We’ve likely all heard myths about online learning.  Specifically, that anyone can succeed in an online learning environment and that online classes are easier for students than traditional face-to-face classes.  In a recent webinar, however, Instructional Designer Loren Kleinman of Berkeley College dispelled these myths while discussing how best to design engaging courses with Instructional Design Theory, using her school’s unique online learning prep course as an example.

Kleinman argues that while many students are savvy when it comes to accessing the web on mobile devices or using social networks, this does not always translate to skills necessary for success in online learning.  As such, Berkeley College ensures that incoming students will have positive outcomes during their tenure at the school by requiring a Road to Success in Online Learning (RTS) course to evaluate and determine students’ motivation, commitment, and ability to function effectively online.  In order to create this course, Loren implemented best practices of Instructional Design Theory to ensure it was developed to foster student success and accurately reflect their comfort in an online learning setting.

Here are some of Kleinman’s tips for using instructional design when designing online learning courses:

  • Know your audience: Are your learners primarily Millennials or adults? Traditional or non-traditional students?  These and other demographic questions will impact the teaching methodology used in online curriculum development.
  • Identify learning outcomes first: Knowing what students’ end goals are for the course will also impact the way it is designed. For example, if your course will involve intensive multimedia usage or peer-to-peer collaboration, your course should be designed accordingly to facilitate these activities.
  • Provide opportunities for assessment and feedback: Since many of today’s students are used to real-time updates and feedback, providing opportunities to be assessed and to see results will help them track progress and identify areas for improvement.
  • Use learning modules and Adaptive Release:   By breaking learning into modules by theme, students can achieve mastery in specific areas and build skills incrementally. With adaptive release, they will move systematically through each module and progress until they reach all learning outcomes without skipping critical information.
  • Include a navigation tool:  At Berkeley, students watch a web video at the onset of the course that walks them through what they will find in each module.  This helps students see the big picture of their course so they don’t feel stranded from the start, while also learning where to go for help along the way.

In addition to these best practices, Kleinman left participants with this food for thought on the role of technology in learning at the end of her presentation:

“Technology alone cannot support student engagement and success, but the construction of a suitable online learning environment that integrates good design can promote cognitive abilities, higher order thinking, and critical discourse.”

If you’re interested in learning more about best practices in online instructional design, you can view the slides from the webinar below, or click here to listen to the full recording of this presentation.



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