I take Dewey’s admonition very seriously because in my role as a Instructional Designer I believe that it is my responsibility to ensure that we are creating the most effective learning environments for our students; environments that will prepare them for a future that we are unable to predict and that equips them with the necessary tools to address problems that don’t yet exist.
How do we do this?
By applying instructional design to blended and fully online learning we are able to help faculty create significant learning environments. Rather than allow the learning environment to come together inadvertently and respond reactively to the learning dynamics that arise I believe that effective instructional design allows us to be proactive and purposeful and think through and utilize all the components needed to create significant learning environment that inspire, foster and facilitate deeper learning.
This notion of a holistic design is not new. Just look at your iPhone, iPad or any other Apple device–Apple’s main selling point is design. They design the entire user experience and environment. When you buy into the IOS or OSX you also buy into Apples ecosystem– and for the most part it just works. But it is not just Apple that has good design.
We design information systems, smart buildings, ecological friendly communities; so many aspect of our society are purposefully designed but we unfortunately are not purposeful enough in applying this holistic approach to designing learning environments. Yes, there are wonderful examples of exceptionally designed learning environments but these are the exception and not the norm.
The purposeful design of learning must start with the learner. The learner or student-centred focus becomes the measuring stick. We must ask questions like–how will this course or learning management system (CMS/LMS) support the learner, how will this curriculum support the needs of the learner, how will this pedagogy enhance learning, and wlll our formative and summative assessment help the learner?
Purposeful and effective instructional design means that we ensure that the learning goals or outcomes are clearly identified and we use those goals to continually ensure that the course activities and assessments are weighed against those outcomes. We start with the learning and the ultimate goal of changing students lives.
But to do this in the 21st century we have to use 21st century tools.
Educational technology is NOT a learning outcome but a tool that enhances and empowers the learning outcome. We live in a digitally connected world – ubiquitous access – all the time and everywhere. This means
- Mobile, online, blended and all other forms digitally enhanced learning are the norm.
- The classroom is no longer the locus of control – the network is.
- AND the learner controls the network access.
- The problem of getting the information or the content to the learner has been solved.
This move into digitally connected world means we have actually moved away from the print information age into the digital information age but it is taking a long time for academia to make these adjustments. In the print information age the problem is getting access to information. In contrast in the digital information age the problems is assessing information. Millennial students get this shift to a digitally connected world and thrive in this fully connected multimedia environment. They expect to earn anywhere anytime – all the time and everywhere. They also need and demand flexibility. These are some of the most important situational factors that we have to take into account when we design our learning environments.
It is through effective instructional design that places a priority on student centred and outcome-based principles first and then uses technology as a tool to create a significant learning environment that we will be able to truly prepare our learners for the future.
I have to admit that I am an idealist and I do see the enormous potential that we have to radically improve learning through blended and online learning.
BUT the last couple of decades of teaching in a blended and online format and through helping many other faculty put their courses online I have also become a pragmatist. Just having faculty enter into the discussion of setting up a blended or fully online learning environment is still a huge win because once they go done this path and they recognize the potential of blended and online learning and consider the whole learning environment they will never be satisfied with the notion of just delivering content.
By having faculty think about the whole learning environment, which we can help them design and enhance through technology, the learner ultimate wins–and that is a good thing.