Archive for the ‘Instructional Design’ Category

POE206 Networked Learning Course Design

January 21, 2009

After completing the Connectivism and Connected Leanring course with Stephen Downes and George Siemens, I knew I could no longer run courses for the Royal Military College in the traditional manner. I teach online courses and on site courses (At CFB Gagetown, NB). The online courses I cannot play around with the course design as my section is one of about 10 concurrent sessions and they all have to be the “same” due to modularization of components of the course.  However, I have a lot more freedom with my synchronous, live, on site course. Perhaps this blog will act as a “recording” and encourage RMC to modify its course design.

This term I am teaching POE 206, The Canadian Forces and Modern Society. This is a introduction political science course. The online course design has the course into 2 modules, with:

Pretty traditional, huh? The students are all officers and soldiers and the course is part of their professional development (for university credit).

When trying to design a “networked” course design, I am hampered by the military’s, Learning Management System is DNDLearn (Desire2Learn product). DNDLearn is hosted on the www, however, many students do their assignments form their work stations on the DWAN (Defence Wide Area Network) with incredibly tight security rules (no Microsoft, Flash, or Active X uploads or downloads). Also, most social websites are blocked. (Even Canadian Broadcasting Corporation TV program segments. The CBC is a Government of Canada Crown Corporation!). Am also hampered by student knowledge of social web tools and the necessary conservatism of CF members to “restrain” their comments about politics. Hence, my class has to be treated as a “closed door” privileged platform.

Rather than create a course using most of the tools in the Connectivism Course, I chose to work with the constraints of DNDLearn. I am converting my  outline into a Wiki space. DNDLearn has a 10MB upload limit, so I have advised students that if they have multimedia files larger than that, that they can post elsewhere an make a posting in DNDLearn with the link. In this class, 28 of 30 students have access to computers not on the restrictive DWAN, however, I do have to think of the other 2.

The course interaction involves:

  • presentations by me each week,
  • the watching of multimedia videos,
  • an in class discussion of readings,
  • at home readings,
  • weekly blogs,
  • an open forum area for general discussions,
  • student presentations,
  • a concept map of the course content (using CMAP), and
  • a mock parliament.

Here is my new POE206 Course Outline.

The mock parliament looks like it will be the most fun. I borrowed the desing from the British Columbia Legislature. I had the students take a political spectrum survey on SurveyMonkey to place them in the Conservative, Liberal or NDP parties. It is now week 3 and the “election” is almost complete. I will announce the results in next weeks blog. The students will then:

  • elect a leader of their party,
  • put forward a bill,
  • select a bill for introduction in the House,
  • prepare a throne speech,
  • deliver it,
  • have the opposition respond,
  • vote on it,
  • then introduce a bill and go through the 3 readings.

I chose to have a robust online portion because typical a student may miss up to 3 classes due to operational training on the base. (I once had 3 students miss the last 3 weeks of the course becasue of being suddently sent to Haiti on a peacekeeping mission, but the LMS allowed them to keep up.) The online portion allows the students to keep up and keep informed. I post my lecture notes on the course home page News section by Monday (class is Wed). I have not recorded and upload to DNDLearn a podcast because I have to use an in-class military computer which will not allow open source downloads/installs. I have to teach to a pre-approved basic script as a minimum and I include this in my slide notes. Since I am not actually testing (quizzes or a final), the students don’t really need to listen to me talk. Absent students will miss the general discussions though. For all students generated work (report outlines, concept maps, presentations, bills, etc, must be submitted in the Discussion area for all other students to see and comment on.

I grade each blog and provide feedback. Keeping up with the weekly blogs and replies is about an hour a day (6 days a week). Preparing my presentations is about a 3 hours job. It took about 20 hours to come up with the course design. (I was quite nervous after presenting this course design on the students the first night and almost had an anxiety attack the next more until I read a students blog that this was his 6th professional development course through RMC and the first to have so much interaction adnt he first to break free form the standard quiz, exam, essay format.)

Here is the course Homepage showing the News where I post my presentations and administrative announcements (class cancellation). The Discussion navigation int he top link takes you to the Discussion area, Blogging area, and posting of assignment area.

DNDLearn POE206 Course Homepage

DNDLearn POE206 Course Homepage

There is multimedia files, the course electronic textbook etc under “Content” in the top left navigation.

Here is the Discussion area. Note there is an Administration area, Work spaces, including the Political Party specific forums (only members of the party can see there forum, so it works like caucus), a Lesson forum where I can pose a question or the students can for interaction, A Blog area with a forum for each student, and lastly, a CyberSocial area for anything else.

DNDLearn POE206 Discussion Area

DNDLearn POE206 Discussion Area

So far, the Lesson forums have been underutilized, but Blogging and other studnet replies have been going well. I ensure that students have clear subject lines in their blogs if it relating to “assignemnt” aspects of the course ie posting their Introductory biography, selecting their Presentaiton Topic, that the blog is their weekly contribution as opposed to a quick thought. Some studnets are not used to posting links to outside sources and rather copy and paste the news item into their post> I am getting them to provide links especially when they make braod brush statements like “most people”.

CCK08: User/Learner Centered Instructional Design

October 23, 2008

I have been designing training and educational materials now for 20 years through my time with the army in pre-internet days, designed and developed a number of soft skills e-Learning courses in the 2000-3 time frame, writing telecommunications technical publications, to offering history and political science course online and in class, to now being an information architect with a practice of user centered design.

What I have come to realize is that up to 2 years ago, I often relied on others description of who the learner/user was. I never got to meet the learners; instead I relied on a subject matter expert who told me who the target audience was and provided the details and I applied objectives, wrote content and provided testing. Often the subject matter expert was several years removed from interacting with the end-users.

At no time until become an information architect was I ever allowed to question the medium/mechanism or design of what I was doing. My practice as an information architect has led me to start the process of training design by actually asking the question of “do we even need training?” Is it possible there are other forms of information that is more useful to the target audience?

To discover this, you actually need to talk to the users. You may discover that the users don’t need to be tested, they only what just in time information of how to do a task (insert a hyperlink) that an html help file can provide. So part of the problem is instantly saying we need to do training, when we actually need better information design. Better information design comes from talking to the users of the information to see how they consume it, how they need to use it, and the environment they need to operate in. Only them can you start to say we have x or y types of users and this is what each x or y user need to do. This process then allows you to come up with a list of requirements or recommendations, but these recommendations are not for all users, but the significant majority of users, or the users with the “most” pressing problems.

The recommendations may be on product help, topic based web help files, a Wiki publishing and user corrected feedback system, a better intranet/website, structured authoring, or single source publishing. So the technology choice comes last and not first. Perhaps the current technology is good enough, it just needs better implementation. Knowing what the general capabilities of technology are useful so potential avenues of exploration are possible, but what if there is no current technology? Then the requirements start a new development process for that technology to aid in the information creation and dissemination and re-synthesizing (if needed).

So, I see instructional design as being a sub-set of information design, and perhaps one of the last options to consider for the deployment of training since training can be so expensive and of limited durability in the product-driven world.

Perhaps the best thing that could happen is an easily findable website that is user constructed with links to reputable or useful information for the problems I need resolve for the information I need education in. Even my New Brunswick lumberjack with a web-enable cell phone in an area with service could trouble-shoot why his Husquvarna chain saw is acting up. He doesn’t need a fancy piece of e-Learning in an LMS or to take an operators course (unless the law says so).

This difficulty, of course, is trying to provide the information for what the software industry calls the “corner cases” or users that operating under what may be rare circumstances. In the Connectivist world, this means users that find themselves unable to connect to the internet due to lack of a computer or networking infrastructure. This may be coming rare in the “westernized” world, but a significant population may face challenge. The situation or user environment will help decide the educational/training mechanisms that are most appropriate. So a study of infromation architecture is extremely relevant to instructional design.