Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Focusing on activities

Why do so many online courses focus on content? If your learners have a text book, why do so many instructional designers feel they have to replicate the text in the online course? What does this accomplish?

Well, I’ve been pondering those questions for years – and asking my colleagues to focus on creating activities to support the learning objectives rather than paraphrase the text. It’s more difficult, it takes longer…and it can lead to an excellent learning experience…

So how do we create activities not content? Some instructional designers argue that because they are not content experts, they can’t be expected to be able to determine what the learners need to know at the end of a lesson. Well, I do a lot of developing sans content expert, and here’s what I’ve discovered: if I have a good learning objective, I can design activities to support that objective. If the objective is a simple “Describe…. “ (I hate those) I can have the learners search out descriptions on the web,  in their text, or through conversations with others. Better yet, I can give them the descriptions and ask them to match them to terms using a simple interactive application. Ever play My Word Coach for the DS or Wii? One of the quizzes in that program does just that – except you’re racing against the clock. As you proceed through the levels, the terms and definitions keep coming back to you in various games, and at the end of each level you’re almost certain to have a far better understanding of the term than you did at the start of the instruction.

Instead of providing content, I provided an interactive activity that my learners would enjoy – and that would help them learn and understand the terms they need to be able to go on to the next activity. Next post, I’m going to tell you how and why I designed that activity. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

HOTS (Or Bloom, Part II)

In my previous post, I told you about designing  learning activities for a group of students learning group counselling skills. The plan was to have them collect (and remember) information, understand it, and apply it (by leading the group). Sometimes, we need to move the learners past apply and on to analyzing, evaluating, and creating new meanings. In the case of our soon-to-be counsellors, we've already begun to push them toward the acquisition of higher order thinking skills.

After our learners took turns leading the group, we had them discuss their experiences. This gave them a chance to analyze their behavior as group leader - and to receive advice and opinions from their peers. We asked them to evaluate both their own performance and the performance of the others in the team.

Create is the highest level in the modified taxonomy. What we're eventually going to do with our counselling students is have them put together everything they've learned in this module to create their own facilitation plan for a group meeting with their clients.