I often feel that Instructional Design puts unnecessary shackles on how we present materials. Although I’ve been working with proven template for online modules of instruction for some time I can’t shake the feeling that it’s too strict in it’s form even though it provides the correct function. So to relieve my guilt about being “that” instructional designer I’ve been looking at different online designs from inside and outside the post-secondary world hoping to discover some transferable templates. I’ve discovered a far more exciting (yet far less scalable, maintainable, and duplicate-able) world of lessons. Here’s three of my favorites.
Learn an Hour of Code
The Learn an Hour of Code initiative utilizes videos, notes, and interactive games to deliver you an hour of engaging and sound design.
The course material is delivered through videos which explain the concepts and tools in a logical sequence starting with some motivation from coding gurus like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerburg. But soon we are greeted by a high-school student who will take us through the instructional material.
If video isn’t your thing or if you just want to slow it down and really think about what’s being said, there’s a tab at the top of the player which lets you see the scenes with transcribed text.
Once you’ve watched a video you’re given the opportunity to apply the knowledge in increasingly complex games that have you coding using non-threatening drag-and-drop tools from Blockly. You can always look “under the hood” to see the text based code you’re creating.
As you code your way through the exercises you’re given immediate feedback to assess your understanding and you can return to the video or notes at anytime if you need to review a concept.
What I really liked about this course was the small chunks of learning, sequenced from the simple to the complex, but also the way everything was just in time. Just-in-time training, I think, has become ubiquitous in our online activities. Pop-up boxes, and roll-overs have become the expectation of the user in how we navigate through the technology which keeps it transparent and allows me to focus my cognitive energy on learning the tasks at hand.
- Just-in-time efficiency
- High production value
- Great sequencing and chunking
Dino 101 is a MOOC from the University of Alberta that is just completing it’s maiden voyage this December. I’ll admit now that I have spent very little time in the MOOC and that like the majority of the registrants I will not likely complete the course, but its a MOOC, soooo….
That said, the time I did spend with my 5 year old son learning about dinosaurs from some of the best Canadian minds in the field was a real pleasure. Again, the main delivery mode for the content was video. And, like in the Learn to Code example the production quality was impressive, which made watching far more enjoyable than a lecture captured class. Locations for the videos utilized green screen and chroma key technology, on location in dig sights, and locations in around the University of Alberta’s dinosaur collections and museums.
Like with the Learn to Code project, the Dino 101 course offers the transcribed scripts for these video lectures as well for those who want to slow down or just prefer learning by reading the text.
Through-out the videos there interactive opportunities to test your knowledge and learn more. Again the quality of production here is excellent. Although I’m not quite sure what program was used to create these interactions (camtasia?) they added a lot and helped to break up the content nicely. There were some puzzle type games and a few other interactions which never did load properly for me so I can’t comment of their design other than to say that they didn’t load.
Sequencing and chunking was also well thought out in this course. As this is a University level course there is a lot of content to get through, but the videos are well thought out with no one video over about 12 min. and on average more like around 6-8 min. with usually around 3-5 in each module.
Quizzes and a collaborative wiki for notes round out a great experience. Again, the production value tends to win you over right from the start, but the design and thoughtfulness for objectives and assessments, sequencing and chunking are obvious and fulfill all the requirements my template ask for, but in an engaging and less “stuffy” kinda way.
- High production value
- Great sequencing and chunking
- Variety of technologies and tools
Method of Action
This third one I can’t say too much about yet as it has yet to be launched, but I’m anxious to get inside and have a look around. I still dabble in video production (an obsession from a previous career) and have recently started getting deeper into exploring the world of Colour Grading. As a result of dipping my toe into the waters of the colourist, I received an email with a link to Method of Action and an upcoming course on Design. The interesting thing here is it seems it was designed for those with a Programmers analytic and logical mind. Currently available are three “games” that allow you to learn a bit about Kern Type, Shape Type, and Color properties and harmonies. Unlike the other two examples, this game intends to teach you about color theory simply by doing it. Now, as I say, the course itself is not up yet, so I can’t comment on what other supporting materials go along with this game, but it’s pretty cool. Try it out.
- Abstract ways of knowing
- Not really sure yet….