Knowing Right from Wrong. How not to get carried away with the bells and whistles.

“Should I or shouldn’t I?”

Question: What is the most important thing to consider while designing online learning materials?

Kali, Levin-Peled, and Dori (2007) sought to “formulate design-principles that translate socio-constructivist learning into general guidelines, design hybrid courses according to these principles, explore the effect of the courses on student learning, refine the principles, and contribute knowledge to a Design Principles Database” (p. 2). (Okay.)

Online Instructional Design Considerations

Basically, the researchers conducted a study that sought to promote higher-order thinking and critical reflection skills, collaborative learning, and product-construction among a group of research participants participating in a hybrid learning environment (p. 1).

Between 2004 and 2007, Kali, Levin-Peled, and Dori oversaw an iterative instructional design research project that involved 624 undergraduate and graduate students learning to design hybrid college courses and online learning assessments.  The three courses created required the integration of collaborative peer learning activities, development and reuse materials of student artifacts, and the creation of embedded online learning assessments (p. 2).

Specifically, the student learning objectives included:

•             Collaboratively constructing Wiki pages;

•             Designing and developing a two-week online mini-courses; and

•             Creating lessons plans to teach learning assessment topics to their peers

Kali, Levin-Peled, and Dor reported positive learning outcomes among participants at the end of the study. However, what was of most interest to me was how the researchers chose to introduce and conclude their study. 

Traditional v. Recommended Approaches

At that time, Kali, Levin-Peled, and Dori, wrote education and educators have remained “traditional” in their approaches to instructional design. Further, the researchers cited other studies that concluded instructors in higher education may be simply uploading learning materials to websites instead of using instructional design principles that promote “meaningful learning.”  The researchers also wrote that most college courses are not interactive and do not allow for student participation, shared ownership, learning motivations, or assessments (p. 1). (Humph.)

Therefore, Kali, Levin-Peled, and Dori concluded there is a “large gap” within the body of knowledge regarding the need to use iterative course design principles while designing for hybrid learning environments.  The researchers thereby advised academia that educators and administrator should “gain their strength” by becoming a part of the Design Principles Database, which was, by the way, developed and maintained by – wait for it – Kali, Levin-Peled, and Dori (p. 7)!  (Got it.)

Intrigued, I decided to “gain” more “strength” by joining the Design Principles Database myself. Unfortunately, however, I found the website appears to have not been updated since 2008. (Oh, well.)

Jennie’s Perspective

Obviously times have changed since Kali, Levin-Peled, and Dori made their observations and conclusions. Recent studies indicate that most colleges and universities now embrace blended and hybrid courses as evidenced by the rapidly increasing enrollment statistics for online college courses. 

In addition, based on my studies and conversations with university instructors, administrators, and peers, I have reason to assume that colleges and universities are using interactive instructional design approaches that include interactive and collaborative learning activities.

This is good. However, Warren and Linn (2012) warns creating interactive and collaborative learning activities should not be considered the most important thing during the instructional design process.

Warren and Linn advise instructional designers, college professors, and other creators of online learning material should instead recognize that legally afforded accessibility, ethical constructs, and learning objectives should be the primary concerns during the online learning instructional design and development phases.  Otherwise, owners of online, hybrid, or blended learning materials could find themselves facing maximum risks for minimal educational benefits. (No! Thank you.)

In my opinion then, instructional designers should always remember to do no harm while creating interactive activities and learning tasks for online learners. They should also remember that certain vulnerable populations are protected by law. (Can anybody say “IRB?”)

So. Since I was unable to gain strength from that website, I  guess I will just have to heed Warren and Linn’s warnings and ask myself one fundamental question while designing that fancy, sparkling, shiny, new, exciting and engaging learning solution: I know I can do this, but – should I? (Warren & Linn, 2012).

I’m just sayin’ …

References

Kali, Y., Levin-Peled, R., & Dori, Y. J. (2007, October). How Can Hybrid Courses Designed with Socio-Constructivist Design-Principles Promote Learning in Higher Education?. In E-Learn: World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education (pp. 6071-6078). Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).

Warren, S. J., & Lin, L. (2012). Ethical considerations for learning game, simulation, and virtual world design and development. In Handbook of Research on Practices and Outcomes in Virtual Worlds and Environments (pp. 1-18). IGI Global.

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