“Designers no longer create (only) instruction sequences. They must create environments, networks, access to resources, and increase the capacity of learners to function and forage for their own knowledge”. “Instead of courses, designers need to see learning as an activity without beginning or end.
Instead of programs, learning needs to be viewed as an activity that occurs within an ecology. In many types of learning, the task of the designer is to create the right environment for continued learning. Learners themselves will seek and acquire needed elements”.[i]
A Best Practices Framework, Part 1 – Introduction
Creating effective learning programs is a union between structure and strategy. Structure often includes instructional design tools such as learning management systems and multimedia production tools. Strategy includes what we often refer to as ‘best practices’ – the appropriate combination of structural tools, engaging content, best practice, and evaluation strategies to help ensure the transfer of learning.
Good design is a fusion of structure and strategy. It too, needs to be adaptable. The design process is recursive and cyclic in nature; it includes evaluation and redesign when needed. We agree with current thinking that describes learning as a lifelong process where knowledge is constructed by individuals with information and experiences from a variety of formal and informal settings, and use this as a starting point for our framework.
It often seems that the term ‘best practices’ is used as an expected buzzword, rather than an identifiable set of concepts. One problem an educator faces is the dizzying array of strategies that are termed best practices. It can be difficult to identify which of them, truly ARE best. Identifying valid frameworks for best practices is often overshadowed by the myriad of other requirements placed on today’s educator.
After much trial and error, ID&CMS has developed a framework that helps ensure the we include the appropriate balance of form and function in the educational application that is being designed or implemented. Our framework is adaptable to the variety of lifelong learning environments that an educator is required to navigate, including designs for online, blended, traditional, and non-traditional delivery formats.
It has evolved out of numerous sources and is updated frequently, but draws from six or seven primary sources, each more-or-less representing areas that are emphasized in our design process.
In our first series of articles, we will discuss elements that comprise the foundation of our framework, and briefly the reasons for their inclusion. In general, the process of design takes place on multiple levels.The component elements need be aligned with the global vision of the learning application, and checking alignment on a continual basis is an important part of the process.
From the standpoint of the Instructional Design process itself, we draw on the Ragan and Smith model, preferring its emphasis for strategies demonstrating an understanding of diverse learners. We also draw on the work of George Siemens (cited below), especially on his work regarding the evolution of instructional design and the quickly evolving needs of the learners, marketplaces, learning communities, businesses, and institutions.
Other elements of the our foundation are outlined to a great degree in the footer menu of this website, entitled “Resources,” and will be discussed in future articles. Each link in the menu takes you to a resource that provides a detailed more detailed background information. At each juncture we will emphasize and demonstrate how the different strategies fuse structure and strategy, to ensure the creation of quality learning experiences. Our work also supports our investment in the belief that of lifelong learning, accessible learning programs, and the development of learning communities as an essential tool in improving the quality of life for a quickly-evolving global community.
Coming soon, Part 2 – ‘The Seven Principles’ – see the TLT groups discussion of Chickering and Ehrmann’s seminal article at: http://www.tltgroup.org/programs/seven.html