Throughout the design of an online course, principles of instructional design theories come into play from the spectrum of schools of thought. From the schools of behaviorism, to cognitive pragmatism, to constructivism, educators can use tools from each to influence their learners depending on the learning goals. The design of the online course Technology Standards for Instructional Personnel can be categorized mostly under the umbrella of the principles of cognitivism (Dabbagh, 2002). During the course, the learner is frequently required to process and relate to the presented information to attach personal meaning to the key concepts being addressed. Having the student create a personalized schema through which she can process the information helps the student retain the concepts in a meaningful way (Dabbagh, 2002). Occasionally the course leans into a constructivist approach with activities that require students to synthesize their understanding of key concepts in the form of authentic tasks and apply them to real-world scenarios, or create artifacts for real-world application (Dabbagh, 2002).
Applying the Understanding by Design principles of McTighe and Wiggins, the modules in this course were designed by first identifying the overall instructional goals of the course, deciding the level of mastery or competency for each goal, how competency would be assessed and measured, then finally what activities would be provided for students to engage with material that would lead them to mastery performance (2012). Topics were chosen to support the overall theme and instructional objectives of the course. Modules were constructed with Gagne’s nine events of instruction in mind (Northern Illinois University, n.d.). Each module follows a familiar pattern of an attention-grabbing video or article, connecting information to students’ personal experience, presentation of additional content, learning guidance, opportunities for performance, engagement and peer feedback, then performance assessment (Northern Illinois University, n.d,). Although there is not strict adherence and conformity across all modules, the pattern of expectations is apparent and also builds as the course progresses.
Creating and providing high-quality online learning experiences is increasingly important. A. W. Bates writes that employment growth is happening in knowledge-based sectors (2015). Opportunities lie in places where expertise is not stagnant, but maintained through continuous, highly specialized professional learning. With rapidly changing industries, workers must be able to access learning through a platform that is flexible enough to work around obligations, yet high quality and specific enough to meet their needs (Bates, 2015). Bates mentions the conflicting of the conundrum of the academy: to train thinkers, or to training workers (2015)? Through a well-designed online course, a well-trained learner might become successful as both thinker and worker.
Course design is a process that takes discipline and order. Refining a course is something that may take many administrations of the course with feedback and revisions. As in the physical classroom, a course is never completely finished and in the can. There is always room for improvement or expansion. Drawing upon the work of others, grounded instructional theory, being open to feedback, and relying on tested resources is an important foundation for the development of a class.
Bates, A.W. (2015) Teaching in a Digital Age: Guidelines for designing teaching and learning. Retrieved from https://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/
Dabbagh, N. (2002). Instructional Design Knowledge Base. Retrieved August 18, 2019, from http://cehdclass.gmu.edu/ndabbagh/Resources/IDKB/models_theories.htm
McTighe, J., & Wiggins, G. (2012, March). Understanding by Design Framework. Retrieved August 18, 2019, from https://www.ascd.org/ASCD/pdf/siteASCD/publications/UbD_WhitePaper0312.pdf
Northern Illinois University, Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center. (n.d.). Gagné’s Nine Events of Instruction. Retrieved August 18, 2019, from https://www.niu.edu/facdev/_pdf/guide/learning/gagnes_nine_events_instruction.pdf
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