UNE Instructional Design: demonstrating excellence in online graduate education
Very broadly, Instructional Design is the process by which instructional materials are designed, developed, and delivered. It’s the job of the Instructional Designer to coordinate learning experiences that are efficient, effective, and appealing.
The terms instructional design, instructional technology, educational technology, curriculum design, and instructional systems design (ISD), are often used interchangeably.
Instructional design also involves the process of identifying the skills, knowledge, information and attitude gaps of a targeted audience and designing activities to close the gaps, based on learning theory and best practices from the field.
A brief history
According to Wikipedia, much of the foundation of the field of instructional design was laid in World War II, when the U.S. military faced the need to rapidly train large numbers of people to perform complex technical tasks, from field-stripping a carbine to navigating across the ocean to building a bomber.
Remember filmstrips and projectors?
Instructional design is a rapidly changing field that has quickly evolved from the filmstrips of old to interactive, media-rich online courses.
What does the UNE IDS Team do?
Because they work primarily behind the scenes, most people have no idea what an IDS team does – nor that we even have an Instructional Design Services team. At UNE, our IDS team is a diverse group of people who are passionate about their field. Totally into pedagogy by day; gamers, writers, photographers, painters, skiers, cat-herders, foodies and beer brewers by night. Their diversity mirrors the diversity of the student body they serve, which is a good thing. UNE students span the globe, and students with vastly different backgrounds and interests must often take the same courses in order to graduate. Our IDS team draws from its rich array of experiences in order to make the same path walkable by all.
The inside scoop
According to Chris Malmberg, a UNE Instructional Designer, “Instructional Designers work to design for student-centered learning. We use technology for this, sometimes, but our guiding light is what each of us considers to be sound learning principles. We don’t always agree on which principle would be best for particular students or courses, but that’s more indicative of how lively and dynamic our field is than anything else.”
Courses are learner centered, not teaching centric
While the details of learning theory evolve, the foundation of IDS philosophy is mostly a common one: courses should be learner-centered, not teacher-centered.
Traditionally, instructors focused on teaching and not on learning. The distinction sounds glib, but the result of student-centered learning design reduces the emphasis teachers put on their own performances as “instructors” and places more emphasis on their roles as “facilitators.” Rather than spending hours preparing a forty-five minute lecture, for instance, a teacher may spend those hours giving students individual feedback on their work. Shifting the emphasis to what the students are studying encourages students to become more engaged learners, and to take responsibility for their own mastery.
Course delivery depends on course content
Each course is custom tailored for online learning, and the teacher’s facilitation process is developed to best serve what suits the subject matter and class profile. Many of our students are professionals attempting to balance their work responsibilities against their student responsibilities. Mindful course design can make that balance much easier to maintain. Our asynchronous course design caters to professionals who work all day and have to do their coursework at odd hours.
Doing it the right way
A good ID-facilitator team looks for ways to capture the richness that a good facilitator brings to the classroom, such as responsiveness, a sense of humor, rich experience, and immediate feedback. Content is pared down to its essence so that students can spend more time being active doers than being passive receivers, and facilitators, with less demand placed on them to create material for the course, are encouraged to spend their time guiding student doings.
Also, when our IDS team moves a face-to-face course online, they approach it not just as a translation-job between modalities but as an opportunity to improve the class. They view it as a chance to review and refresh the content, and leverage the latest technology to its fullest potential. They test and integrate new technologies to make content more accessible, more engaging…simply mo’ betta’ in every way.
What makes a good instructional designer?
Two words: Pedagogy Nerd. The designers on our UNE IDS team continue to study education because it is their craft. They enjoy discovering and developing new learning tools, refining course designs, presenting to their colleagues at conferences across the country, and more. Good instructional designers, just as they desire for the students on whose courses they work, continue to develop themselves professionally through all these avenues.
As Will Durant paraphrased from Aristotle, “Excellence is not an act, it’s a habit…”