Office of Digital Humanities
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Overview of Instructional Design Principles

I. Producing Computer-based instructional materials.

In the past few years software manufacturers have introduced myriad new applications that promise to "let you do X just like the pros." Among these have been authoring programs, such as LiveCode, HyperCard, Authorware, Toolbook and others. But just having a powerful, easy to use tool, does not guarantee you will produce wonderful courseware, any more than having a paint program will let you produce artistic images, or a high-powered word processing program will make you a great author. There are lots of overblown claims of the capabilities of computer-aided productivity tools.

Let’s illustrate the folly of such claims by comparing courseware production to video production. Today’s video and motion picture cameras are light years ahead of those in use just a few years ago. Many of them have advanced features, many dependent on microchip technology (= computers) to acheive this high performance. Yet the manufacturers of the cameras do not suggest that anyone can pick up a high-tech camera and begin producing professional-quality videos or motion pictures.

For any project to succeed, several elements must be present:

Technical expertise

That’s what we are trying to gain in this course.

• Subject matter expertise

Each of you brings some level of expertise gained from your major studies. You may also draw upon the expertise of professors, reference materials, etc.

• Careful planning before the start of production

This is what I want to discuss today.

II. Basic principles of instructional design

There have been many models proposed for designing courseware materials. Each may emphasize different aspects of the process, but, in regard to the what should take place before the actual development begins, most include these basic considerations:

Setting objectives and goals

Formulating an instructional strategy

After determining what it is you want to teach, you must formulate an instructional strategy, then choose the media and format that best facilitate this.

Decisions that affect the design of the courseware:

1. Courseware formats:

• Discussion of various types of courseware approaches: tutorial, simulation, hypermedia, drill and practice.

TUTORIAL: Any of the Humanities 101 tutorials

SIMULATION: Montevidisco

HYPERTEXT/HYPERMEDIA: Beethoven 9th Symphony, Early Spring


2. Linear vs. Non-linear

Linear - Sequential presentation of information. "Electronic page-turning."

Non-linear - Lots of branching, links to related information. Path is user-selected or determined by user choices.

3. Structured vs. Unstructured

"Some of the few studies that have been done on how multimedia course structure affects student comprehension have found that programs that actively control the student’s progress (as opposed to unstructured free exploration) and those that frequently test for comprehension are ultimately more effective in raising student test scores." Syllabus, No. 22, April/May 1992, p. 4

Make a blueprint

It is a good idea, before you begin to program, to map out your step-by-step plan for implementing your strategy.

A storyboard can be useful in thinking through your ideas and providing you a blueprint during actual development

This does not mean that you should not use your computer at all during this phase. It can be useful for trying out ideas. But you should not consider anything you program at this time as part of the final project, only as "studies" that may be incorporated later.

As a general rule of thumb, in a well-conceived courseware project you will spend at least as much time in "pencil-and-paper" planning as you will in the actual "programming" stage.

A word about the development team model

An ideal approach, but often not available. Sometimes one person may play more than one role.

The team may include, but not limited to:

• Content specialist

• Instructional designer

• Computer systems specialist/programmer

• Graphic artist

• Audio technician

• Video technician

Even if you are working on your own, your project will always benefit from input by others, either from the expert/specialist point of view, or from the user point of view.

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This page last updated on March 22, 2011 09:34:00.