The Internet has taken us beyond our wildest dreams. At the beginning of the Information Age there were the select individuals called “Webmasters” that had the skills to publish to the Web. Over the past decade, everyone has had tools at their disposable to create a presence with ease. I admit I was caught up in the rage to try online instruction. My first experience was in 2003 and my intent was to provide a convenient way to provide instruction to a small group of learners. My first mistake was letting the medium be the determining factor rather than focusing on the design of the content (Rovai, 2002). I did not incorporate well into the instruction some of the design and learning elements that play an important role for creating an effective learning experience. So, if you’re creating online instruction, I recommend, you better be doing these 4 things.
Using current lesson content and activities are likely not suited for the Web. Most importantly, an elearning experience does not include a Web page solely full of text. Content provided in the course of a lesson needs planning to include different forms of multimedia to boost learner motivation and immerse the learner in real-world applications. As a learner, I am more interested when the instruction gains my attention and thrusts me into experiences I have not encountered. Cathy Moore, a business elearning developer, illustrates the concept of less text and more learning based on research. The addition of illustrations and multimedia can assist learners in greater understanding and the ability to make application. Tom Kuhlmann’s demo, shows three different techniques to gain learner attention and to guide the learning process.
Just as we use a map to find our way to a specific location, the navigation element for online instruction is important. A learner must be able to navigate through the different sections of the site with little effort. I have visited Websites and taken online or hybrid courses where links are rampant. It becomes a maze when everything is linked to each other. Unorganized navigation or excessive linking creates confusion and extraneous cognitive load for the learner. A navigable Web site is required for consistency throughout the instruction and a security measure to always find your way home.
No matter if I’m in the role of a student or employee, I am anxious for feedback either to validate my performance, encouragement to improve, or a means to steer my thoughts in a different direction. If designing for online instruction, there needs to be a method for feedback whether in the form of an instructor or facilitator response, ability to compare tasks to a desired result or simply a grade.
These two elements I have combined because discussion is normally a component of online instruction while collaboration is not. Discussion is the easiest to monitor learner participation and is directed by a facilitator’s choice of topics. The objective is for learners to share thoughts and increase the knowledge relating to Bloom’s Taxonomy. Collaboration is more challenging to plan in an online course, but I think collaboration moves a learner quicker to the highest order thinking skills.
These elements are important to consider when designing online instruction. Sure there are many others to consider, so post an element that is important to you and explain why.
Ally, Mohamed. (2004). Foundations of educational theory for online learning. In Theories and practice of online learning (chap. 1). Retrieved February 1, 2010, from http://cde.athabascau.ca/online_book/ch1.html
Rovai, A. (April, 2002). Building sense of community at a distance. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning (IRRODL), 3, 1. Retrieved February 1, 2010, from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/79/153
Guest blogger: Amanda Bevis manages the Madison County Adult Education program in Jackson, TN. Her prior work has gained her experience in healthcare, computer programming, and in the university setting all utilizing her computer experience. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Instructional Design and Technology.
Image from Dan Meyer at http://www.flickr.com/photos/ddmeyer/2666448493/sizes/m/