Saturday, July 31, 2010

What is Instructional Design?

I'm working on a project designing an M.Ed. program. There is one course in Instructional Design. It's kind of interesting having taken many courses and done quite a bit of research on this topic, it's hard to nail things down to what you'd cover in just one class.

If you're looking for core principles for this field, it seems to me that there are three general levels of abstraction. At least, this is what I came up with.

The first layer is what I'll call the Process layer. This is ADDIE, the Dick & Carey Model, or Rapid Prototyping, meaning the overall process of determining stakeholder needs, implementing something to meet those needs, and evaluating how well needs were met. These models are generally ongoing cycles.

The second layer is what I'll call the Architectural layer. This is Merrill's First Principles of Instruction or Gagné's 9 Events of Instruction. In order to get to this layer, you have to be (or should be) going through a design process, and you decide the types of problems students will have to solve and the ways in which students will be motivated to learn. This is the core of designing how the course will function, how and when learning materials will be accessed by students, and making sure on a macro level that the course will be effective.

The third layer is what I'll call the Turbidity layer. This is Sweller's Cognitive Load Theory or Clark & Mayer's Multimedia Principles. Once the first two layers are set and the overall framework has been laid out, the outline is filled in with details. These specifics can either add to or detract from the planning in the first two phases. Maybe you've got awesome videos with no pause buttons. Maybe course materials are scattered around on half a dozen websites, each with their own username and password to access. Given two great textbooks, which do you choose? Every choice you make, no matter how small, can make your instruction more or less clear. On a micro level, ensure your course materials are effective.

How many of these layers can you integrate into one instructional design course and in what order?