emily young

Here we are at Week 13, and I am still confident that I will have my entire project done in time to present to my cohorts. So, what is left to do? What challenges have I faced? And will I be able to implement or evaluation my course?

What is left to do? I was very lucky to have had the time to develop much of my content at the beginning of the semester, and since my last blog assignment I have been able to add all of the missing content. This includes Lesson content, Lesson questions, and the final quizzes. I had some fears that it would take a long to time to enter all of the questions however it ended up not taking as much time as I thought that it would. One great feature about Moodle is the ability to create a question bank. This feature will save me a lot time in creating the final exam since I will be able to pull questions from each of the modules and not recreate them.

The biggest challenges that I have faced in the past weeks have been creating my videos. I have written my video scripts and recorded the audio, but I have not been able to find time to edit each video together. While I don’t think it will take me long to create the videos, I am concerned about the render time for each video. The program I will use takes about ten times as long as the length of the video to render the video, so a 3 minute video would take 30 minutes to render. I plan to create four 15-minute videos, so that means each video will take approximately 2.5 hours to render. I need to ensure that I have enough rendering time built into my editing time. Just writing that out now concerns me, and I hope that the time that I have allotted myself over Thanksgiving will be enough time.

All in all, I think that I have learned a lot from this experience. I liked that I had the experience to create a week-long instructor-led training but also that I was able to experience using a learning management system like Moodle. This project has given me a lot of insight into what goes on “behind the scenes,” because my part usually ends at development. Because my part ends at development, I never get the opportunity to experience the implementation and evaluation steps of course development. Unfortunately, I will not be able to experience these steps with this course either. This is because it is looking more unlikely that the course will be used by the client. I hope that one day that I will work on a project where I can experience the implementation and evaluation steps because I understand why they are important. I feel like I was creating this course in a bubble. I have a very analytical mind, so I want to test things before I continue to develop additional modules. Why keep creating if what you create doesn’t work or is not appropriate?

I look forward to seeing everyone’s presentations during out last class!

By the end of this week, I will have completed all of my initial development of the FastFones Fast Track: New Hire Training Course. I have completed all of my written content, including video scripts, lesson content, lesson questions, quiz questions, and the final exam questions. As I have developed these sections, I have seen areas where I could improve instruction to make the course easier for the students to understand and easier for the trainers to administer. And because of this, I have gone back and rewritten and reformatted many of my activities. For example, when I began entering content into Moodle, I used the Assignment activity feature for many of my activities. However, I was unhappy with the Assignment feature because it included a grading feature that—while I could designate an activity as ungraded—included additional text that I felt was unnecessary and potentially confusing to students. It was only after our second online session that I learned about the Page resource feature. This resource was the one I should have been using from the beginning because its function is to display information only. As a result, I had to go back and reformat many of my activities, which was time consuming, but in the end resulted in a much better product.

While I have written the majority of my content, most of it has not been uploaded to Moodle because I have underestimated the amount of time it will take to add all of this content. Specifically, the time it takes to add questions. In entering questions, I learned that there is a significant different in the way Moodle lets you enter questions within a Lesson and questions within the Question activity feature. Had I known this before I started writing the questions, I could have saved time by writing them differently. For example, the Question activity feature allows you to enter as many answer options as you need however the Lesson activity feature only allows you to enter up to three answer options. Also, some of the Lesson question options such as the ‘select all that apply’ option, are pre-formatted in such a way that I cannot include instant feedback, which is important for learners in this course.

Despite these minor issues, I am very pleased with my progress on the FastFones Fast Track: New Hire Training course. And I know that should I have the opportunity to create another course in Moodle, my pre-work time should be decreased significantly because I have already created templates for most of the Activity and Resource features. This is what I consider to be my biggest strength as a designer—I am able to see the big picture and to organize information so that I can create projects quickly and efficiently. However, I do recognize areas where I need to improve. I sometimes get too engrossed in creating templates and streamlining my processes that I forget the little things. For example, I was so engrossed in creating templates for the different activities, that I forgot to create an instruction section for the learner that explains how to navigate the course—but a least I recognized that I forgot it!

As I move into Week 10 of my project, I am confident that it is going very well. And while I still have many things to accomplish, as long as I stick to my schedule, I should complete my project ahead of the due date during the week of December 8th. To complete my project, I need to enter the Lesson questions, finish four videos, write the trainer guide, and incorporate suggestions from peer reviews.

The biggest challenge that I have faced is motivation. While I have been highly motivated to work hard and complete my project ahead of schedule, I have recently gone through a spell of project fatigue. To combat this, I took Halloween weekend off to visit my family and recharge for the final weeks of my last semester.

One of the reasons that I experienced project fatigue is that as I was creating questions for my Lesson I suddenly realized that aside from maybe two other people (my peer reviewer and my professor) it’s is looking more and more likely that no one will ever see this course. This thought is disheartening because I put one-hundred and ten percent into everything I do, and while I don’t ever expect recognition for the work I do, I do get job satisfaction from knowing that the courses I create help others. So, will I ever be able to implement or evaluation my course. The answer is disappointingly, no.

What feedback have you received and what have you done as a result?

I received some great feedback from my peer review, which showed three areas that I feel need attention: the length of time that students will be at a computer station, break times, and clarification of group activities.

The first concern is the fact that students taking this course will be sitting at a computer for long periods of time. Previously, students would sit in a classroom, listen to a trainer lecture on the topics, and take notes. With this new course, I wanted to add activities that would teach relevant content while at the same time getting students up on their feet, interacting with others, and hopefully as a result, developing good communication and people skills. However, based on the content that the client wants the students to learn and the short time frame they have in which to learn it, students will be stuck at a computer for about sixty percent of their day. Considering that in the previous course students were stuck at a desk for a hundred percent of their day, I think this is a nice improvement, and students will be allowed to take breaks.

Another concern was when students would be able to take breaks, and this concern will be answered in the trainer guide. The trainer will be responsible for keeping track of time, announcing which activities the students should be on, and helping any students who fall behind. Good instructor-led training guides include break and meal times in their schedule, and I plan to include these in my trainer guide (job aid). Another thing to consider is the speed at which students will complete the activities. I estimated activity times based on slower learners, which means that average learners should have some extra free time between activities.

The third concern was clarifying the group activities. My peer reviewer reported that they had the impression that some of the group activities were one-on-one activities with trainers. I thought that I had used proper language to indicate that these activities would take place with all of the students in the training class (anywhere from six to twenty students at a time). While I am concerned I am not adequately explaining the activities, I think that when the students are in the context of the classroom, and with the guidance of the trainers, group activities will be clearer. But in the meantime, I will try to be a specific in my instructions as possible, both in the activities and in the trainer guide (job aid).

Given that many standard corporate ID projects last about 3 weeks, and this is week 8 of the session, how do you feel about working on a professional timeline?

Well, I work on corporate ID projects with professional timelines all the time, so I’m feeling pretty good about it! I have found that the key to working on a professional timeline is to be extremely organized. When I approach a project, I try keep the big picture in mind because with big projects and tight timelines, you will quickly get into the weeds when start to get caught up in the tiny details. When I begin a project, one of the first things I do is see where I can reuse information. For example, with my class project, I knew that I needed to have cohesion and consistency across all of my activities, so I spent over a week just perfecting how to structure the activities. Once I had the structure down, I was able to complete the rest of my activities fairly quickly because I knew what I needed to write for each.

The other thing I do at the beginning of all my projects is to create a schedule. This schedule shows me what I am supposed to work on each day to get the project done on time. There is a great article called “How To Stop Being Lazy And Get More Done—5 Expert Tips” which I think excellently explains how to approach…well everything. The five tips are:

  1. To-do lists are evil. Schedule everything.
  2. Assume you’re going home at 5:30 and play your day backwards.
  3. Make a plan for the entire week.
  4. Do very few things, but be awesome at them.
  5. Do more deep work, not shallow work like moving information around

I think number five has had the most impact on me because I did not realize how much I relied on shallow work to make me feel more productive. Once I realized the difference, the quality of my work changed, and I completed tasks faster.

In my blog post last week, I talked a lot about cohesion. I also talked about my goal of creating a cohesive course both visually and functionally. As I was developing my course this week, I realize that there was another element of cohesiveness that I needed to pay attention to, and that was the cohesiveness of my writing. That is, I need to write my activities so the language and the structure of the writing makes each activity feel like part of the same course.

I began developing my activities for my course in Word documents, and as I move them from these documents to the Moodle environments, I realized that I needed to use my writing to create more structure within the Moodle environment. The biggest problem that I have with Moodle is that at times it seems like the Wild West. By this I mean that in my experience, Moodle is not intuitive to use and can be overwhelming to first time users. I remember the first time that I used Moodle for a class. I did not like it at all—and I’m having trouble describing my feelings about the experience. I felt that the environment lacked structure, and that there was too much openness to it. At first I was apprehensive about using Moodle for the students in my course—I thought that they’d be too lost and get too frustrated; however, I came to realize that I could create a sense of structure (and perhaps lose that Wild West feel) by formatting each activity in a similar way.

I have to admit that after initially playing around with Moodle, I spent way too much time developing activities for my first module offline in Word. However, I was not developing what they activities would be. Rather, I was developing the structure—or formatting—that I wanted each activity to have. What I decide to include in the formatting was the following:

  • The Activity Overview This way, learners can quickly see where to find the time of the activity and the type of activity, Individual or Group. I felt that these two elements, time and type, were important to establish. First, the learners will not have unlimited amounts of time due to the fact that they will meet in a training center for 8 hours each day. Second, I felt that going back and forth between individual activities on the computer and group activities in the training room might be confusing, so I wanted to specifically tell learners when they would be at the computer, and when they would be with the group.
  • The Activity Description heading. Again, this heading allows learners to quickly see where to look to find information on the activity they are about to perform.
  • The How to complete this activity Again, one of my biggest concerns was overcoming the Wild West feel of Moodle, so I wanted to tell learners exactly what to expect during the activity. This includes highlighting the names of any buttons they need to click, or even where to meet their trainer for group activities.

All in all, I am feeling very good about my course, though a little behind. At times I feel that the design model (Online environment) is not the best for the type of course that I need to create; however, I suspect this is because I am not a digital native, and I still prefer tangible assets to virtual ones.

This week I began incorporating my course into Moodle, and in the process, I learned much about building long-format courses. Most of my experience is in creating short, 20 to 30-minute, stand-alone eLearning courses. So in a way, I could be classified as an instructional designer/sprinter. I am good at creating short burst of knowledge, and I would say that my strength is in finding and focusing on the essential issues and weeding out all of the fluff. Now with this project, I have to adapt into an instructional designer/long distance runner and create 40 hours of training. It would be easy to think of this project as creating a series of 30-minute trainings; however, my concern with that approach is cohesiveness, so that each section of the course feels like it is part of a whole. I think that I can achieve cohesiveness by using Moodle because it allows me to organize all of the content in one place and arrange it in a visually pleasing way.

Moodle is a great tool because it helps instructors add cohesiveness to their courses; however, if used incorrectly, Moodle’s appearance features and activity choices can distract from a course’s cohesiveness. The choices that Moodle provides for a course’s appearance, the visual aspects of color and layout, can be distracting. For example, the “Magazine” design includes both serif and sans serif fonts in at least five different sizes. The “Arialist” design does not effectively use color or shapes to distinguish blocks from each other. Also, I’m completely baffled as to why most designs have their navigation on the right side of the screen because I have been taught that there are certain user expectations when it comes to websites, and one of them is that navigation is always on the left. I eventually chose a design that I found to be the most visually cohesive.

I learn better by doing, so I began adding activities to my course before watching any of the VTC videos; and while this helped me understand the VTC videos better, I now see that had I watched the videos before planning my activities, I would have seen that Moodle provides the exact functions I was looking to create. In particular, I did not realize that the Lesson activity allows me to include both reading and questions, so my idea to create interactive PDFs is unnecessary. I also did not know that I could embed videos directly into my course, which I think is another wonderful way that Moodle provides cohesiveness. My goal is to keep all of the content for my course within the Moodle environment with as little links to outside webpages as possible. This means that I will need to rethink some of the activities that I had planned, but I am confident that doing this will make a better course.

A couple of months ago I was in a client meeting, and we were discussing a course on customer service that my company was developing for them. The clients wanted the course to include gamification. However, most of the group was concerned that a game-based course would not properly prepare the learners to pass a final, multiple-choice assessment. One client finally said, “Why don’t we develop the final assessment, and then use that document to create the customer service scenarios within the game?” At which point her supervisor scoffed, “You mean teach to the test? Isn’t that a little archaic?” But internally I disagreed with the supervisor. Why not teach to the test? If they already knew what they wanted their employees to master, then why not use that information to create a course? It just makes sense and to do to otherwise would be reinventing the wheel.

When I reviewed potential instructional design models to write about, I was drawn to backwards design because that is what I seem to be doing with my instructional design project for this course. The clients for my project course (not the same clients that I discussed above) knew what the student learning outcomes (SLO) of the course should be: students should leave training with critical thinking, or problem solving skills, and it is up to me to figure out learning goals and objectives that can achieve this.

So let’s break it down: backwards design is “the process of defining the desired knowledge, skills, and [student learning outcomes (SLO)] associated with a course or curriculum, and then building the course or curriculum in ways that help the student achieve these outcomes” (Fox & Doherty, 2012, 145). Backwards design does not take the place of more familiar learning models, like ADDIE. The ADDIE model has several weaknesses, especially during the Analysis phase when instructional designers (IDs) fail to thoroughly identify what needs to be taught (Culatta, 2013). However, IDs who use ADDIE can have stronger Analysis and Design phases by using backwards design to identify behavioral outcomes and then working backwards to create effective learning activities.

Backwards design helps IDs identify what people need to learn, but it does not necessarily prescribe how people learn. The ideas of how people learn are described by theoretical models of learning such as Behaviorism, Cognitivism, and Constructivism. However, these models rely on analysis of the learner and the task (Ertmer, 1993). In that regard, IDs can use backwards design to help identify which theoretical model of learning would be appropriate.

RESOURCES

Culatta, R. (2013). Weaknesses of the ADDIE Model. Retrieved September 20, 2014, from http://instructionaldesign.org/models/addie_weaknesses.html

Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance improvement quarterly, 6(4), 50-72.

Fox, B. E., & Doherty, J. J. (2012). Design to learn, learn to design: Using backward design for information literacy instruction. Communications in Information Literacy, 5(2), 144-155.