Rethinking the Role of Instructional Design Models in Developing Digital Courseware and Online Courses
The purpose of this session is first, to identify effective processes in developing digitally- enhanced courseware that aligns with pedagogical needs; second, to demonstrate small-scale preliminary projects completed through the proposed agile approach; and third, to share the initial findings and reflections on the implementation of this methodology.
This presentation will reacquaint the audience with the key concepts of linear and agile models to propose our design methodologies for possible solutions to the challenges we faced in the design processes. Subsequent sections in the presentation will introduce two pilot projects completed with new approaches to address different pedagogical needs while maintaining or enhancing effectiveness and efficiency in the process of design and production. The analysis of the projects and the initial findings will also be included at the end of the presentation to provide insights into the real-world impact of these practices.
Linear model vs. Agile model
Linear Design Model
In the linear design model such as the original ADDIE model, five phases (processes of Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation) depend on each of the other phases and need to be completed in a successive sequence (Allen, 2006; Branch, 2009). This linear approach may not be a true reflection of the complex nature of the instructional design process in real-world settings (Crawford, 2004; Kline, 1985; Tripp, & Bichelmeyer, 1990; Van Rooij, 2010). For example, when working in partnership with faculty to design and produce digitally-enhanced courseware, our design team often had problems following ADDIE processes to fully complete the design phase before moving forward to the next step(s). Many times, deadlines had to be postponed due to lack of feedback or delays in the completion of assigned tasks from and by faculty members. This caused a tight project timeframe, so all members of the team needed to design, develop, and implement simultaneously and navigate multiple parallel paths between these phases.
When attempting tasks in parallel, another challenge that continues to occur between stakeholders is differences in perceptions with respect to design, functionality, and implementation of the end product(s). Although learning objectives and relevant content materials and assessment plans were defined, even with mock-up prototyping, a substantial number of faculty members still had problems envisioning what these materials should look like and how they should function in the course. As such, the early-stage prototypes with low resolution can play no role in the communication with faculty and course producers in the early phase(s) of the design process.
On initial analysis, we also discovered that the lack of clarity in communication about the end products hindered faculty engagement in designing and implementing those developed materials into the class. The majority of faculty members are faced with competing priorities due to their myriad of roles and responsibilities. The development of online courses or digital courseware tends to be complex and requires one to invest a great deal of time and effort. Continuous changes and unclear results left faculty overwhelmed and made them shift priorities from these projects to other tasks which are more important to them. The challenge with managing faculty members’ expectations within this linear process is the impeding of the true engagement of faculty in efforts to support and advance the instructional design in developing effective courseware and learning materials.
From project management perspectives, the main purpose of this waterfall style model is to help organize and streamline the production process (Van Rooij,2010). If this model causes communication issues which lengthen the production timeline, additional human and financial resources will be needed to meet the projects’ deadlines. Continuous or uncontrolled changes due to different expectations of the final products not only necessitate additional time and budgeting but also could lead to project failure by delivering the wrong thing that did not align with the original pedagogical goals.
Applying Agile to Existing Design Process
An agile approach, originating in the software industry, focuses on fast delivery of a series of fully-functional components of the application, and all stakeholders work together to design and produce each segment with rapid development of its initial functional capacity and then evaluate and refine this segment over several iterations (Larman & Basili, 2003). In response to the communication issues previously mentioned, the agile approach, which involves a high level of team involvement throughout the project (Allen & Sites, 2012), allows everyone to share the same vision of the desired outcomes to be produced. Each completed piece of work is also reviewed by the team to ensure all components of the final released project align with the desired goals, which minimizes unexpected changes throughout the project, which in turn helps prevent scope creep.
During the phases of review, faculty members can interact with high-fidelity prototypes to gain a complete understanding of each design component and its functional capacities. This can assist faculty members to envision what the end-product will look like and cooperate with the design team to implement it into their teaching environment(s). With such an approach, we can keep faculty members engaged in the processes of design and production while also managing their expectations in a more effective way.
Pilot 01: Proof of Concept
The Proof of Concept (POC) is a strategy based on the agile approach to produce a small-scale project to orient faculty and other stakeholders to the entire process. This practice can assist them to identify how much time and effort will be needed for completing a project with the office. The design team can examine the feasibility of design ideas and make adjustments for preparing the larger-scale project. The media team and project manager gain an overall impression of the production schedule and budget to prepare sufficient financial or technical resources.
CS4All is one of our POC projects in which we partner with two professors in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering to examine the idea of game-based learning to support student intrinsic motivation. We applied the learning content of computer networking into a narrative framework and used it as the backbone to design the game where students needed to integrate their newly gained knowledge about the topic to advance the gameplay. As players transform the metaphors of learning content into personal meaning during gaming, this type of synthesis thinking consequently improves learners’ deeper understanding of the content, both within the game and beyond. Regarding the delivery and implementation, this mini-game served as one of the key instructional materials for the professors to teach the topic of computer networking. Students’ feedback on learning experiences and their test scores were collected after the class.
POC is a cost-effective approach for developing digital courseware. Through these smaller-scale projects, our office has learned how to allocate resources and set project schedules. This practice also helps us maintain or enhance faculty engagement. By developing a small instance of a larger idea, faculty learned how much effort and time they needed to invest into the work. This also prevented faculty from dropping off the project because of unfeasible effort required. Regarding scalability and reusability, the framework of this project can be applied to other domains, courses, or programs. The developed application can retain its flexibility for future reuses or incorporated along with other projects.
Pilot 02: Rapid Prototyping
To design a full course, we integrated agile approaches into a linear production process for a statistical learning course housed within a program focused on the education of working professionals in the data science field. Instead of perfectly executing all design tasks, the design team worked with faculty or subject matter experts to quickly identify pedagogical goals, as well as learning objectives, and then generate a general course blueprint including the course structure, assessment plans, media assets, and other possible instructional materials.
Once the initial preparation was done, the whole team including instructional designers, developers, faculty members, and media specialists, met and discussed the details of one learning unit of the course, which was displayed as a “week” within the course platform. Each component of this module was created in a collaborative way through two to three iterations in a rapid development cycle and then delivered onto the platform for all members of the team to evaluate. Team members were able to view and experience the content, practice problems, and homework, along with other instructional elements, through a student’s lens. This method allowed us to generate a high-fidelity prototype for not only functional testing but also quality assurance. Course producers and media specialists were able to try out the module and discover the problem areas. Learning designers and faculty members were able to pilot it in educational settings to ensure it suits the pedagogical goals to determine the success of the module before moving forward.
The use of prototyping is a popular design methodology for testing ideas (Tripp & Bichelmeyer, 1990) and this rapid prototyping for one unit of the course can provide all stakeholders early opportunities to see the work being delivered, and make decisions and changes accordingly. This prototype can also serve as a reference for building other learning units to reduce production time and cost. In addition to its cost-effectiveness, the high-fidelity characteristic of this prototype pleases faculty members and motivates them throughout these rapid constructions and modifications processes.
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Kline, S. J. (1985). Innovation is not a linear process. Research management, 28(4), 36-45.
Tripp, S. D., & Bichelmeyer, B. (1990). Rapid prototyping: An alternative instructional design strategy. Educational Technology Research and Development, 38(1), 31-44.
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