Principles and Practices of Online Course Creation and Instructional Design

It is confirmed that I will be teaching an online class in the Fall at New York University: Principles and Practices of Online Course Creation and Instructional Design.

The course description:

Designed as an introduction for faculty, trainers, and other instructors, this course prepares you to develop and teach online courses. Topics include the application of learning theory to online instruction, online course content development, and strategies for effective online curriculum planning and delivery. Learn how to define the characteristics and needs of adult distance learners; effective ways to meet these needs through online instruction; and the differences between online courses and traditional courses with respect to class participation, interaction, course materials, and instructor involvement. Reinforce your skills with the design and delivery of an instructional unit.

While the course is online, we are requiring a synchronous weekly attendance for it, though I am planning to record the sessions. The dates for the live sessions are 9/23, 9/30, 10/7, 10/14, 10/21, 10/28, 11/4, 11/11, 11/18, and 11/25. The time will be from 6:30 PM 8:00 PM EST.

I am excited to be using the new Epsilen platform, that NYU SCPS just purchased and is planning to use for their expanded online offerings.

I have been speaking with colleagues all over the Web about this class, and am interested in any and all suggestions and words of wisdom for this (as well as resource suggestions!).

What I Hope to Improve as a Learning Professional

The Big Question - Instructional DesignI really like the ASTD Learning Circuits  Big Question this month, which is “What would you like to do better as a Learning Professional?”

This hearkens me back to a blog post I wrote yesterday, Whose Objectives Are They, Anyway? I want have better conversations, discussions, buy-in, and agreement of learning objectives between learner and instructional designer / trainer / instructor within higher education. 

The current system of instructional designer designing objectives based on a needs analysis that often does not acknowledge direct input from the learners does not respect the experiences and freedom of an adult population. While I follow the ADDIE process in everything I do, as a higher education instructor I create the objectives based on university expectations and often give them to the students without their input and buy-in. Common for higher education, but unaccaptable for adult education that seeks to acknowledge the active role of the learner in the learning process.

So, what do I hope to improve? Collaborative agreement on learning objectives within higher education.

Whose Objectives Are They, Anyway?

I am an instructional designer. With quite a bit of education in the area of how adults learn, there is one thing that overshadows everything I do that involves education, human resource development, organizational communication, and the consulting work I do–What needs and expectations do learners have that education and communication try to meet? In other words, when I write learning objectives, they are just that–my objectives . . . and not the learner’s. I would set my classes up for failure if I did not acknowledge this very clear, but often overlooked, fact. The learners come with their own expectations and personal objectives, and for me to ignore them and insist on their fulfilling my objectives for them is just silly. Let’s face it, how can I realistically evaluate how well people meet objectives I am forcing them to accept and work toward?

Of course, that is what instructional design is all about–setting objectives to meet organizational needs.

No, we can not and should not get rid of objectives, because without them we lack some direction at all. I am only concerned when the unspoken, namely whose objectives are they, anyway? is ignored.

I have been thinking about this since I attended a session last night in the New Media Consortium’s (NMC) Symposium on Mashups. The presenter of the final session, Brian Lamb (a distant colleague whom I have met briefly twice at Northern Voice and who is a most dynamic presenter), facilitated an experience entitled “Confessions of a Mashup Un-Artist.” It was described as:

The creative side of mashups results in interesting and often popular-to-the-point-of-viral works, but at the same time, it raises questions about the nature of originality, authorship, and context. In this session, a mashup un-artist will discuss the process and products of his work, address some of the questions raised above, and discuss the relationship between remix culture and open education. Is originality overrated? Do we owe it to the intellectual environment to recycle our intellectual work? Is our existing concept of authorship still valid? Come along for the ride and contribute, collaborate, and mash up answers to these mashup questions. I attended this live in Second Life (where I am a newbie named Chartres Loire) and live in Adobe Connect (a great platform, BTW). There were video clips, music clips, avatar dancing, and various sounds. The session met the description, but nevertheless I was confused. Frustrated. Unclear as to the objectives. Grasping to “get it.” Looking for applicability. Struggling for meaning. I was that student who felt (s)he were the only one confused and not “getting it.”

I processed this a lot with some colleagues on Twitter last night, and it still seemed that I was the only one (of those who replied to me) who did not “get it.” Feeling completely isolated after this learning experience, I again started to think about learning objectives. Were Brian’s objectives the same as mine? More likely than not, the answer is no. How could they be–we did not discuss them (which is normal in most learning and presentation settings). I think I did not “get the session” for the simple reason that my objectives were not met. What were they? My objectives for the session were:

  1. understand what a mashup un-artist is
  2. apply this knowledge to my practice

After the session and after the Twitter discussion, I am still unclear as to what Brian was trying to demonstrate and I am still not able to figure out how to apply it. At least many of my colleagues seemed to respond positively and appreciate it.

While writing helps me to process my thinking (the entire purpose for my blog itself), I could only make sense of the experience when I finally realized my objectives were not met. This does not mean that other people had the same or different experiences, but I believe it does demonstrate how acknowledging individual (and thus different) learning objectives is so important in the learning process.

I think I still need to process this a little more, but want to share where I am right now.

Project Management for Training

I am teaching a new class that begins next week — Project Management for Training. The course description is listed as:

Whether you’re conducting a single training session for a small audience or multiple sessions for a large group, a training program–like a project in any other discipline–must have an effective plan to guide and track progress. This class provides you with a planning process and teaches you techniques to prepare and deliver training projects consistently and effectively. Focusing on logistics, rationale, scope, timescales, risk management, and budget, you acquire the skills to communicate with the training project’s stakeholders to ensure optimum performance.

I am looking forward to teaching this class, as I am able to bring my skills as a senior instructional designer (my full-time title) and project management (what I primarily do right now) and merge them with my expertise in adult education and human resource development (two of my graduate degrees).

After working in this field for some time now, this this seems to be my life recently . . .

project management

I am interested in seeing if anybody has any useful references or websites they want to share, as well as any stories about how they have seen project management brought into the training function. Any thoughts?

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Instructional Design – Where Is It Today?

The Big Question - Instructional DesignThe Learning Circuits Blog, an online forum from Learning Circuits / ASTD, recently began a discussion about the role of instructional designers and when / how they should enter projects. They asked their monthly Big Question:

For a given project, how do you determine if, when and how much an instructional designer and instructional design is needed?

I have been an instructional designer (or rather, a Sr. Instructional Designer, thank you), for a number of years, and am not interested in explaining what the field is all about beyond stating that instructional designers systematically determine learning needs and create learning interventions to meet them (my definition). This is a broad definition because there are such a variety of learning needs within different organizations. I do not formally create eLearning in my organization because we have a department that serves that function; my time is spent doing more internal consulting and project management of the learning initiatives than anything else.

My internal consulting is somewhat Socratic, and is intended to save everybody time later on as well as clearly understand what expectations are upon me if I take the project:

  • Why do you believe you need that training?
  • How have you determined those people need to learn that?
  • In what ways will the budget and person-power be used to evaluate the program as you are describing?

My project management of the learning initiatives is all around managing the steps in the instructional design process as they are worked on by a team. I often work with technical health content, and rather than expect me to be proficient in a field where I am not formally trained and certified, I work with experts who I move through the project and help them remain focused on the goals.

I have been following the discussions raised by the Learning Circuits blog with great interest. Cammy Bean’s blog, Learning Visions, really sparked my interest as she discussed many shades in instructional design. Yes, as she mentioned, I do create classes and specific training materials and methods at times, but that is a narrow view of the scope of my abilities (partly due to my fascination with so many items in and around organizational learning and culture). My organization prefers for me to use my skills and experiences and education to influence evidence-based learning design on a project level.

As a project manager, I always focus on meeting the needs of the end-user, rather than just the check-off list of tasks and deliverables. This is my way of responding to Tony Karrer’s discussion about the models–they are all fine, but they all fit within larger projects (that in turn fit within departmental goals toward meeting organizational strategic objectives which fulfill the vision and mission).

So where is instructional design today? I think of this within the context of the elevator speech I use to answer the question “What do you do as an instructional designer?”:

I am an instructional designer. I am an internal learning consultant who manages educational projects.

The rest of the world does not need to know how I do it with this or that model. All they care about is that the project to teach X to learn Y is done and now we have more learning that positively impacts our meeting of our organizational objectives.

Self-Definition

Aidan Henry recently wrote about how he wanted to learn more about his readers, and I have been thinking about how interesting this idea is. Now, I am not going to pretend I have a lot of readers, and while I do not really track my blogging stats, I do want to use this to partially share something about me right now, especially as I just celebrated my first anniversary of this blog.

Back then, I wrote:

I think silence and voice are elusive concepts that are so intertwined they cannot be seen independently. Silence means others can have a voice, and to have one’s voice means another is silenced.

Is it this simple? Who decides?

So, where am I today?

Well, I am still an instructional designer (though a senior one at this point) and an adjunct instructor (yes, a professor) at NYU Stern. I consult on organizational learning and communication issues more these days. I still conduct research in the fields of human resource development and adult education. I like philosophy, though appreciate it most when it is in an applied context, namely in the areas of political and social postmodern thinking (especially with issues of power and positionality and self-identity). I also really like love technology, primarily in its application to the above-mentioned things I do.

I expect this to further develop over the next year, as even dictionary definitions change over time as new experiences occur. I have certainly had no end of new experiences recently, and expect the same for the foreseeable future. I like to remain active and alive!