Basic Principles of E-Learning


The term “e-learning” refers to a very broad range of educational opportunities within the electronic world – from “live” classrooms online to self-paced study through a website or a computer program, to courses delivered via email. The various delivery methods serve different purposes for the learner, and learners may do better using a particular method over another. For example, someone who has a high level of self-discipline, coupled with a strong desire to learn may do well in a self-paced study program. Other learners may do better with live interaction through chat groups, message boards, or regular instructor communication to maintain motivation and provide a “real world” feel to e-learning.

Since the term e-Learning is used inconsistently, let’s start with a basic definition. For the purposes of
this discussion, e-Learning is content and instructional methods delivered on a computer (whether on CD-ROM, the Internet, or an intranet), and designed to build knowledge and skills related to individual or organizational goals.

Unlike classroom training, e-Learning is very visible. While much of the classroom experience is packaged in the instructor, and in fact varies from class to class, you can easily see and hear all elements of e-Learning. Everything from screen color to content accuracy to the types of practices is readily available for scrutiny.

With the advancement of technology and increasing availability of high-speed Internet access, it is now possible to earn a degree entirely online or for businesses to provide company-wide training through e-learning. Here are some of the basic questions to ask yourself when designing an e-learning course.

Keep the User Interface Simple

Obviously, e-learning requires an interface between the learner and the technology to facilitate learning. The usability of any e learning initiative can be determined by the ease with which learners can learn their chosen subject without being lost in the confusion of how to use the technology. This is determined by the interface design of the e learning process. The usability and interface design of an e-learning course, therefore, can make or break its success.

Make Learning Interactive

Because e-learning often takes place alone rather than in a classroom, learners will do best if there is some type of interaction. Not only does this make the instruction more interesting, it also promotes learning. Interaction can occur many ways, such as through scheduled chats or interactive lessons. If participants are asked to simply read or listen and regurgitate, the learning experience will not be as successful. Furthermore, because e-learning provides unique interactive experiences, quality programs will take advantage of as many of these opportunities as possible.

When you are in a conversation with someone you are expected to listen and respond in a meaningful
way. This requires you to invest attention in what the person is saying, to process it and to generate a
meaningful response. A similar model seems to apply when learners see the e-learning as an engagement
with a social partner – even an inanimate one.

Provide Feedback to the Learner

Learners need to know how they are progressing, and regular feedback informs participants on both their areas of weakness and areas of strength. This allows participants to focus on those areas that need improvement or practice. Again, the delivery method of feedback can vary greatly, from self-testing at regular intervals or direct feedback from an instructor. The key is that feedback needs to be ongoing and consistent. Limiting feedback to a final test or review does not provide the learner with opportunities to individualize learning throughout the program.

Make it Learner-Based

The very nature of e-learning is that it is flexible and is geared toward the needs of the learner – when it is done well, that is. E-learning opportunities need to be flexible in that the learner can access and use the technology at his or her convenience. While interaction with the instructor or other participants may need to be scheduled, the majority of the learning experience should be available at any time.

The technology used also needs to be appropriate for the targeted audience and not too difficult to use. If learners are spending more time trying to learn the delivery method rather that the subject, it is not time well spent. If possible, find a program that allows users to review a demonstration of the delivery prior to signing up for the course.

Learning is based on engagement of the learner with the content of the instruction. Even though learners
know that computers are inanimate, the use of conversational language in the program seems to stimulate very ingrained unconscious social conventions that lead to deeper learning.

Use Audio and Graphics To Engage the Learner

A human being’s working memory has two sub-storage areas — one for visual information and one for phonetic information. One way to stretch the capacity of working memory is to utilize both of these storage
areas.

By graphics, I refer to a variety of illustrations including still graphics such as screenshots, line drawings, charts and photographs, and motion graphics such as animation and video. Research has shown that graphics can improve learning. The trick is to use illustrations that are congruent with the instructional message. Images added for entertainment or dramatic can actually depress the learning process!

Audio should be used in situations where overload is likely. For example, if you are watching an animated
demonstration of maybe five or six steps to use a software application, you need to focus your visual resources on the animation. If you have to read text and at the same time watch the animation, overload is
more likely than when you can hear the animation being narrated.

This does not mean that text should never be used. Any words that are needed as reference should be presented in text. Providing a possibility for the learner to print handouts (or read them online) for later reference is a great bonus.

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The ADDIE Model of Instructional Design


The ADDIE model is the generic process traditionally used by instructional designers and training developers. This acronym stands for the 5 phases contained in the model:

  • Analyze – analyze learner characteristics, task to be learned, etc.
  • Design – develop learning objectives, choose an instructional approach
  • Develop – create instructional or training materials
  • Implement – deliver or distribute the instructional materials
  • Evaluate – make sure the materials achieved the desired goals

Each of these steps has a particular outcome that lead to the next step in the ADDIE model of instructional design. Let us have a look at each of the steps in detail.

Analysis Phase

In the analysis phase, instructional problem is clarified, the instructional goals and objectives are established and the learning environment and learner’s existing knowledge and skills are identified. Below are some of the questions that are addressed during the analysis phase:

  • Who is the audience and their characteristics?
  • Identify the new behavioral outcome?
  • What types of learning constraints exist?
  • What are the delivery options?
  • What are the online pedagogical considerations?
  • What is the timeline for project completion?

The three most important points to be analyzed before beginning with the designing of a course or a training program are the business goals that are to be achieved, the material that needs to be taught, and the current capabilities of the target audience (learner). In this phase, the project’s needs are defined and the ways to achieve it are also decided. This phase also considers the time line for the project, the learning environment, and the delivery options that are available. One of the adages that could fit the situation is “Analyze totally and design flawlessly”. The training needs analysis is therefore the most essential stage in the life cycle of a project, be it an instructor-led training or a computer-based course or a self-directed one, a proper needs analysis should be performed to ensure minimization of time loss and resources loss during the designing and development of the course. The analysis phase terminates when all the collected data is put together in a cohesive format to describe the learning objectives for the entire course. The objectives should be clear, precise and measurable. Vague objectives could pose problems during the subsequent stages of the ADDIE model. Once the learning objectives have been defined, one can move to the design phase.

Design Phase

The design phase deals with learning objectives, assessment instruments, exercises, content, subject matter analysis, lesson planning and media selection. The design phase should be systematic and specific. Systematic means a logical, orderly method of identifying, developing and evaluating a set of planned strategies targeted for attaining the project’s goals. Specific means each element of the instructional design plan needs to be executed with attention to details.

This is again a very important stage in the project cycle. During this phase, the training specialist chalks out an instructional strategy for the particular course that would outline the course structure and other integral components like the strategies for learning, delivery, assessments and the like. Once the instructional strategy is planned, the course format is selected and then the Instructional Design document is scripted. When an instructional designer chalks out a strategy for the course, he decides regarding the chunking of the source content (course material), relevant and best presentation methods for the material and assessment strategies to measure the success of the learner after completing the course. Each content chunk and assessment must map to at least one of the learning objectives of the course. Then he needs to select and finalize a delivery option for the course depending on the business requirements, type of content and many other similar factors. Once this is done, he needs to script the Instructional Design Document. This is a high-level overview of the entire course plan. It provides an insight into the overall learning approach, the instructional strategies adopted, course activities and assessments. This document is reviewed by the client, changes made if required and finalized by the client and the training specialist.

These are the steps used for the design phase:

  • Documentation of the project’s instructional, visual and technical design strategy
  • Apply instructional strategies according to the intended behavioral outcomes by domain (cognitive, affective, psychomotor).
  • Create storyboards
  • Design the user interface and user experience
  • Prototype creation
  • Apply visual design (graphic design)

Development Phase

The development phase is where the developers create and assemble the content assets that were created in the design phase. Programmers work to develop and/or integrate technologies. Testers perform debugging procedures. The project is reviewed and revised according to any feedback given.

In this phase, a prototype for the entire course is developed and then approved by the client before the entire course is developed. A prototype gives an idea as regards to how and what the final course would look like. It may comprise a few template pages or even detailed step-by-step storyboards. The client goes through the prototype and provides his/her feedback on the same, based on which the course would be developed. Instructional designers script the storyboards, graphic designers develop the course with the integrators collating all the developed pages to develop a complete course and then it the product goes through a cycle of reviews like the ID review, language review etc. Then the client goes through the course as an expert and not as a learner to ensure that the course is accurate and complete in all respects. This can be regarded as a quality assurance step in the development cycle. The next in line is the pilot test where the learners take the course for the first time. This can be regarded as the beta version of the course delivery. Post the pilot test, the client and training specialist agree on a set of changes that need to be incorporated in the course before the actual launch of the course.

Implementation Phase

During the implementation phase, a procedure for training the facilitators and the learners is developed. The facilitators’ training should cover the course curriculum, learning outcomes, method of delivery, and testing procedures. Preparation of the learners include training them on new tools (software or hardware), student registration.

This is also the phase where the project manager ensures that the books, hands on equipment, tools, CD-ROMs and software are in place, and that the learning application or Web site is functional.

It is essential to ensure that the course is delivered effectively to the learners. The study material and the course are delivered to the target audience. Basically, this phase encompasses a great deal of project management and logistics issues. This also covers the course curriculum, learning outcome, method of delivery and testing methodology. The project manager needs to ensure that the learning procedure is functional.

Evaluation Phase

The evaluation phase can be either formative or summative. Formative evaluation refers to the evaluation that is carried out across all the stages of the ADDIE model. Summative evaluation refers to the tests that have been designed and are undertaken to provide feedback about the course at the end of the course. It is the final checkpoint for the developed course. It is checked to what degree the project has been able to match and meet up to its goals and objectives. If the learners have been benefited by taking the course, if they have achieved the learning objectives by the end of the course, if the business goals associated with the course have been met are some of the few points of consideration during the evaluation stage in the project life cycle. This helps to measure the efficacy of the developed course and also identify the scope and opportunities to improve the performance of the learners after taking the course.

The Dick and Carey / Systems Approach Model of Instructional Design


A well-known instructional design model is The Dick and Carey or The Systems Approach Model.

This model is systematic in nature. It is a procedural system including ten major process components (nine basic steps in an iterative cycle and a culminating evaluation of the effectiveness of the instruction).

Dick and Carey made a significant contribution to the instructional design field by championing a systems view of instruction as opposed to viewing instruction as a sum of isolated parts. The model addresses instruction as an entire system, focusing on the interrelationship between context, content, learning and instruction.

According to Dick and Carey, “Components such as the instructor, learners, materials, instructional activities, delivery system, and learning and performance environments interact with each other and work together to bring about the desired student learning outcomes”.

The components of the Systems Approach Model, also known as the Dick and Carey Model, are as follows.

  • Assess needs to identify instructional goal(s) – to identify what it is the learners are expected to be able to do at the end of the instruction
  • Conduct instructional analysis – to determine a step-by-step of what learners are doing when they are performing the goal; to determine what skills and knowledge are required
  • Analyze learners and contexts – to identify learners’ present skills, preferences and attitude as well as the characteristics of the instructional setting; the useful information about the target population includes entry behaviors, prior knowledge of the topic area, attitudes toward content and potential delivery systems, academic motivation, attitudes toward the organization
  • Write performance objectives – to specify what it is the learners will be able to do with the statements of the skills to be learned, the conditions, and the criteria
  • Develop assessment instruments – to develop a criteria-referenced assessment consistent with the performance objectives
  • Develop instructional strategy – to develop strategies in pre-instructional activities (motivation, objectives and entry behavior), presentation of information (instructional sequence, information, examples), learner’s participation (practice and feedback), testing (pretest and posttest) and follow-through activities(remediation, enrichment, memorization and transfer)
  • Develop and select instruction – to use the instructional strategies to produce the instruction
  • Design and conduct formative evaluation – to collect data that are used to identify how to improve the instruction
  • Revise Instruction – to use the data from the formative evaluation to examine the validity of the instructional analysis, learner and context analysis, performance objectives, assessment instruments, instructional strategies, and instruction.
  • Design and conduct summative evaluation – to measure the value and success of the instruction.
Components of the Dick and Carey Model
Components of the Dick and Carey Model

Instructional Design for E-Learning


Introduction

Today, technology has invaded almost all aspects of our life, for better or for worse. Though technology’s role in our life is debatable to some extent, its happy union with education is definitely something to cheer for. The enhancement of education through proper application of technology is termed as e-learning. Having come of age over the years with drastic leapfrogs in technology, e-learning has today evolved into a great learning platform that is radically different from that of the conventional learning techniques, conceivably in a better way.

Just as there are numerous approaches to conventional teaching, e-learning too has varied approaches to it. Instead of dwelling upon the various approaches to e-learning, I will discuss here one of the most popular one. Widely known as Instructional Systems Design (ISD), it is also known by other names such as Instructional Systems Design & Development (ISDD), the Systems Approach to Training (SAT), or just Instructional Design (ID). Starting with the assessment of a student’s expectations from the courseware, it leads the student through a step by step guide involving the design and development of the training material, and finally allowing the instructor to gauge the efficacy of the program through student assessment.

Definition

A combination of some of the most popular definitions of instructional design or systematic design for e-learning gives a crystal clear idea about what it exactly is, and an insight into its core process of learning. At the nucleus of an instructional design approach is the importance it gives to learning instead of technology. Learning requirements and objectives are first analysed, and in conjunction with these needs, a delivery system is developed. The instructional design methodology was first put to use in World War II and became immensely popular in the years thereafter. It found place in corporate training, military training, textbook authoring, and web/computer based learning. A systematic design for e learning entails continuous assessment and response. Instructional Design is based on theoretical and practical research in the areas of cognition, educational psychology, and problem solving. All in all, instructional design is essentially a learning framework that simply organises learning resources to enhance the learning process to reach defined goals.

Advantages of Systematic Approach to E-learning

Unlike a classroom setting for learning, a systematic approach to e-learning benefits the overall training process in more ways than one.

  • It allows individuals other than the instructors, such as other learners, or students wishing to take up the course, to view and weigh up the content, discussions, interactions, etc.
  • It makes objective assessment of e learning quality possible.
  • It guarantees the examination of vital theories through apposite presentation and pertinent learning.
  • It makes e learning process more transparent, thereby bequeathing quality upon it.
  • It immensely helps the students of online programs through good content presentation and interactive sessions.
  • It renders distance learning more effective due to its interactive characteristic and transparency compared to conventional distance learning programs.
  • It provides students with the liberty of picking the instructional framework instead of the instructional framework governing student’s choice of course.
  • It builds a comfortable link between pedagogy and technology, thereby allowing a change in the plan of instruction depending upon the student response, which cannot be achieved by technology alone.
  • It to e learning is enhanced by well organized subject content and well thought out strategies for teaching.
  • It helps in blending the material offered by different instructors and different courseware.
  • It begins and ends with the learner and his experience.

The development of instructional material is a time consuming process and, hence, a major concern. Systematic approach to e learning accelerates the development process to come up with the most effective way of content presentation, and a structure to navigate through the courseware.

Various Models of Systematic Approach to E-learning

A model of any process is a representation of standard occurrences, thus restricting its blind replication in a real life situation. The review of various models of the systematic approach only reiterates the fact that different ones are effective in designing different courses, ranging from a science course to a people management course.

ADDIE – This is an ellipsis of Analyze, Design, Development, Implement, and Evaluate. One of the most popular models of instructional design, it is frequently used by instructors for academic courses.

Dick and Carey Model – It is based on the concept of breaking instructions into modules. The instruction material targets the skills and knowledge that is intended to be taught.

Minimalism – Developed by J.M. Carroll, this model is useful for computer based learning. It emphasizes the importance of meaningful and self contained learning activities, execution of realistic projects by students, error recognition and recovery of training material and a tangible link between training and actual system.

Algo Heuristic Model – It is based on the assumption that all pedagogical activities can be categorized into algorithmic, semi algorithmic, heuristic or semi heuristic. Once a cognitive activity can be put under a certain head, its specific systems act as the foundation of the systematic approach.

Robert Gagne’s Model – This model is considered to be the pioneer, in which many other models find their genesis. It subscribes to the belief that events and categories of learning form a framework that can be used to account the learning conditions.

Epathic Model – A five step design model, it includes – observation, capturing data, reflection and analysis, brainstorming for solutions, and developing prototypes.

Rapid Prototyping Model – Here, learners, and subject matter experts constantly communicate with instructional designers and prototypes in a cyclic manner.

Conclusion

E-learning is plagued with a number of difficulties including high dropout rates, learner resistance, poor learner performance, etc. These glitches can be taken care of through the systematic approach. Its various other benefits make it a unanimous choice for organisations and institutions alike.

What is Instructional Design?


Instructional Design is the practice of creating instructional tools and content to help facilitate learning most effectively. The process consists broadly of determining the current state and needs of the learner, defining the end goal of an instruction, and creating some “intervention” to assist in the transition. Ideally the process is informed by pedagogically tested theories of learning and may take place in student-only, teacher-led or community-based settings. The outcome of this instruction may be directly observable and scientifically measured or completely hidden and assumed. There are many instructional design models but many are based on the ADDIE model with the phases analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation.

Instructional Design as a Process:
Instructional Design is the systematic development of instructional specifications using learning and instructional theory to ensure the quality of instruction. It is the entire process of analysis of learning needs and goals and the development of a delivery system to meet those needs. It includes development of instructional materials and activities; and tryout and evaluation of all instruction and learner activities.

Instructional Design as a Discipline:
Instructional Design is that branch of knowledge concerned with research and theory about instructional strategies and the process for developing and implementing those strategies.

Instructional Design as a Science:
Instructional Design is the science of creating detailed specifications for the development, implementation, evaluation, and maintenance of situations that facilitate the learning of both large and small units of subject matter at all levels of complexity.

Instructional Design as Reality:
Instructional Design can start at any point in the design process. Often a glimmer of an idea is developed to give the core of an instruction situation. By the time the entire process is done the designer looks back and she or he checks to see that all parts of the “science” have been taken into account. Then the entire process is written up as if it occurred in a systematic fashion.