More than Instructional Design – course review

by | Aug 22, 2009 | Articles

I have to admit that I have not been on a face to face workshop now in over 8 years – most of my learning in the field of e-learning has come from research, case studies, conferences and the good fortune to personally know some amazing experts. 

So when I had the chance to join Neil Lasher at Trainer1’s ‘More than Instructional Design’ course at the end of July, I jumped at it – the course promotion outlines everything that I believe in – ‘eLearning software can produce fantastic looking results; but amazing design does not always provide functional eLearning content. Outsourcing to others to produce eLearning can also result in templated results, again it looks great, but does it change behaviour? ‘ and I wanted to find out more.
Booking 2 months ahead of the start date, I thought that it would be perfect for the quieter summer months and of course it never works out quite like that and as the workload became more frantic (of course everyone else is away!)I found myself thinking that I would have to pick up the phone and cancel – I am glad I didn’t!!

What does More than Instructional Design (MID)  cover?

Firstly we looked at the ‘seven levels’ of learner from school leaver through to PHD and considered motivation for learning and  how each level potentially uses technology in learning (based on some of Trainer1’s own research over the years). This was a great way to start as it became very clear that one size fits all will not work ( those involved in compliance learning beware!).

We then went onto explore  some of the ‘greats’ of ID: Gagne, Kolb, Bloom, Race, Wager and others and considered the theories. It was great to have a reminder of the theories and to challenge them in the context of using technology in learning design for different levels of learners. The core discussion was around how do you encourage someone do something differently particularly in a fast changing business environment.

For me one of the highlights of the progamme was on day2 when we looked at lessons about design from Guttenburg and others – bringing in design concepts from the world of print and advertising to help create online content that draws the learner in and ensures that they remember what they have seen.

The session covering models to help in planning design again helped to demystify some of the jargon in the industry – we considered  models like ADDIE, ASSURE and UVID plus one of Neil’s own but I would have liked to had more time to discuss whether they really are useful in a time where content has to be delivered faster than ever before to respond to business demands.

We spent the final afternoon in a practical exercise looking at the elements that might be needed in the design of an e-learning course for making a cup of coffee. This was great fun and by then everyone wanted to start to think about applying what we had learned – the trouble was that we did not get quite enough time to do this justice although it was fun to let creative juices run riot ( and it was quite riotous-  at one point we ended up searching you-tube for content that might help with health & safety guidelines and horrified ourselves by finding clips of people burning themselves with boiling water – don’t go there!)

What I was surprised that I learned?
I thoroughly enjoyed Neil’s research on learner styles and preferences – did you know for example that learners through from school leavers to board level all relate to You- tube style video content . When it comes to text – blue collar and white collar workers don’t scroll down to read text. School leavers and board level read the first paragraph only and strategists read everything that you throw at them!

I also found that the work on page design, text font and positioning of content compelling – fonts such as arial are a no no as they are not designed to be remembered – only to grab headlines. White text on black backgrounds might look good but is less likely to be remembered.

That formula 1 is not quite as boring as I first thought! – the course was held in the Williams F1 centre and the tour included was fascinating!

Who would I recommend this for?

This was a great introduction those starting out in e-learning via the self paced content route – whether you are building content yourself or buying it in.  It is not deeply technical so perfect  for those who want to be innovative in learning but do not profess to be  geeks!

From the reaction of the group that I was with, it works regardless of the delegate’s sector background – my co learners were from global organisations,an FE college,  small businesses, charities and training providers.

What will you get from it ?

The course acts as a great reminder of important instructional design theories (not a bad thing for those involved in course design full stop, let alone those designing with technology!).
It also demystifies some very useful methodology jargon so that you can  hold your own when your potential provides discuss the merits of e-learning design methodologies.
Understanding what will be remembered on the page will help you to evaluate online content from providers as well as avoid costly mistakes in your own design.

What won’t you get from it?

Certainly you won’t get bored! – Despite the fact that this is predominantly a theory based course, Neil Lasher’s anecdotes and occasional (very bad ) jokes will stop you from  falling asleep after the excellent lunches.

I also found that you don’t  get much time to consider the implications of the instructional design theories for the wider context of blended learning  – the application of the theories was constrained within this programme to the design of self paced content. I was a bit surprised that some of the constructivist theories of learning were not included here as that would have opened up a wider opportunity to consider peer to peer generated content, informal  learning and other important areas that provide context for self paced content.

My own scores on the doors:

  • 7 levels of learners – very useful to show that one size doesn’t fit all – 10/10
  • Coverage of ID theories  and e-learning design models– 8/10 ( would have liked to see constructivsm included too as an option).
  • Design tips and theories – 10/10  ( one of the best bits for me!)
  • Choice of media for a e-learning intervention – 7/10  ( would like to see a bit more on other technologies that can be used to engage the levels of learners
  • Venue & fun factor – 10/10
    Neil Lasher’s jokes – 1/10!

Find out more

For more information on dates and prices go to http://www.trainer1.com/mid.html

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