With the rise of technology and distance education, the field of instructional design is changing. In my current position, I’m constantly challenged with how to keep up with organizational demands of more education without more time in a classroom and how to use the latest and greatest technologies for the adult learner. And while instructional design can grow and expand to cover these new technologies, the rise of technology does not negate the fact that education must be based on theory and research into how individuals process information and learn; that is where this course became vital for me.
There were many topics and subjects discussed in this course that I found to be thought provoking and clarifying and provided a much needed knowledge base that I had been lacking as an instructional designer. Like many instructional designers, through a series of progressive role responsibilities I sort of fell into the field of instructional design. Therefore I fell into the role without the foundational knowledge of the field of education. In my current position as an instruction designer, I primarily develop web based training and supplemental training material for physicians and other clinical individuals. I have been designing educational material for several years now based on what other more seasoned designers and technical writers have taught me. What I realized through this class is that the techniques and design elements that I had been taught were not just some seasoned designer’s personal style but the majority of it was based on the theories covered in this course. For example, on several occasions’ subject matter experts would inquire on why certain elements were always a part of my design material, such as objectives at the beginning of a course or building in task complexity from simple to more complex or why material would be presented in a variety of ways such as visually, through narration and demonstration. I have heard countless times “do we really need an objectives slide? The physicians don’t read them anyway”. The fact is, while including these elements seemed like common sense to me; I did not really know the reason for them. I was designing that way because that is how I had been taught to design. Through the study of various learning theories, intelligence and learning styles, I have gotten clarity on many of the techniques I had been using. During this class, I discovered that the behaviorist learning theory, while some consider outdated, has provided so many tool to the field of instructional design, emphasis on course objectives being one of them. I would often stammer and fumble my way through a response of why the objectives need to be included in education material. I knew that they had to be in the material but I did not some of the reasons why course objectives are beneficial in terms of the planning and assessment of instruction. “…behaviorism has given us some very handy tools that we can use in instructional design. One of them is the idea of specifying ahead of time what you want the learning outcome to be, what you want the behavioral outcome to be” (Omrod, n.d.)”. We not only touched on benefit of course objectives in discussing the behaviorist learning theory but also as an confidence building tool which is an element of the ARCS motivation model.
The course has been beneficial in my reflection of my own previous learning experiences and my learning techniques and styles. I would consider myself a metacognitively aware student and I am aware of when I am not ‘getting’ something. After having experiences during my undergraduate education where, despite my best efforts, I did not understand some classes and was fearful of having a repeat performance in graduate school. In reviewing how information is processed by the brain, the importance of encoding and factors that affect adult learners, I was able to reflect on negative learning experiences from my past that prevented me from pursing graduate school sooner.
Through reviewing Gagner’s theory of multiple intelligences the concepts of learning styles, highlighting the need to instructional designers to develop educational deliverables and provide activities that cater to a broad spectrum of styles and intelligences promote proper encoding and develop the learner’s problem solving and application abilities. In my current position, I develop educational material for a variety of individuals, it would be physically and logistically impossible to survey them all, determine their individual learning style and in turn develop an educational program for them based on those results. To combat that reality, I can introduce various activity types that speak to a broad range of skills. “This does not mean that the instructional designer needs to create eight different activities for each learning objective! It does mean that the instructional designer needs to provide a variety of activities. Each learner will then have a better opportunity to meet the needs of his or her intelligence profile” ( Watrous-McCabe 2005 n.p.). In my current design process, I utilize a variety of techniques to assist a variety of learning styles. For example, in the training course for order entry that I developed for a hospital wide implementation, learners are first presented with an overview workflow of the entire order entry process. The course is then structured in a day-in-the-life order, basically they are introduced concepts in the same order they would do these processes in real life. Then the learner is visually oriented to the software application using the software simulation program Captivate. Concepts are introduced to user followed by and details with text boxes accompanied by a voiceover reading of those text boxes. For some users the voiceover keeps their attention and reiterates the concepts they are reading in the text boxes. For others, the voiceover is distracting. Users are able to mute and un-mute the voiceover. The education developed by my department uses a demo-practice method by which we would demonstrate a process and then let them practice that process immediately afterwards. Following each lesson, the learner would be given the option to participate in knowledge check questions, optional questions to help the learner gauge the comprehension of important concepts presented in the two or three previous lessons.
It is important for us as instructional designer to always be mindful of the various types of intelligence and learning styles as our ultimate goal is to develop inclusive material that supports all of our learners. Overlooking or ignoring any group of learner group, diminishes the probability of outcome success within the specific learner population. By incorporating various types of activities within the educational material, instructional designers can reach the various learning types and intelligences. Of course every type will not be addressed in every activity. I can develop a robust web based training course to appease the visual and auditory learning styles and even allow them to practice.
Since the target audience I design education for is solely adults, I was particularly interested in our discussions and reading focused on adult learners. Malcolm Knowles developed proposed assumptions that describe the typical adult learner, as someone who is motivated to learn that have impact on their job or personal life. Adult learners have a multitude of life experiences that serve as the basis of their knowledge and strongly impact their learning experience. The characteristics of an adult learner make them an ideal demographic for the distance education learning environment. I believe that success in a distance education environment hinges on the learner’s motivation, both extrinsic and intrinsic. Prior to this course, I never really considered addressing the motivation of the learners that have to view the web based training courses that I develop at work. To me, learning the material was part of their job and so they had to do it. However, Motivation is vital to any learning environment. Student motivation will dictate the activity and cognitive engagement of students, regardless of whether learning is taking place online or in a traditional setting. Keller’s ARCS model is designed to boost learner motivation through: Attention, Relevance, Confidence and Satisfaction. In a traditional setting, professors can use their demeanor, enthusiasm and the sheer power of face to face feedback with their students to promote student motivation. However, in an online setting, professors and instructional designers must use different tools to promote student motivation. There are several possible intrinsic and extrinsic motivators for online students. While intrinsic motivation, motivation from within the individual, is preferable it is not always possible. For example, many of the training courses I develop are to support organizational initiatives. Learners do not really have a say in whether they want to learn it or not. If they want to continue to do their jobs well they have to learn it. Motivators still have a place though because the organization does want happy employees. Also, not all extrinsic motivators are necessarily bad. Used appropriately extrinsic motivators can be very effective and have a positive effect. As a part of my design I can implement some practices that reflect Keller’s ARCS model to boost the motivational level of learners and thus the cognitive engagement within the online classes that I design, such as:
• Periodic emails/announcements sent to the targeted learners (physicians, medical students, etc) that contain: introductions, goal reminders, encouragement and instructor contact information (ARCS)
• Clearly defining the class objectives and expected student deliverables in the syllabus. (Confidence)
• Clearly sequencing course content from simple to difficult and matching that content back to the overall course objectives (Confidence)
• Provide a variety of resources and material, including various media formats (Attention)e.g. videos, audio, demonstration
• Encourage students to relate course material to their experiences and environment (Relevance)e.g. how the material relates to their practice or unit
• Provide opportunities for interaction, e.g. blogs, message board, Physician Hotline (Relevance)
• Offer pretest on material, to avoid boredom in covering material with which the student is already familiar (Attention)
• Offer self paced learning (Attention)
• Provide opportunities for additional assistance and (Satisfaction) e.g. Physician Hotline, one-on-one training events, supplemental resources
• Allowing learners to provide feedback on course activities and the course overall through surveys.(Confidence) In my current position, the design team has begun routing students automatically to an online survey once they have completed a web based training course that our team designed. An example of a question on our survey is “was the course material appropriate for your computer skill level?”
• Provide prompt and constructive feedback. (Confidence).
• Provide grades promptly and praise. (Satisfaction).
Besides a foundation in learning theories and how impact instructional design, the most important concept I have learned from this course is that learning is not black and white. No two learners are the same. As an instructional designer of a course, my goal must be to present material in the clearest manner possible so that individuals of multiple intelligences and learning styles can understand and relate to the material.
Armstrong, T. (2000). Multiple intelligences in the classroom (2nd ed ). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
Cercone, K. (2008). Characteristics of adult learners with implications for online learning design. AACE Journal, 16(2), 137–159. Retrieved from http://www.editlib.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Reader.ViewAbstract&paper_id=24286
Conlan, J., Grabowski, S., & Smith, K. (2003). Adult learning. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/index.php?title=Adult_Learning
Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), 50–71.
Huett, J., Moller, L., Young, J., Bray, M., & Huett, K. (2008). Supporting the distant student: The effect of ARCS-based strategies on confidence and performance. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 9(2), 113–126.
Huett, J., Kalinowski, K., Moller, L., & Huett, K. (2008). Improving the motivation and retention of online students through the use of ARCS-based E-mails. American Journal of Distance Education, 22(3), 159–176.
Kapp, K (2007) Out and About: Discussion on Educational Schools of Thought. Retrieved 3/16/11 from
Keller, J. M. (1999). Using the ARCS motivational process in computer-based instruction and distance education. New Directions for Teaching and Learning (78).
Learning Theories Knowledgebase (2011, April). ARCS Model of Motivational Design (Keller) at Learning-Theories.com. Retrieved April 21st, 2011 from http://www.learning-theories.com/kellers-arcs-model-of-motivational-design.html
Ormrod, J. (n.d.). “Behaviorism and Instructional Design”. (Video Program). Laureate Education.
Ormrod, J. (n.d.). Information Processing and the Brain. (Video Program). Laureate Education.
Ormrod, J., Schunk, D., & Gredler, M. (2009). Learning theories and instruction (Laureate custom edition). New York: Pearson.
Watrous-McCabe, J.(2005). Applying Multiple Intelligence Theory to Adult Online Instructional Design. Learning Solutions Magazine. Retreived from https://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/258/applying-multiple-intelligence-theory-to-adult-online-instructional-design