In a previous reflection, I established 10 factors to consider before transitioning to eLearning. Consideration of each factor can guide the subsequent instructional design to integrate technology when advantageous while recognizing areas where a traditional approach may be best.
eLearning Should Have a Purpose
With eLearning ideas proposed, the astute instructional designer will ensure that educational benefits are probable before implementing a technology. Otherwise, the implementation serves no real purpose. In the prior reflection, general benefits and limitations were reviewed for a hypothetical paramedic field training course. Many educational technologies exist for such a course, including high-fidelity simulators and MUVEs. To maintain brevity, we will look at one simple eLearning opportunity to be applied to the cognitive objectives of the course: Creating online modules to enhance learner understanding of the content.
1. Understood: Is technology training available to verify readiness to use the eLearning tool?
Training personnel must first be provided with sufficient time and training to design and develop- while learning how to how to evaluate and proficiently interact with- the online modules. A training course for learners will also be available.
2. Accessible: Will the technology demands require additional infrastructure?
Working with IT professionals, sufficient bandwidth will be verified at each location where interaction with the modules is likely. The bandwidth must allow for function that prevents frustration while interacting with the modules.
3. Responsive: Does the technology offer responsive content on multiple devices and browsers?
At minimum, the content in each module must be verified as being “user friendly” from any assigned devices and available browsers. Ideally, a responsive design should be used to allow access from any device and browser.
4. Customizable: Can content be modified in a timely manner to provide alternatives?
Modules will be divided into subsections to allow for amendment if information changes or feedback reveals that a certain section is ineffective. Varying iterations can be shared as ‘alternative resources’, which may assist struggling learners and allow others to explore topics in greater depth.
5. Synchronous: Does the technology allow for interactive, synchronous online instruction?
Two-way virtual communication with a facilitator is necessary to establish instructor presence in the course and increase student satisfaction (Boettcher 2011, Baker 2010, Cobb 2009). Virtual conferences will be scheduled for all modules with complex content and periodically to provide direction on expectations.
6. Asynchronous: Are activities and time available to promote learner reflection and research?
Activities will be scheduled to provide sufficient time between the initial assignment and required due date for learners to enter a metacognitive state.
7. Automated: Are mandatory processes automated by the technology?
Wherever possible, manual tasks will be automated to generate more time for instructor availability and presence while improving objectivity in evaluation.
8. Enabling: Will the technology allow facilitation of learning in groups by guiding?
Mandatory content of each module should explicitly pertain to the learning objectives. Learners should be guided to explore and discuss additional resources, outside of the main content, in groups or as an entire class to achieve a more comprehensive understanding. Learners should also be encouraged to share additional content that they discover (or create).
9. Collaborative: Do outlets exist to allow learners to communicate with other learners?
Activities will be included that promote peer-to-peer collaboration and workload distribution. This allows learners to achieve a metacognitive state and self-assess progress while developing team participation, leadership,and time-management skills.
10. Measurable: Do means exist for receiving peer and instructor feedback on contributions?
Contributions of the learners will be peer-assessable. We note this is quality in almost every social media site via “like” buttons and comment fields. These features encourage engagement by allow everyone to have involvement in the learning process as creators and contributors, versus mere consumers, of knowledge.
eLearning Determination After Considerations
The worth of the proposed modules hinges upon specifications and capabilities of specific products weighed against spatial, time, and resource constraints that may currently exist. If the analysis reveals that a product will merely repopulate content in a digital format or reduce the instructor presence in the course, little pedagogical value exists and the eLearning tool may be an unnecessary expense that can jeopardize education. However, if the adjunct can enhance many of these factors, it is likely to result in an educational benefit and should be included in the instructional design.