Instructional Design Making Effective E-learning | digitalLEARNING Magazine
December 2006

Instructional Design Making Effective E-learning

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The entire process of development of e-learning content brings together a group of people with different competencies. The  rocess can be considered as The people–process–product continuum or P3 model. For example, people involved in the e-learning  evelopment process can be Instructional Designers, graphics designers, project managers and quality assurance managers. The product can be a well-designed e-learning module and the process can be any  tandard process like Dick and Carey Model. The P3 model is a  olistic approach to course development and helps in not only creating very high-quality e-learning content, but also in delivery and maintenance of the course. This article is an attempt at envisaging the entire development process in a modular approach.

 

Broadly the e-learning development process can be  divided into two major phases:   (a) Development, and ( delivery and maintenance. Suitable content is developed in the first phase and the same is delivered using an appropriate   medium in the second phase. A typical   e-learning process has planning,   design,    dvelopment, evaluation,    delivery and maintenance stages.   The Iterative Process of E-Learning   Based on the size and scope of the   project, the number of individuals   involved in various stages of an elearning    project may vary. Some roles   and responsibilities may overlap, as   many e-learning tasks are interrelated   and interdependent. A large-sized elearning   project requires the   involvement of various individuals. In  a small or medium-sized e-learning   project some individuals will be able   to perform multiple roles. When an elearning   course is completely   designed, developed, taught and  managed by a single individual, the   same individual has performed the   role of content expert, instructional   designer, programmer, graphic artist,     project manager, etc. This article has    tried to identify various roles and   responsibilities involved in the elearning   development process.   Sometimes there is a need for an   instructional designer to explain the   learning part of the project. The   instructional designer is generally    involved during the entire content    development process, and once the 

module is created, it is the responsibility  of technical support to ensure   delivery of the module and also take  care of a few of the quality issues.   Stages of the e-learning process A typical e-learning content development cycle contains the following stages: Planning, Design, Production, Evaluation, Delivery and maintenance, Instruction, and Marketing Planning stage During this stage a team consisting of project manager, instructional designer and the director worktogether and develop a project plan after a thorough analysis of the audience profile and user requirements. They analyse various aspects of people, process  and   products involved in the e-learning development initiative. This plan must  be pedagogically and financially  sound and should guide the entire elearning  team (production, evaluation,  delivery, maintenance, instructional  and support services) to engage in  their respectively assigned activities.   The planning team must consider the  various learning models and   strategies before working out the   entire plan. It is just not enough to    make the plans pedagogically sound;  they must be financially sound too.  The team needs to work out the timeframe   for every activity of the project,  with possible breakdown time and   buffer time to take care of exigencies.    The end product of the e-learning   planning process is a sound    elearning project plan,   whichprovides guidance during various   stages of the e-learning process.     Design stage The output from the planning stage, which is a plan document, is available at this stage for reference. People involved in this stage are instructional and graphics designers, interface designers, technology experts, and evaluation, quality and R&D personnel. The R&D person is responsible for reviewing course content for pedagogical soundness and selection of the appropriate delivery medium. He must be aware of limitations and capabilities of every medium and also the latest development in the area. Care must be taken to ensure the content is created using Aviation Industry Computer-based Training Committee (AICC or Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM)     compliant if needed. Instructional  Designers play an important role, but their role is usually overlooked. The instructional designer designs the complete environment in which learning can take place. S/he conceptualises the e-learning strategy and methodologies based on the background of the audience. The design team must also communicate with developers about the action  scripts. The output product at this stage is the storyboard.

Production stage
At the production stage the production team creates the e-learning course from the storyboard put together at the design stage. The  production team creates all the required details independently and  integrates them in the course module.  It creates all the necessary links and makes the navigation smooth. The production coordinator leads the elearning  production process. All  members must put their modules in a central server so that security issues are also taken care of. All members  must follow the same naming convention for each module. Every day team members can work on the module (s) and store it back on the server when they leave. This  facilitates checking of the content  independent of members. Once the course is created and quality check of  the content is performed, it should be pilot tested. Once the project manager  collects all the comments from the pilot test team members, he can discuss them with the instructional  designer and necessary changes can be incorporated with the help of the development team. The product of the production process, then, is course material ready for pilot testing.

Evaluation stage
Evaluation is done at every stage of the entire life cycle, and feedback is incorporated in the product. Basically, there are two types of evaluations, formative and summative. Formative evaluation is conducted during the development stage and is iterative in nature. Summative evaluation is conducted at the end of the development when all the  components are integrated into a fullfledged  course. All the assessments are checked with respect to the learning objects, for  their relevance and appropriateness. The overall look and feel of the course is very important and clients are very  particular about it. Finally, the learning expert has to satisfy that the  learner will learn from the course. The  course is also evaluated for conforming to AICC, SCORM or other  standards.

Delivery and maintenance
After the content has been created, the focus shifts to delivery. The  driving force behind e-learning is that  the course content (or the module) must be available at any time from  anywhere to the learner. The content material may include audio, graphics,  simulations, assessments, videos, reading material and other features.  The delivery and maintenance (D&M) team plays a pivotal part during this  stage. The team has to first load the content either on the server or on the  learning management system (LMS) and test every bit of it, including  simulation and navigation. The team must also take into account the size of  the module andspeed of access, etc.  In most cases, an LMS may be used for delivery of the module. There is a  need to check the SCORM, AICC and other standards once the course is loaded here. The e-learning module  must be available to the learner any time. The learner must have the  control to leave the course and come back to it as many times as she wants.  Overall, the D&M team is responsible  for ongoing updating and monitoring of the e-learning environment,   ncluding security measures for access control and information  confidentiality. 

Instruction stage
The instruction team is the core of  good e-learning content development cycle. At the course instruction stage,  instructional and support services staff (ISS) are the people involved in  delivering the instructional product. E-Learning environment  Once the content is ready the course may be offered either through a portal or in standalone mode. The  expectation of the learner is that they  must be provided with a good learning environment and uninterrupted learning time. It is  necessary to see to it that the correct  courses are received by students who  register for a particular course. The Internet and availability of good  bandwidth gives organisations one  ore medium for delivery of learning  content. This is attracting both academic and non-academic  institutions to seriously consider elearning. The E-learning P3 model provides a  comprehensive picture of the elearning process and helps identify  the roles and responsibilities for the design, development, evaluation, implementation and management of all  e-learning and blended learning materials and systems.  

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