Radical Redesign

Here is a summary of a proposal that I just submitted and hope to present at that just got accepted 🙂 for the 2020 DT&L Conference this summer. It’s a result of my re-thinking of how most people go about designing their online (or blended) courses: usually, there is a noticeable gap between what we know about how people learn (actual, measurable, research-based data), and how we develop learning activities for our courses.

This is an attempt to bridge that gap.

Most recent decade has seen increased interest in conducting well-designed studies that provide actionable guidelines applicable in instructional design practice. There has been particular increase in research that provides actual, objectively measurable change in knowledge (Kirkpatrick Level 2), rather than a subjective, self-reported student data (Kirkpatrick Level 1).

By comparison, less effort has been invested in translating the results of such studies into practice, and into the development of easily applicable guidelines for designing effective student interactions and activities whose chances of success are well-supported by research.

Similarly, while most popular guidelines and standards for online courses stress the need for alignment of course objectives, materials, activities, and assessments, practically no guidelines require or recommend similar grounding of student activities in principles supported by research.

When my School decided to refresh graduate-level courses for online delivery, I proposed that we consider a simple, yet innovative and radical instructional design principle: that all course activities should not only be built using sound, published evidence that supports their potential for effectiveness, but that such grounding in published research for each activity would also be clearly articulated and made available to students. Additionally, the course would provide interested students with access to the actual, original research (article) which supports the learning principle on which the activity is based. In other words, I want students to be able to understand why their course activities have been designed in a specific way, and what proof (= published, peer-reviewed research) there is to let us assume that they would work, as designed.

This workshop guides participants through the most important published, data-driven research of the last two decades, distills the results to a manageable set of easy-to-apply principles, and provides a framework (templates) for actually developing such activities.

The list of source studies include research that includes measurable evidence of learning (at least as Kirkpatrick’s Level 2, that is, excluding any self-reported, subjective studies that are Level 1 on Kirkpatrick’s scale), time-offset control group, and that has been replicated in more than one published study.

Consequently, this catalog of evidence-based principles is derived primarily from meta-analyses that evaluated effectiveness of specific teaching/learning strategies: the foundational 2013 Dunlosky et al. article, Mayer’s 2014 update of principles of multimedia learning (Cambridge UP, 2014), Fiorella’s 2015 principles of generative learning (Cambridge UP, 2015), and the Learning Scientists’ summary of effective teaching strategies (Weinstein/Sumeracki, Routledge, 2018).

Estimated Workshop Duration: 90 minutes total

  • 0-5 mins – Introduction of the core focus of the workshop, and our main challenge (PowePoint);
  • 5-10 – Setting common language: Distinctions among standards, best practices, and principles;
  • 10-20 – INTERACTIVE: Work in groups of 2-3 to evaluate 3 brief study scenarios – what is good and what is missing?
  • 20-25 – Report and Summarize: How do you evaluate usefulness of an experimental study? PowerPoint;
  • 25-35 – Presentation of the main principles of effective learning (no data provided at this time);
  • 35-45 – INTERACTIVE What really works: work in groups of 2-3 to rank the list of principles based on your perception of potential effectiveness; report back to group;
  • 45-55 – Compare results with actual data
    Present Activity Templates linked to Learning Principles;
  • 55-65 – INTERACTIVE Groups of 2-3
    Develop an outline of 1 activity based on a template;
  • 65-80 – Report to group / Summarize
  • 80-90 – Q&A, Sharing of online resources