Instructional Design. The words sound so dry and boring. Maybe even intimidating. But, the truth is, they don’t have to be. If you are involved in creating courses, you are already involved in instructional design. Edvance360 Learning Management System (LMS) has many tools that make course creation and management simple, but even so, a little attention and time at the front end can help optimize learning outcomes. At its core, that is what Instructional design does – it optimizes the process of instructing and learning to make your online learning program successful.
Any course or training is made up of two primary elements: the curriculum and the instruction. Curriculum is raw information, the what to teach portion of the equation, while instruction is concerned with the how to teach portion. When designing classes on the Edvance360 platform, the curriculum is entirely up to you.
However, the how portion is where our tools and features come in. To better illustrate this, it helps to break the process of course design and use into five key areas: Design, Development, Implementation, Management, and Evaluation. Let’s look at each of those, and how Edvance360 can help walk you through them, a little more closely.
If we think of building a course like building a house, the design phase is our blueprint. It tells us what our goals are, what the final product will look like, how things are tied together within the course, etc. While each course is unique, requiring customization, the Edvance360 platform already has many of these elements in place for you. The basic course shell and interface for both instructor and student is already there; all you need to do is add the widgets and features you want your course to utilize to get the desired result.
Getting practical: If you’ve never planned out an online course before, use our course-building wizard (here’s a great video). It will walk you through all the steps, making you think through each element you’ll want to use in order to deliver the course and tie it all together.
Do you want to assess whether or not the learner understood the material? If so, you want tests/assessments or surveys. Or both. Then upload your questions. Do you want them to watch a video or learn from audio or PowerPoint or some other type of file? Then upload those items. Do you want each item in the course to build on top of each other in the learner’s mind? Then you want Lessons. Do you want feedback on the course? Then you want a survey. Is there a live element? A need for role-playing, responding to a case study, collaboration, or other interactivity? Special files for a facilitator? Start with the objectives, walk through the course wizard, then flesh the details out.
If Design is our blueprint, then Development is our construction phase. This is where you populate the course with the information you want to pass on, schedule things such as tests and quizzes, and add instructor biographies, etc. Though much of the raw information, the curriculum, will be your own, Edvance360 has several tools to help you develop your courses.
Getting practical: After you’ve built the structure to support the course via the course-building wizard or the administration panel, you’ll need to flesh things out. (Here’s a great QuickStart Guide.)
Add resources that you want to always be available in the Resources Tool (not the ones you want them to only access at specific times during Lessons), terms or phrases you want defined by the learners in the wiki, role-playing scenarios and case studies for response in the wiki, discussion and debate topics for the course material, extra links via the Create Your Own Link tool, create Dropboxes for assignments and link to Gradebook, put events in the calendar, add a badge to the course (or a certificate), and set up agents to remind for due dates. Finally, make sure the Lessons contain every step you want the learner to take. Use Lessons to “zip up” everything in a format that makes it easy for learners to digest.
The Implementation phase is where, to continue our analogy, you move into the house you’ve built. This is where each instructor really makes a course their own. Important features for this phase include in-course communication tools so that instructors and students can communicate with each other, bulletin boards, collaborative groups, wikis, etc. This phase begins right after the previous one and continues until the course ends because you’ll never be done unpacking the course – it will always require some kind of modification each time you teach it.
Getting practical: First, you’ll want to put the outward-facing information such as the instructor profile, syllabus (if you have one), intro video, logo or icon, description of the course (include the objectives, but keep it short), set your chat hours (usually in your profile), create your first Course Announcement welcoming them into the course, set up any agents to handle reminders automatically (such as that paper you KNOW everyone is going to procrastinate on or those reminders to “get back in there” if they haven’t completed the course by a certain date), Gradebook (if you are using one), and add the facilitator guides in the Parent Resources (if using). Then enroll the learners into the course (or the administrator will) and launch! Whatever you do, don’t wait until everything is perfect. Launch then iterate.
Management is the “behind the scenes” maintenance that goes on for any course. Records creation and keeping, grading procedures, etc. all fall under this phase. Edvance360 makes course maintenance easy by giving you the tools to create and keep records for each student, right in the course as well as delivering you the stuff you need to know, when you need to know it, on your Home Page using dashboards.
Getting practical: You’ll want to adjust due dates and deadlines, make resources available after they’ve been recorded, allow “make-up” assignments, grade assignments as they come in via the Dropboxes (you’ll be notified on your Home Page), monitor the wikis as the learners debate/discuss/respond, answer questions from students (again, you’ll be notified on your Home Page), grade discussions (use the reports for this), and reset tests if needed. Hint: Use Agents to make managing and reminding learners as automated as possible.
The final phase of course design, Evaluation, is the most often overlooked or neglected. However, it is one of the more important phases, especially for any ongoing program. This is the phase where we look back at our blueprint and determine how well the final course accomplished the objectives it set out. Are there things we should add or remove? Is there another approach that would work better for a particular subject? These are the questions that help us, as course creators, to grow and always improve our product.
Getting practical: Would a the creation of a video be better than yet another paper? Could group-projects and grading groups be used? Peer-grading? Can you get more creative and interactive? Are the PowerPoints too static? Is a video what you need? Are the videos too long? Would a SCORM file with some gamification work well? What can you add to the course to make the DO what you want them to learn, not just watch it?
Use the analytics in the Test Tool to evaluate your questions. If the top 50% of the class missed the question, it’s probably a bad question. Are your distractors too “distracting” in your multiple choice questions?
Use the reports to analyze how long people spent on each step. Was there an assignment on which everyone procrastinated? If so, create an Agent for next time you offer the course that reminds them sooner.
Use the surveys (and require it as the last step in the last Lesson before they get their certificate or badge) to get feedback from the learners.
So, who cares about Instructional Design? You do! And, whether or not they know it, so do your learners, instructors, and anyone else who interacts with your courses. Happy course-building from the team at Edvance360!
Note: For additional resources for implementing a successful online program, click here. To learn more about our easy-to-use LMS features and why we’re one of the Top 20 Most Affordable LMS vendors, contact us or visit our website. Request your own free trial site here.