Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Focusing on activities

Why do so many online courses focus on content? If your learners have a text book, why do so many instructional designers feel they have to replicate the text in the online course? What does this accomplish?

Well, I’ve been pondering those questions for years – and asking my colleagues to focus on creating activities to support the learning objectives rather than paraphrase the text. It’s more difficult, it takes longer…and it can lead to an excellent learning experience…

So how do we create activities not content? Some instructional designers argue that because they are not content experts, they can’t be expected to be able to determine what the learners need to know at the end of a lesson. Well, I do a lot of developing sans content expert, and here’s what I’ve discovered: if I have a good learning objective, I can design activities to support that objective. If the objective is a simple “Describe…. “ (I hate those) I can have the learners search out descriptions on the web,  in their text, or through conversations with others. Better yet, I can give them the descriptions and ask them to match them to terms using a simple interactive application. Ever play My Word Coach for the DS or Wii? One of the quizzes in that program does just that – except you’re racing against the clock. As you proceed through the levels, the terms and definitions keep coming back to you in various games, and at the end of each level you’re almost certain to have a far better understanding of the term than you did at the start of the instruction.

Instead of providing content, I provided an interactive activity that my learners would enjoy – and that would help them learn and understand the terms they need to be able to go on to the next activity. Next post, I’m going to tell you how and why I designed that activity. 

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