Monday, February 06, 2006

A five-way approach to e-learning design and development

I was reading this post about 5 ways to improve productivity and began thinking about my constant battle to outline an approach in working with teachers to plan their online courses. I've always found this process hard to pin down, although I'm not a great stickler for systematic approaches! Having said that, I find I continually start from square one with many teachers, mainly because there's a need to get acquainted, as well as spend some time (however brief) attempting to understand how a teacher thinks and what their teaching habits and preferences are!

So, I'm attempting to represent some sort of workflow, based on my previous experiences with teachers, as a way to not only outline some sort of process, but to identify (for myself mostly) any gaps/omissions that might impact on the eventual design of the online course. Nothing is really foolproof, but I find the process of reflection a good motivator in keeping my personal work standards fresh and relevant. Here's a bit of a skeletal sketch so far...

The pentagon model above takes the five points discussed in the blog post at LifeHack and illustrates the fact that this is usually not a linear process, and the starting point depends on what the teacher (and myself) brings to the discussion at the start of a development project. For example, we might start straight out with a plan of sorts from which other aspects are then considered and in turn applied. I've kept 'Procrastination' there because it speaks volumes about the nature of work, human interaction and our own motivations! It's an important aspect that we need to factor into the process, because it is often caused by a number of factors, or barriers. I've included learning here as well; my reasoning is aligned with Maslow's hierarchy of needs. You can't do something if you have other more pressing needs to address first. Often in my line of work that has to do with either technology (and the varying levels of one's technical skills) or the fact that teachers are often entering unfamiliar territory when they approach online learning and teaching. Apprehension, anxiety, confusion, frustration, misconception, and busyness are all factors I think contribute to procrastination (and thus impact other elements like prioritising!) - it is an entirely internal thing that we foster as individuals! Other aspects outlined are prompted by those ever-present questions, 'what', 'how', 'why', 'when' and 'who'. Simple questions often result in informative and relevant answers. You can ask these questions over and over until an answer emerges! You can repeat these questions after receiving an answer to help refine ideas, as teachers (and designers) come to know the development more intimately (kind of like an acquaintance becoming more of a friend).

Overall, I see this an an active process, one in which all parties are able to reflect-in-action (or "thinking on your feet") and respond accordingly. This is a key part of developing teaching praxis and an understanding of what it means to teach and learn using technologies. This obviously doesn't happen overnight and is very much an iterative process (thus the spiral).

So, what do you reckon?

See also: Maslow's hierarchy of needs

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