Reflection on Instructional Design

As I am finishing this course I do not believe that I really understood instructional design when I entered the course. Clearly I designed educational experiences for my students, but my designing process was haphazard at best. I definitely learned that throwing together a learning module without a lot of forethought is not a good system. There are systems, progressions, and logic involved. Using these design methods greatly simplifies the process of instructional design.

Build Assessments First

The circular flow of the ADDIE design model

SOURCE: http://www.noodlenook.net/addie-and-design/#sthash.6SIRDbRT.dpbs

One of the most helpful things that I learned, and will be applying in my future course development immediately came from studying the ADDIE model of instructional design. It is likely that I will never implement the ADDIE model in my instructional design due to time pressure. Since I usually have a very limited time to create a new class, the ADDIE model is not feasible. However, there is one aspect of ADDIE that I plan to utilize in all of my course design work: build the course assessments first. In designing courses in the past, I have always built the course content first and then built the assessments. This has often proved problematic because the assessments that I want to use don’t flow easily from the course content. This usually means that write an assessment and then use it in class. If parts of the assessment didn’t work, I fix it for the next time I teach the class and try again. Using students as assessment guinea pigs is probably not the best idea.

Building the assessments at the beginning and using them as a road map to designing the course content seems a lot more efficient. For example, when I started teaching general chemistry I spent a lot of time teaching my students why different classes of chemical reactions work. That is definitely important information but my exams didn’t deal with why at all. Instead the assessment had the students working out and analyzing chemistry reactions which I spent much less time on. The course content should have been flowing from the assessment whereas I had… chaos? Anyways, overtime I changed the instruction to fit better with the assessment. It would have been nice if those early classes would have had their instruction laid out from the assessment.

How I Teach

A complicated series of chemical reactions.

SOURCE: http://www.kristimillertime.com/2012/01/listography-2012.html

Chemistry is a complicated subject. There is A LOT of information I have to get across to my students. As such I have always kept my classes very basic: a little lecture, work problems, more lecture, repeat and throw in a few demonstrations here and there. Assessments are always homework assignments, quizzes, and exams. It’s the way I was taught. As we learned in this class, this is not the best idea. I have always opposed trying new of experiences in my courses for fear of losing content that my students will need in the future. I learned, in this class, that new technology can be used in a variety of ways to enhance learning. As a simple example, our course had an interactive course calendar and an course syllabus that was useful. My students rarely look at my syllabi since it is the standard LR template (just words and a few links). The interactive course calendar was shocking to me because it seems like such as simple idea but it was SO useful throughout the term. I still wonder why I never thought of that. That will definitely be included in my courses starting this fall.

Conclusion

Laying out the flow of instructional design.

SOURCE: http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/hrd/sat4.html

On the whole, this course has been an eye opening experience. I learned that there is a science to instructional design. It is not this haphazard system that I have used in the past. Instead there are supposed to be steps. Within each of those steps, new technology can be added, new ideas explored. Overall I think that this course will dramatically change the way I develop my courses in the future.

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Instructional Design and Student Needs

A graduating student whose cap reads "never too old".

SOURCE: http://www.capecod.edu/web/adult-learner

After over a decade in academia I have noticed the trend that the diversity of students in my courses has dramatically increased. I am not simply referring to race or gender, however. I have seen a rise in non-traditional students (adult-learners). While many of my students come directly out of high school, many don’t. I have more and more students who have had careers, served in the military, etc. Adult learners can be very different than the traditional college student, one who is straight out of high school. Additionally there has been a dramatic rise in the diversity of college preparedness among my students, especially those arriving straight from high school. This increased diversity means that when we design courses and course materials in college, we need to remember to design them so that they engage all of our students.

Individualization and Learning Styles

All the many difference tasks, interests, and activities of a student.

SOURCE: https://www.123rf.com/photo_21508151_education-back-to-school-cartoon-boy-colorful-global-icons.html

Many students today have considerably more real-world experience than do traditional college students thirty years ago. Let’s look at the adult learners. They have been on their own in the world and therefore are often have a better understanding of their personal interests and abilities. Overall, this means that they are best served in a course when they are able to select tasks which interest them. According to Ausburn (2004), that there “…is the growing expectation and demand by adult learners for learning options, choices, and personalization” (p. 335). Being able to individualize the course material allows the adult learners to best utilize their strengths while at the same time focusing on their interests. As any teacher knows, regardless of the type of student, when the student is interested in what they are learning, their performance improves dramatically.

When we talk about individualization, I believe that it is important that we also talk about learning styles. Different students have different preferred learning styles. As Moallem (2007) notes, “…many studies show that matching student learning styles with instructional strategies improves learning” (p. 238). Having individualization opportunities is important, if those opportunities do not encompass different learning styles, there can be a mismatch between the students abilities and the instructional material.

Creating opportunities for varied learning styles can be quite difficult. In fact, some instructional designers do not think that the learning style of the students need to be considered. Rather, as Moallem (2007) points out, “…some instructional designers and educators argue that content and expected outcomes of learning must decide what strategies should be used to deliver instruction, rather than matching instruction to individual learning styles” (p. 238). These designers view the course as requiring certain techniques in and of itself, rather than customizing those techniques to the students learning styles.

Three chemistry students at a lab bench.

SOURCE: http://www.wesleyan.edu/summer/curriculum/cheminstitute.html

Clearly there is a happy middle ground here. When possible, I believe that course content should be individualized and customized to the learning styles and interests of the students. I teach an introductory chemistry course which is mainly designed for students going into nursing or related fields. As such, I have incorporated a lot of medical science topics and assignments into the course in an effort to spark the student’s interest in the material. Additionally we have hand-on laboratory exercises, group problem-solving sessions, short lectures, discussion, etc. All of these activities are designed to engage different groups of students.

There are some topics that I discuss in the class that do not have easy connections to material of interest to the students. Some topics are highly theoretical and do not lend themselves to different learning styles. These topics are important in the scope of the course so they must be taught. In these instances, I have to let these topic dictate how I teach them since customization is not a viable option. Students seem to have less interest in these topics and their performance is a bit reduced.

Graphic of the types of multimedia that can be incoroporated into a classroom.

SOURCE: http://www.robertcampbell.info/news/2014/11/14/using-multimedia-in-the-classroom

With the increasing use of technology, however, I have been able to add multimedia into these topics which has helped student performance. I am not a multimedia designer. As such, I am in a position where I have to wait for someone to design and release materials that relate to my course topics. Kulasekara, Jayatilleke, and Coomaraswamy studied the effectiveness of multimedia technology for explaining complex material in a biology course. While they found that the use of multimedia for explaining complex topics enhancing student learning, that was not all they found (Kulasekara, Jayatilleke, & Coomaraswamy, 2011). According to Kulasekara, Jayatilleke, and Coomaraswamy (2011), “Interactivity built into various design features has allowed learners to actively participate in learning, providing an individualised learning experience. The findings of this study also throw light on designing effective learner-centred multimedia learning material, especially to learn abstract scientific concepts” (p. 125). Not only can multimedia increase student learning, it also can allow the students a more learner-centric approach to the material. For instance, some students might prefer an animation which “shows” the concept while others might choose a more abstract description. Each student, regardless of age or abilities, will ideally be able to choose the option that best suits them thereby improving their retention.

Students working in groups.

SOURCE: https://nomynjb.wordpress.com/2014/01/31/the-learning-university-call-for-a-paradigm-shift-for-student-retention/

Along these same lines, another research group studied the effectiveness of a general chemistry courses that had been redesigned as a hybrid course from a traditional course (Shibley, Amaral, Shank, & Shibley, 2011). These researchers found that by moving many of the traditional course elements online, and thereby outside of the in class setting, student performance increases dramatically. The researchers moved quizzes, homework assignments, longer lectures, multimedia viewing, etc. online and focused on problem solving, group activities, and small discussion dealing with difficult concepts within the course ((Shibley, Amaral, Shank, & Shibley, 2011, p. 85).

Just like the use of multimedia to allow students to customize the educational resources to their abilities and interests, this redesign of the general chemistry course shows the same features. Outside of class, the traditional and non-traditional students alike can utilize the technologies that will best accentuate their learning. Inside of class, rather than having a long drawn out lecture, the students work in groups on problems that stem from the material of the course as well as real-life problems. This last is especially important for the adult learner. As Snyder (2009) notes, “Adults seek learning that will help them cope with everyday situations… Learning community activities are structured to help members solve real-life problems” (p. 51). Having the students work on activities that benefit them outside of class and on real-world problems inside of class is a win-win for student retention.

Conclusion

A group working on a complicated design.

SOURCE: http://www.archdaily.com/445647/the-dean-of-parsons-design-education-must-change

Considering all of these findings and studies, why do we see so little movement towards these new techniques. Why don’t we see many courses that offer what the diverse student body needs? Why don’t we see more hybrid courses when it clearly helps our diverse student bodies? While I am sure there is a certain resistance to them among certain faculty in academia, I believe that a bigger issue is in faculty education. As Moallem (2007) notes, “Designing and developing instructional materials that address multiple learning styles and employing various instructional strategies for online learning environments are time consuming and require careful design, development, implementation and evaluation of instruction” (p. 237-238). Herein lies the problem. Most faculty are experts in their field but not experts in teaching. This is why we often see faculty teach material in the same fashion that they were taught. Kanuka (2006) points out that “When instructional designers are pedagogical experts but not content experts—and the instructors are content and research experts but not pedagogical experts—the result is a bifurcation of content and pedagogy” (p. 9). It is my belief that this bifurcation is a lot of the problem that we see in pushing more non-traditional model of education. We need to create faculty who can bridge this design. Faculty who are masters of their field and of andragogy/pedagogy. Without this joint skill, improving best practices in classroom will be difficult.

References

Ausburn, L. J. (2004). Course Design Elements Most Valued by Adult Learners in Blended Online Education Environments: An American Perspective. Educational Media International, 41(4), 327-337.

Kanuka, H. (2006). Instructional Design and eLearning: A Discussion of Pedagogical Content Knowledge as a Missing Construct. E-Journal of Instructional Science and Technology, 9(2), 1-17.

Kulasekara, G. U., Jayatilleke, B. G., & Coomaraswamy, U. (2011). Learner perceptions on instructional abstract concepts in science at a distance. Open Learning, 26(2), 113-126.

Moallem, M. (2007). Accomodating Individual Differences in the Design of Online Learning Environments: A Comparative Study. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 40(2), 217-245.

Shibley, I., Amaral, K. E., Shank, J. D., & Shibley, L. R. (2011). Designing a Blended Course: Using ADDIE to Guide Instructional Design. Journal of College Science Teaching, 40(6), 80-85.

Snyder, M. M. (2009). Instructional-Design Theory to Guide the Creation of Online Learning Communities for Adults. Tech Trends, 53(1), 48-57.

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An Critical Analysis of ADDIE vs Rapid Prototyping

Introduction

ADDIE (analyze, design, develop, implement, and evaluate) and Rapid Prototyping are starkly different methods of instructional design.

The five steps of the ADDIE model of instructional design.

SOURCE: https://kristinahollis.wordpress.com/tag/addie/

The ADDIE model is very prescriptive; it contains a set of five steps that must be performed in order laid out by the model. Beginning with analysis, we move to design, then develop, implement, and finally evaluate. Once the evaluation is complete, the model uses the evaluation results and returns to the analysis step. In this way the model is cyclic so changes can be implemented over time in the course.

The rapid prototyping process is more modern and vastly less controlled. The model itself arises from the computer software development industry. The rapid prototyping model is useful in that it is designed to get product produced rapidly. An initial product (prototype) is produced and evaluated by the designer (and possibly other designers). The prototype is modified based on those findings to create a new prototype and the process is repeated using both designers and users.

Systematic vs Rapid

The systematic nature of ADDIE lends itself well to the creation of a polished product at the end of the implementation phase. By that point, the instructional designer has an understanding of what they want to get across in the course, what their assessment tools will be, what the materials they will be using, etc. Putting all of this together, the designer creates a product that can be fully implemented.

The critical difference between this model and rapid prototyping is time. It can take a long time to go through the ADDIE steps. This is time well spent since a thorough understanding of the goals, instruments, and materials of a course leads to well thought out courses that greatly benefit the students. The downside to this long period of time before the product is ready is just that; it takes a long time. Often we find ourselves in situations where courses have to be created in the period of weeks not months. When time is a huge factor, it is often not possible to be so deliberate as is dictated in the ADDIE model.

The cyclic nature of the rapid prototyping model of instructional deisgn.

SOURCE: http://teachingwithtech.lss.wisc.edu/m3w2.htm

The rapid prototyping model is geared toward fast development of courses. The as the designing begins, so does the course itself. Rather than focusing on all the instruments, goals, etc., rapid prototyping begin putting the material together immediately. These early iterations of the courses are simple but there is a constant, cyclic process of creating and evaluating that, over time, add to the material in the course. This means that over the course of a short time, a deployment ready course can be created.

Too Rapid?

The ADDIE model infographic.

SOURCE: https://nlegault.ca/2011/09/05/infographic-the-addie-model-a-visual-representation/

One of the benefits of the ADDIE model that can be lost in rapid prototyping is the understanding that comes with fully analyzing the course and its assessment documents. During these phases of the ADDIE model, the instructional designer gets a firm understanding of what the course should teach and how it should teach it. This understanding can lead the designer to create the course material which fully utilizes this knowledge and create a course that is targeted at these points.

Rapid prototyping, however, does not have this luxury. Because of the speed of the process, the designer may not have time to fully think out all of the goal and assessment documents at the beginning. There is the real possibility that the assessment documents, such as tests and quizzes, are created as the prototyping is being done. This creates the problem that, since the analysis was likely not as thorough, the assessments being designed might not be perfectly assessing what is desired.

Which is Better?

In an ideal world, we would all have as much time as we need to prepare a course. We could spend our time thoughtfully analyzing a course and carefully working our way through the ADDIE model. This way, our courses would end up being very deliberate and thought out in such a way that what we are teaching and assessing is what we intend to teach and assess.

Cartoon of a thoughtful guy writing.

SOURCE: http://learningcommons.ubc.ca/fun-summer-learning/

The real world is often not like that. Most of the time, courses need to be created quickly. When I was first hired, I had a month to prepare all of my courses for my initial term (I had three different courses that term). With that amount of work and the highly limited time available, it would have been impossible to create those courses using the ADDIE model (even if I had known about ADDIE at the time). I had no choice but to create something and see if it made sense to me. If not, I would edit it until I was a okay with it and then move on. The result was a very interesting first year of teaching. Many things in those early classes did not work as I intended and dramatic edits were needed before the second year. In retrospect, it would have been nice to have known about ADDIE back then so that as I was editing my courses, I could have been more deliberate about it.

Conclusion

Overall, the ADDIE model is, at its heart, a much better model for create quality educational experiences. It forces the designer to be thoughtful and deliberate thereby creating a much better quality of finished product. The reality is that we rarely have the time required to implement the ADDIE model. Often we are asked to rapid create courses. This requirement nearly removes the possibility that the ADDIE model can be implement as it should be. I believe that inclusion of some of the ideas of the ADDIE model into the rapid prototyping model can improve the outcome in these rapid creation situations. For instance, in the event a course needs to be rapidly created, perform the analysis and design steps of the ADDIE model and then use those results for the rapid prototyping. Then, as you are creating the content, you have a better grasp on what you are tying to accomplish.

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Universal Design for Learning – A Reflection

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an interesting idea and it ultimately hits quite close to home for me. As a chemistry professor, I often use many different types of instruction to teach my courses.

Lecturing

A science lecture.

SOURCE: http://www.hotel-r.net/fr/lecture

Lecturing is the mainstay of my courses. Tons of information is presented verbally and in written form on the board or presentation slides. As you might expect, there is a lot of material that needs to be taught in chemistry. As such, lecturing on it is often the default method of instruction. Ultimately, I’ve never been sure to whom lecturing appeals.

Group Problem Solving

Students working in groups.

SOURCE: https://kbarnstable.wordpress.com/2011/04/10/effective-use-of-groups-in-the-classroom/

I often give my students problems, both theoretical as well as real-world based. The students then break into small groups and work through the problems. Once all the groups have solved the problem, we come back together and I go over the problem and answer questions from the students. These problem solving sessions offer students a vision of how these problems can come up in the real-world which gives them a better interest in learning how to solve these problems. I have found the some students who do not seem interested in the lecture material can come alive when working in a group with their peers.

Laboratory Environment

Students working in an organic chemistry lab.

SOURCE: http://www.bemidjistate.edu/academics/departments/chemistry/facilities-equipment/

The laboratory is an integral part of all science courses. The students get hands-on with the material. They get to see what we are talking about abstractly in class. In a chemistry lab, the students get to see the actual reactions that we are talking about. They observe the phenomenon and then I tie it back into the lecture material. Often laboratory experiments are the most exciting parts of science courses as well as being the more rewarding. For instance, one topic that I teach is precipitation reactions where a reaction occurs in a clear solution and a cloudy product forms, called the precipitate. The identity of this precipitate can be predicted. In the lab, we have student conduct the experiment, observe the formation of the precipitate and then try to figure out the chemical identity of that precipitate.

Difficulties

The Americans with Disabilities Act.

SOURCE: http://circuit8.org/ada/requesting

The biggest area of UDL that I have not really incorporated is in the area of alternatives for various disabilities. Chemistry is a very complicated field and it is often difficult to use various alternative methods to teach certain topics. As an experimental science, a lot of the information that we teach is based on something physical that occurs.

For instance, students are excited to see demonstrations which involve flames of different colors caused by the combustion of different chemicals. This interest creates in the student a desire to understand why different chemicals cause different colors of flames. Getting the same respond from a blind student is a challenge for me. I can, and do, describe what I am doing and what the result is, but the students never seem to have the same reaction. For me, it’s not just about having the student understand the demonstration that I am doing, but to get interested in the science of the demonstration. I need to find better ways of applying alternative methods to my lectures so that real-world examples are interesting to everyone equally.

Conclusion

In my chemistry courses, a lot of the ideas of UDL are utilized. We use multiple different methods of presenting the material. Some of my methods are abstract (eg. lecturing) while others are more personal (eg. lab experiments). While I utilize these different methods, I still need to worry more about making my classes as interesting to students with disabilities as they are for non-disabled students. To be honest, my development in this direction really began last November when I attended the Quality Matters Annual Conference with my wife. At the conference I attended numerous talks and discussions that opened my eyes to the the need for accessibility as well as the possibilities and difficulties in making course material accessible. Hopefully my understand of ADA can aid me in incorporating the ideas of UDL.

 

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