Club-Admiralty

v6.2.1 - moving along, a point increase at a time

Instructional whatnow?

A number of threads converged last week for me, and all of the threads exist in a continuum.  The first thread was one that began in the class that I am teaching this summer, INSDSG 601: Foundations of Instructional Design & Learning Technology. One of the things that we circle back to as a class (every couple of weeks) are the notions of instructor and designer.  Where does one end and the other begin in this process?  It's a good question, and like many questions, the answer is "it depends".  The metaphor that I use is the one that calls back to two sides of the same coin.  In order for instruction to ultimately be successful you need both sides to work together.  An excellent design will fail in the hands of a bad instructor, and a bad design will severely hold back a good instructor (assuming that there is an instructor and it's not self-paced learning). There is the other side too: as instructional design students we were told that we would be working with SMEs (subject matter experts) to develop training, but how one works with SMEs is not clarified.  A good friend of mine, working in corporate ID, told me recently that communication with a SME is through an intermediary acting as a firewall and it's hard to get the information necessary to work on good instructional designs (now there is some organizational disfunction!).  The key take-away here is that you can't really separate out these roles. Both need to be informed from one another, and communication is key to successful training interventions.

In another thread, I was chatting with Rebecca (at some point or another this summer) about assessments and grading in the classes that we teach.  Another layer to this design and instruction challenge was added. You can have a really nice design, with lots of learner feedback and continuous assessment, but the situation might be untenable.  Take for example the case of an adjunct instructor (like me or Rebecca).  At our institution we are paid for 10 hours of effort per week for a specific course (each course counts as 25% FTE, and assuming a 40 hour workweek, each course is about 10 hours of work). These 10 hours include design maintenance work, synchronous sessions (if you have any), discussion forums, and assessment & feedback.  The design of your course might be awesome, but it might require more time on the part of the instructor than the organization has budgeted for.

So the question is how does good design sync up with organizational norms and constraints?  Organizational norms are something we've talked about in the class as well. Instructional design does not exist in a vacuum.   For the course that I teach in the summer I made it a little more "efficient" by using a ✓/✘/Ø grading for all assignments (submitted and passing; submitted and not passing-can revise; nothing submitted) which has addressed the issue of haggling for points to a large degree. This still leaves 43 items per student to be graded (and some level of feedback) to be given to the student.

I know that I am still spending more than 10 hours per week on the course, so the question - from a design perspective - is this: What is the most efficacious way of giving learners feedback on their projects and other aspects of the course while still staying within organizational constraints, and while adhering to sound (and researched) practices of pedagogy? In other words, what design options give you the biggest bang for the buck when it comes to teaching presence and learner outcomes?  Given that I've been more than happy to spend the extra time each week on the class, this is not a "problem" I need to solve for myself right now, but it is a design challenge for other colleagues!

The final thread in this came from twitter, when (out of the blue?) there was a twitter burst discussion on instructional design when Maha wrote:

@KateMfD how do u design a priori for someone you have not met??? Duh
@KateMfD to this day, I don't understand how Instructional Design begins w "needs analysis" before we ever meet the students!

JR added to the discussion by tweeting:
@Bali_Maha @koutropoulos @KateMfD but in a similar way, how do we know what courses we are going to teach prior to meeting Ss on day 1?
@Bali_Maha @koutropoulos @KateMfD not always a great starting point, but often attempting to benefit the organization, learner comes 2nd

I've been thinking about this and I've been trying to come up with a metaphor that makes sense. The metaphor that came to mind comes from the world of clothing and it's the dichotomy of Tailored versus Mass Produced clothing.  The textbook that we use in my program is the Systematic Design of Instruction, by Dick, Carey, and Carey, using the Dick & Carey model.  The textbook seems to indicate that as designers we have a ton of time to conduct a needs analysis (is the training needed), and a learner analysis (who are the learners), and a context analysis (where learning will take place), and to design a breakdown of what exactly needs to be learned.  And, sure, if we were instructional designers for the rich and famous, on retainer, we'd know a lot of this stuff ahead of time, and if those rich folks wanted to learn to paint, or water ski, or whatever, we'd have the luxury of knowing our learners, environment, constraints, and needs, and we'd be able to do something about it (we'd also be paid the big bucks!). This is what I call the tailored model - we have the luxury of taking all the measurements we need, and the client is willing to wait for the product.

The environment we work in, however, is the mass produced environment. In our day to day work as instructional designers we do our due diligence and try to do some needs analysis, but we also work from educated guesses of who our learners might be.  This is something that we've discussed (either on air or off air) at campus technology and AAEEBL this week with different colleagues.  How does one decide what programs to offer?  What courses fit into those programs?  What are the requirements for the program, and how each course's requirements fit into that puzzle?  Who are the learners who come into those courses?  The answer to that last question is an educated guess.  You might design a program, or a course, or a set of courses with a specific learner group in mind, however that persona is in-fact an educated guess.

Hence, using assumptions to start the process for that which is mass produced and we change it (or adapt it) on the fly as we get to learn who the learners are in our classroom. There are constraints in place to make sure that  the variation is "manageable" - and for a college program (at the graduate level anyway) that constraint is admissions.  By managing the admissions process faculty and departments know who is coming into their classes, and they can be prepared for that adaptation.  Further adaptation happens in class.  It's not complete adaptation since there are constraints, but adaptation exists (or, I argue, should exit). This way we're taking something that is mass produced, and tailoring it to the needs of the individual (to some extent anyway).  This is where design and instruction meet again - two sides of the same coin.


Thoughts?

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