Instructional Designers and Faculty Working Together to Design Learning Objects

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1 1 20th Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning click here -> Instructional Designers and Faculty Working Together to Design Learning Objects Elly M. Tantivivat University of Wisconsin Extension s Learning Innovations Susan Davis Allen Center for Learning Innovation at Southwest Wisconsin Technical College Designing and developing online learning is a rewarding process, but it can be quite challenging at the same time. Faculty are continually being presented with more tasks that consume their time. Given the increasing desire to offer online learning and to efficiently create the materials, it is important to look at the concept of learning objects and a collaborative way of creating them. Faculty can collaborate with instructional designers to not only help improve the use of their time in the process, but to ensure that materials are created are continually improving and are a source of interesting and motivating learning opportunities for the learners. The following addresses the strengths that the faculty and instructional designer both bring to the process of creating learning objects. It highlights the collaborative process the two can work through to capitalize on these strengths. The information provided is based on the experience working on a FIPSE grant An Investigation of the Pedagogical and Economic Effectiveness of Sharable Content Objects, Using Standards, in Online Instruction. The project involves the creation of learning objects around the main concept of teaching instructors how to teach online. The content for the project is being designed by 12 faculty developers and one instructional designer and will be developed by a team including a graphic designer, editor, technical support person, and project managers. Creation of Learning Objects versus Entire Courses Many faculty are familiar with the development of an entire course, whether it be for the classroom or online. This is a task they have been successfully practicing since they started teaching. When asked to create a learning object, faculty are being asked to look at their material in a new way. Some faculty may find it challenging to develop at this smaller level. In order for the learning object to be sharable and follow SCORM standards, there are a number of things to consider. The most prominent issues that were faced when developing materials for this project include: The content must stand alone and require no outside resources. The learner cannot be referred to previous lessons. Specific sections of a textbook cannot be referenced. Links to outside Web resources are not available. All of the material one needs to successfully achieve the learning outcomes must be present within the learning object itself. A complete learning outcome must be achieved. The learner must be presented with materials to meet an objective. The learning object must contain information, practice opportunities and assessment mechanisms to ensure that the learner has achieved the desired outcome. The big picture may change. Since the learning object is designed to be sharable and reusable, the big picture will change. When developing the learner object one has to consider that the material may be used in a different context. Keeping this in mind can help one develop material that can more easily be used y others. In addition to the context, the audience can be unknown. While the content may be

2 2 20th Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning click here -> designed for a target learner, that actual learner is unknown. It is especially important in this case to be aware of accessibility and diversity so the material is inclusive of more potential learners. These are just some of the differences that are faced by faculty when developing a learning object versus an entire course. That is why the collaborative process of working with an instructional designer can have a significant impact on the project and overcome these new challenges. The instructional designer will bring different strengths to the project than that of the faculty and together they can more easily meet the needs of the learners. Strengths of the Two Different Roles: Instructional Designers and Faculty An obvious role of the faculty is that of subject matter expert (SME.) However, the faculty role in the creation of online learning materials goes beyond that of SME. The faculty brings the following strengths to the process: Expert on the subject Faculty have in-depth knowledge of the subject matter around which the material is being created. That knowledge may come from advanced education in the field or real world experience directly involving the material or a combination of the two. However that knowledge is gained, the faculty serves as the authority on the subject. The faculty has access to other references on the subject and has often developed a collection of resources that will be used as sources for creating rich content for the learning objects. Understanding of the relevance of the subject matter Most faculty have taught the material before, worked closely with those teaching the material, or conducted research to continually gain knowledge in the area. They have a strong understanding of the material in a way someone less connected to the material would have. The faculty can provide appropriate connection between the material and current events, real-world situations, and research. This relevance is important to increase student motivation and understanding. In addition, the faculty can determine if learning interactions focus on the most relevant parts of the content. Lessons learned from teaching the materials in a classroom setting Along with strong knowledge in the subject, faculty bring years of experience of teaching the material. Classroom experience is a valuable asset when moving to an online setting. Those techniques that were successful in teaching students face-to-face may be applicable online if converted appropriately. Likewise, understanding what did not work in the classroom will allow the faculty to avoid recreating that same unsuccessful situation online. Knowledge of appropriate pedagogies for teaching the subject Faculty have years of experience of determining what their learners need to know and creating appropriate assessments to know when learners have arrived. They also must plan strategies for how they will learn the material. Knowing what works when teaching a particular subject is just as valuable online as it is in the classroom. Some materials require reading and research for the learner to understand the concepts while others lend better to simulation and practice activities. Faculty are aware of the appropriate techniques for the subject and also understand when learning tools such as metaphors and case studies are most helpful to the learner in that subject. Instructional designers do not need to have any familiarity with the subject matter to be a strong part of the collaboration in designing learning objects. The role of the instructional designer can vary depending

3 3 20th Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning click here -> on the type of project, size of the team developing the material, and needs of the faculty with whom they are collaborating and can include the following: Experience with a wide variety of subjects Instructional designers may have fields that they find particular interesting, but generally, they can adapt to work in any field such as engineering, art history, or nursing. This experience in a wide variety of subjects allows them to bring ideas to a particular field that may not be used traditionally. This experience also allows the instructional designer to help translate materials that may be more technical or very in-depth content into a format that may be suited to a greater variety of learners. Technical skills and/or knowledge Online learning comes with a variety of technical challenges. Some instructional designers have first-hand experience in the technical creation of online learning materials and those that don t have a thorough understanding of what the programmers and developers do in the creation process. This allows the instructional designer to understand the possibilities, realistically design activities and help adapt materials as programming requires. The instructional designer can also serve to bridge the gap between the technology and the faculty who may have less experience with computers but will be teaching online. Understanding of the needs of an online learner Instructional designers focus on the needs of the learner and finding ways for the learner to have as meaningful an experience online as they would find in the classroom. An instructional designer looks at faculty-provided material through the eyes of the learner. This viewpoint helps to ensure that all elements are present for the learner to have a successful experience including appropriate instructions, meaningful collaborative activities, and thorough content. Design skills As indicated by the title, instructional designers obviously have design skills, but design can include a wide range of aspects. Design primarily means design of learning activities. Learning activities include providing ways for the learner to practice the material and methods of assessment. In addition, instructional designers design the way the content is presented, helping to determine appropriate amounts of information on a screen, if the learner will be given the information or if they will explore and discover it, and what media is used. In addition, some instructional designers have experience with visual/graphic design and can make decisions about color, buttons, and other interface elements. Joining Forces to Overcome Challenges of Creating Learning Objects Combining the strengths or the instructional designer and the faculty into a collaborative effort for the creation of learning objects can help to overcome the challenges of creating learning objects. While each faculty and instructional designer team will approach the process differently, a similar balance between the roles will likely take place and will positively impact the end product. A Picture Is Worth a 1,000 Words While the faculty can provide rich content, for a short lesson, or learning object, to be effective, it has to grab the learner s attention quickly. Since instructional designers have experience with a wide variety of subjects, they can bring graphics or layouts from other instructional areas to replace words and enhance learning. In addition, the instructional designers can provide strong web-based presentation techniques

4 4 20th Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning click here -> that will focus the learner s attention on the content and not cause frustration or distraction from the technology. Sees the Forest and the Trees When putting material online, it is extremely important to thoroughly explain what the learner will learn, how they will learn it and what criteria will be used to measure the learning. The learner needs to see both the big picture and all of the steps to get there. Because instructional designers look at the learning object through the eyes of the learner, they can see where additional information, instructions, or steps might be needed to enhance the learner s understanding of the material. Inspire Learners to Take Charge of Their Learning In order for online learning to be truly effective, it has to be interactive. Instructional designers can take faculty-rich content and design strategies that inspire involvement with the content. They may see approaches that were not considered or thought to be outside the realm of possibility by the faculty and incorporate them into the online format. In so doing, they help to bring the content to life. Summary Faculty have been designing what learners will learn, how well they have to learn it, and how they will learn it in the classroom. They usually have a semester to accomplish this. In an online learning object, faculty can still determine what the learner will learn and how well they have to learn it. The Instructional Designer can help faculty develop the how they will learn it so learners have both a meaningful application and an interactive environment. Bibliographic Sketches Elly M. Tantivivat is an instructional designer and course developer at the University of Wisconsin Extension s Learning Innovations (UWLI.) With a background in multimedia, Elly is able to use technology in a creative way to design interactive activities for both higher education ad corporate training including a wide range of subject matter such as economics, OSHA, and customer service. She is also very active in the creation of learning objects and reusable components for online learning. Prior to joining UWLI, she was a member of a team of developers for the UW-Madison Medical School, Pathology Department that developed educational CD-ROMs. Address: University of Wisconsin Extension s Learning Innovations 505 South Rosa Road, Suite 200 Madison, WI Phone: Susan Davis Allen is a faculty member and the Facilitator of the Center for Learning Innovation at Southwest Wisconsin Technical College. She coordinates online learning at her College and coaches teachers who teach online. She developed a student orientation to online learning that has been used as a model for other technical colleges in Wisconsin. Susan has been teaching for over 25 years and has authored curriculum for both state and national organizations. Prior to coming to Wisconsin, Susan was a faculty member in the College of Home Economics at Kansas State University.

5 5 20th Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning click here -> Address: Phone: Center for Learning Innovation Southwest Wisconsin Technical College 1800 Bronson Boulevard Fennimore, WI X2322

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