I receive many of questions about instructional design. When faculty come to my office they want to know two things: What instructional design is. Then, what I, as an Instructional Designer, can do for them. (sounds a little like andragogy) Some think that instructional designers just make videos and use technology. Hopefully, this post will help define instructional design and look at one of many different concepts that an Instructional Designer will apply to their work.
Let’s start with a definition of Instructional Design. I am taking the definition from a Facebook discussion where three Instructional Designers re-constructed the definition (Post: Definition of Instructional Design). Instructional Design is a learner-centric systematic approach to instruction which creates effective, measurable, and replicable learning experiences.
But what does that all mean to faculty? Most likely not a thing, because it can bring up a lot of feelings of resentment and confusion with faculty who are hired to teach. The assumption is that if they went through their subject matter expert field of study, that they would just know how to create instruction. faculty don’t know and aren’t required to understand the educational science in what they do. For example, they don’t need to know that there is a whole field of study on Multimedia Learning. Richard Mayer, ie, the Daddy of Multimedia Learning suggests that Learners can only process a small amount of content at a time and the visual and audio representation of knowledge must be organized in a meaningful way (Mayer 2010). Which means content needs to be chunked into small bits, so the Learner can optimize the process of learning.
Faculty are not required to understand educational science in what they do. For example, they don’t need to know that there is a whole field of study on Multimedia Learning. Richard Mayer, ie, the Daddy of Multimedia Learning suggests that Learners can only process a small amount of content at a time and the visual and audio representation of knowledge must be organized in a meaningful way (Mayer 2010). Which means content needs to be chunked into small bits, so the Learner can optimize the process of learning.
For instance, an instructor wants to video all of his or her lectures and put them up on the LMS without edit and without chunking it. Each video is one hour or 3 hours long depending on the lecture length. The Instructor has used the latest technology, like the Swivl, record the lecture. Just by the technology of recording the Instructor believes that it will be somehow new. Another type of technology is VoiceThread in which the instructor can upload a PowerPoint presentation and record audio over the slide. This is new technology for the instructor, but the instructor still reads the PowerPoint presentation word for word.
With the help of an instructional designer an instructor can recreate the one hour lecture, by creating chunks of learning that will better represent the ideas, concepts, and knowledge that the instructor wants to convey. Can the lecture be chunked into 10 to 15-minute videos, which clearly suggest topic, scope, and practice? Is the instructor reading the PowerPoint word for word? Mayer’s Multimedia Learning suggest that reading word by word actually decreases a Learner’s ability to process and retain information, it takes away from the learners ability to process in both the audio and visual “channels” and requires the learner to have unlimited amounts of memory space (p33). A better way, according to Mayer, is to appeal to both auditory/visual channels of the brain in order to process knowledge (p33). For instance, using an image and a verbal explanation of what that image is.
Instructional Designers do not have to teach the instructor Mayer’s Theory, but we can come up with ideas that embody Mayer’s principles. We can help the instructor to come up with different ways of presenting the material. Is there a video from a reputable site (that has been vetted) which will allow you to use that video in a course? Is there a way to visually represent the concept instead of describing it?
Are the PowerPoint presentations really handouts?
Are there graphics that can be used?
Will these ideas stop a faculty member from using 1 to 3-hour lectures for their online course? Most likely not, however, when students lose interest and drop their courses, they might have a change of heart.
Mayer, R. E. (2014). The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning (Second Edition. ed.). New York: Cambridge University Press.