The following is truly a work in progress, and I’d be happy to hear comments…
Last weekend, I completely redesigned the way I teach “what is design?” for my advanced instructional design course, and we had two sessions on the subject this week (which went pretty well). Nonetheless, I’m still mulling over how to best explain this “inside your head” process.
“Design” is a bit of a slippery concept, and I’ve taken to describing it as the result of a number of decisions made in the context of your overall project.
Designing involves decisions regarding targeted audience, goals and objectives, scope and content, delivery methods, techniques and activities, and structure and timing. While it might appear that these decisions are made in a linear fashion, they are in practice made through a kind-of balancing act wherein the designer thinks through the consequences and risks of each decision, adjusting here and there until he or she is satisfied that a solid design has been outlined.
In addition to balancing all these decisions against one another, the designer also needs to consider other factors like cost, time to launch, capabilities of facilitators and developers, logistical possibilities and limitations, and preferences of designers, facilitators, and clients. All of this must be underpinned by a deep understanding of adult learning and how to promote it in the environment that your learners work in every day.
Slippery concept indeed.
Here’s how I outlined the major decisions that eventually constitute a design. In class, we talked about component design rather than curriculum or learning environment design, but I think the same decisions are made at the “grand” level and the table below reflects both perspectives. Feedback is welcome.
|Design Decision||Grand Design
(e.g. learning envrionment, curriculum)
(e.g. course, learning resources)
|Audience(Who)||Who is the audience?
How might the audience be subdivided (if at all)?
|For whom is the component piece being designed?
What are the critical audience characteristics to account for in design?
|Objectives(Why)||What are the business goas and performance objectives?||What are your business goals and performance objectives, and your learning goals and objectives?
How complex are your learning objectives?
|Content(What)||What knowledge and skill areas need to be “covered”?
What aspects of these topics are in scope and out of scope?
|What information, procedures, skill models, etc. will be shared with learners?
What is in scope and out of scope for the component?
|Delivery Method(Where)||What delivery methods will best accommodate the needed techniques, the overall environment, and learner preferences?
What is the entry interface (e.g. learning suite, LMS, web site)?
|How are you going to deliver your component?
What tools will be used to develop materials?
|Techniques and Activities(How)||What techniques will best support the learning you are trying to promote?||What techniques will best contribute to the achievement of your objectives?
What is the high level design of the activities?
|Structure and Timing(When)||What aspects of the learning need to be self-directed (pulled) vs need to be instructed (pushed)?
What apects of the learning need to be organized vs. what aspects can be available as needed?
Is there an overall arc or specific order to the learning?
How will the learning be tied together across multiple components or courses (thematically, graphically)?
What is the intended overall duration of the grand scheme?
|How do we organize the delivery of the components?
How do modules break down within a component?
What order will the activities take (and does it matter)?
How do we represent the content (graphics, sound)?
What will materials look like (graphics, package)?
How long will it take to complete individual activities or components?
What is the intended overall duration of the component?
Here are some of the things I’m still grappling with…
The “theme” decision. I originally had a seventh design decision that I called “theme” but it felt a bit out of place especially when I realized I could tag all the other decisions with the famous questions, who, what, when, where, why, and how. But I’m still waffling. Coming up with a unifying metaphor, a graphic, a mnemonic, or a color and graphics scheme are important aspects of design that may need their own category. Most of us don’t have graphic designers who take over that role for us, and our success often depends on creating something memorable.
The structure and timing decision. I may want to break this decision category up. The way I’ve described it, structure decisions are about modularization, sequence, and graphical theme (see above). Timing decisions are about pull vs push approaches, seat time, and duration. Here are the issues with having them all as one decision category: it’s a lot to absorb in one category; the category doesn’t align as well with one question (when); and the complexity of the decisions might get buried.
The other factors. I need to consider how to represent the “other factors” so they don’t come across as an aside. Cost, time, capabilities, logistics, preferences, and adult learning are critical influences.
Thanks for letting me share my musings – any comments or insight you might provide will help me fine-tune this for the next time I teach it, so please feel free to critique!