The art of engagement: On telling good stories Instructional Design: What is it?

We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience. – John Dewey

Nationally, there is a growing consensus that in order to be competitive in the global workforce, students need to gain skills that address digital literacy, collaboration and communication, creativity and innovation, problem-solving, and responsible citizenship (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2008). To meet these challenges, organizations such as the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills have identified a core set of skills and proposed guiding frameworks for educational institutions. The Framework for 21st Century Learning outlines student outcomes not only in core subjects and themes but also in skills such as life and career skills, learning and innovation skills, and information, media, and technology skills (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2008). These frameworks and guidelines recommend a “theory-to-practice” approach to facilitate students’ connection of knowledge with judgments and action. For this to occur deep learning should result from students’ educational experiences.

As the Innovation University, it is critical that we design for innovative learning solutions. As the introduction to this publication in instructional design and educational technology I’d like to initially explore the question of what is instructional design. Instructional design is a “systematic and iterative results-focused process, which begins by determining the expected learning outcomes to identify instructional strategies to achieve desired outcomes.” An instructional designer engages in a creative process, which employs learning theories and frameworks, project management, subject matter expertise, communication, and technology.

At the root of any effective learning tool—a website, mobile app, workshop, interactive or blended learning course, online course, or webinar—is the work of an instructional designer. In this way, all educators are designers. They design learning trajectories, future concepts of teaching and learning, and are constantly discovering what works and what doesn’t. For this reason, it is critical to stay in the forefront of the learning technology initiatives. Following this rubric, the instructional design process enables “the creation of connection and the weaving of paths for reaching the desired learning.” As faculty may map the learning outcomes for the students, so too, should the student be able to map their own curricular trajectory.

As Oblinger points out, the use of information technologies to achieve efficiency in instruction is possible “when faculty collaboratively define explicit learning objectives, develop instructional materials to enable students to achieve them, and create the tools necessary to assess outcomes. Collective faculty work (together and with IT professionals) is essential; productivity gains require overcoming the robust tradition of professor as soloist” (p. 20). The important component in instructional design is the understanding of how to combine existing knowledge to new knowledge—this is done by engaging students in discussion to elicit experiences and then providing a framework for learning.

The traditional learning theories (behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism)
 are rooted in questions of how we “know” a thing to be a thing. Given the subjective nature to the unit of analysis, these theories are often highly contentious. More recently connectivism has emerged as another learning theory.

More contemporary learning theories are adult learning, cognitive load, and cognitive theory of multimedia learning.

Under Gagne’s model there are nine events of instruction critical to gaining learner’s attention and keeping it; the learning hierarchy that results fits in line with the behaviorist/cognitivist perspective. Building upon these models, the inquiry-based learning framework is much more suited to the constructivist perspective.

Moving forward to theories of instructional design there are four dominant focal points highlighted below:

1. Visual design principles (Wertheimer (Gestalt), Kohler, Koffka, and Metzger): based on the Gestalt principles of perception to explore how the visual environment communicates.

a. Gestalt principles:

  1. People perceive similar things as a related group or pattern
  2. Things that are close to each other are perceived as related
  3. People perceive objects moving in the same direction or on a line as a 
related group or pattern

2. Science of instruction: this outlines a set of principles that identify a cognitive process

associated with each principle (Mayer, Richard; Clark, Ruth) a. 4 learning architectures

  1. receptive learning—information acquisition
  2. direct learning—response strengthening
  3. guided discovery learning—knowledge construction
  4. exploratory learning—linking to real world task and resources
  5. Universal design for learning: based on uniqueness of individuals (platonic ideal?) and 
encompass wide range and variety of skills, needs, abilities, and interest to learning. (Disco, Stew; Simpson, Homer; Wiggum, Clancy).
    1. 3 primary brain networks
      1. recognition networks (“what” of learning)
      2. strategic networks (“how” of learning)
      3. affective networks (“why” of learning)
    2. multiple means of representation
    3. multiple means of expression
    4. multiple means of engagement
  6. Motivational design: John Keller (ARCS model)

a. The ARCS motivational design process includes the following components:

i. Attention ii. Relevance iii. Confidence

iv. Satisfaction
Motivational design looks at connecting instruction to learner goals and influencing feelings of success, which is a point of departure for instructional design, which is more “concerned with factors that influence how well a person will be able to acquire, recall, and use new knowledge and skills.” In addition to the four ARCS components, there are sub-categories affiliated with each component, which should facilitate the design process.

Much is now known about how to best design instruction with technology; however, not much is known still on how students are learning with social web-based tools and how such tools are used for learning.

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