This module interested me as I knew I needed to develop my Instructional Design skills. What I did not realise was how loosely structured my pedagogical design skills were and this is where I gained most benefit from this module. We were put into groups and set the task of creating a learning resource on a subject of our choosing. My preference was for assessment and it matched closely with my team mates which made things easier.
This experience of working in a group was great as it prompted me to think about a number of aspects of group work: Getting consensus on a goal, division of labour, and assembling the different elements of our work. Getting consensus on a goal seemed easy at first as we all agreed on assessment, however, when we talked further on the objective it became obvious that we each had slightly different views on what we meant. This aspect was particularly useful for me as I supervise student groups and it highlighted the fact that I might have one understanding of what a group is trying to achieve while they may have something different. As with my own group, I have started to create a clear objective document for every group I supervise to try to avoid this issue.
The division of labour was relatively straightforward and we used a number of tools to achieve this. Primarily we used https://www.Smartsheet.com to allocate the tasks, and then combined that with Google Docs for the actual content. This combination of tools worked well for us and has inspired me to use Google Docs as a storage space for my own student groups. One particularly useful aspect of this is the activity view, which shows the number of edits by each group member and is useful for tracking contributions.
The whole area of assessment was something which I knew was necessary but I never really appreciated how stressful it can be for both learners and teachers. As we created our resources, we had to think about the assessments not only from the teacher point of view, but also see it from the student’s side. This two-sided view was important because the real goal of assessment is to benefit the student, not the teacher, as documented by O’Farrell (2002)
A significant part of the project centred around the design of the resource. While my original focus was on design itself, using resources such as Jakob Nielsen’s usability and heuristics site http://www.useit.com, my attention soon moved to the pedagogical disciplines required. During my research I came across a paper by John Sweller (1994) which highlighted the issue of overloading students with instructions and information when using electronic resources. It has greatly affected my approach to the preparation of my own teaching materials and prompted me to re-evaluate the resource I was designing. I needed to ensure that an appropriate amount of information was presented at each stage which is not as easy as it sounds.
To do this I drew on the ADDIE model for the preparation of material (Analysis & Design) and also made heavy use of a persona for my target audience. I found that separating myself from the target audience through a persona was useful because it meant I was not making any assumptions based on what I already knew, this can be quite dangerous when designing instructional material. Using personas has prompted me to create personas for my full time students. This was a great learning point for me and has forced me to think of the abilities and experience of my own students when creating assessments and material. I have expanded a number of explanations which I had assumed were easy but in fact were only easy for me.
As I did more work on the project I could see opportunities to lighten the cognitive load and to address the different styles of learners. My resource was broken into “chunks” and each section carried a mixture of text, image, and sound. This multi-modal approach requires more work on the designer’s part but, as stated earlier, the learner is the important element in Instructional Design.
In conclusion, I tried as much as possible to apply what I was learning to my own practice and now want to work out how I can measure the effectiveness of these changes. My focus has shifted from pure design to pedagogical design and I am trying to ensure I do not put all my effort into the aesthetics of a resource. The group work was enjoyable but more importantly illustrated that group dynamics are a part of every project and should be handled carefully. Finally, I now treat assessments with a new respect and recognise their value rather than worry about the work they create.
O’Farrell, C. (2002). Enhancing student learning through assessment. Retrieved from http://www.tcd.ie/teaching-learning/academic-development/assets/pdf/250309_assessment_toolkit.pdf
Sweller, J. (1994). Cognitive load theory, learning difficulty, and instructional design. Learning and instruction, 4(4), 295-312.