids will have the necessary information they need to succeed.

Analysis and design are interrelated. Although I am in the analysis phase, I am already envisioning the design process and how I can implement what I am imagining will solve the issues of my client. The design process cannot happen without an analysis, and an analysis is worthless without the design process. In designing the training, I may even realize that I need further analysis. As Piskurich (2006) states in Rapid Instructional Design, the instructional design process is “like a web with all of the aspects interconnected and leading to parts of each other” (xvii). The Information R/Evolution video describes the interconnectivity of the web well. Just as digital information is linked as a web, so is each phase of the instruction design process.

Piskurich, G. M. (2006). Rapid instructional design: Learning ID fast and right (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

Personal Theory of Learning

I agree with Driscoll’s (2002) perspective on how learning takes place. Learning takes place by using context. In other words, learners take what they see and combine it with what they already know in order to draw conclusions. Without the appropriate context, it is difficult for a learner to learn a new concept. For example, a student can begin to grasp the meaning of a new word when given a definition, but understanding really takes place when he or she sees how the word is actually used in context (e.g., in an actual sentence).  Learning also takes place by doing. Learners can read about how to tie a shoe and can be shown how to tie a shoe, but they won’t learn how to tie a shoe unless they actually try doing it. Learning takes place as a community. Knowledge cannot spread unless it is shared. Whether it’s through a teacher, a parent, a peer, or a book (written by an expert), we all learn together as a human race, by communicating and giving and receiving feedback. Finally, learning takes place through reflection. After all, information must be held in short-term memory in order for it to make it into long-term memory. Reflection allows a learner to take new information (e.g., in the form of feedback) and revise current perceptions of a new concept if needed.

Based on this knowledge of how learning takes place, the best way for someone to teach is to apply instructional design using “the tried-and-true five-component design model of analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation” (Piskurich, 2006, p. xvii). The components do not have to be applied in that exact order and can be applied cyclically with different iterations as needed.  At some point (or certain points), however, a good teacher will analyze the situation (taking into account the student(s), the content, and the objectives), design and develop the instruction by selecting the appropriate instructional methods and tools based on the analysis, implement the instruction, and then evaluate the instruction to determine whether reanalysis, redesign, and reimplementation are necessary in order for successful learning to take place.

Because there are so many different types of learners and so many different things to learn, I cannot say that only one learning theory fits my world view. As Leidner and Jarvenpaa (1995) state, “No particular model is the best approach; indeed, different learning approaches will be appropriate depending on the circumstances—course content, student experience, maturity, intelligence, and instructor goals, skills, and preferences, among others” (p. 271). Ertmer and Newby also agree. In their article on behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism, they state, “We believe that the critical question instructional designers must ask is not ‘Which is the best theory’ but ‘Which theory is the most effective in fostering mastery of specific tasks by specific learners?’” (Ertmer & Newby, 1993, p. 69). For example, behaviorism is useful when dealing with novice learners and content involving basic facts. Constructivism is best for advanced learners and tasks requiring exploratory problem-solving.

References

Driscoll, M. P. (2002). How people learn (and what technology might have to do with it). ERIC Clearinghouse on Information and Technology Syracuse NY, September 7, 2014.

Ertmer, P., & Newby, T. J. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), 50-71.

Leidner, D. E., & Jarvenpaa, S. L. (1995). The use of information technology to enhance management school education: A theoretical view. MIS Quarterly, 19(3), 265-291.

Piskurich, G. M. (2006). Rapid instructional design: Learning ID fast and right (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.