What Did We
Get Ourselves Into?
Coordinator of Human Resource Development Program
in Human Resource Development Program
The need to develop
life-long learners is becoming increasingly more urgent as we move into
the 21st century.
Technology and the move to a global society demand continuous adaptation
and change for those of us in education and business as we strive to upgrade
skills and acquire new knowledge. Traditional methods of delivering instruction
are no longer meeting the needs of retaining and attracting students; adult
learners need to relate to the material presented, see an almost immediate
application for the knowledge or skills, and have this information be readily
available to them when they need it. However, using distance learning whether
it be via web-based courses or interactive television is a decision not
to be made because of the seductiveness of the technology. In order to
make an informed decision about the appropriate use of distance learning,
a systematic approach to designing instruction should be firmly in place
and should be driven by the needs and goals of a particular learning situation.
Figure 1 is a graphic
representation of the design process in a puzzle form composed of a series
of interlocking pieces; this process is not depicted as linear because
of the reiterative nature of the of the process which may begin at any
point. To be most effective, the process must begin with identified learner
needs and relate to organizational/institutional goals. This does not mean
that during the development of a course that the needs and goals are static
because budgetary, technological resources, or the skill limitations of
the instructor/designer may have a significant impact on the instruction.
The design model we used is derived from traditional instructional design
models (Kemp 1985; Dick and Carey, 1990; Romiszowski, 1984, etc.). However,
the fluidity of the model lends itself to the ever-changing nature of distance
Since many college
courses are designed with a minimum of technological support, let us first
look at the basic questions raised by an instructional designer as he/she
goes through the process of developing instruction.
Needs and Goals
In the analysis phase,
a consideration of the potential problems need to be addressed. These needs
and goals may change as the project takes shape because the primary concern
is client-centered. Because of the time-consuming nature of front-end analysis,
many instructors/clients want to skip this stage. Very often the decision
is made to use distance learning so that we may be more competitive in
the marketplace, but this is not necessarily the best instructional strategy.
For the advanced instructional design course, students will be designing
instruction for a client, so using E-mail and other strategies are a more
efficient way to not only gain access to the "client" but to keep in contact
with other members of the class. The basic needs of the students are to
understand key design concepts and terms, see examples of the process so
that they can internalize it, and to have access to an instructor or other
subject matter experts.
identify the needs and goals are:
What are the desired outcomes
What performance deficiencies
is instruction designed to address?
What systems or strategies
will be used to assess these needs?
Do the instructional goals
match the learner characteristics and available resources?
Have you projected potential
reflect the demographics, learning styles, readiness, and motivation to
learn of the target audience. Variables such as learner expectation affect
the amount of time, the level of instruction, and the varied approaches
that are required. Web-based instruction enables the instructor to individualize
learning to accommodate many of the factors. Examples can be developed
to appeal to the cultural differences or experience level of many students.
Video and graphics can be embedded in the instruction to support visual
learners, while audio can support learners who prefer to "hear" things.
By providing a range of examples, students adjust the time they need to
spend to grasp a concept. A comfort level and easy access to computers
is essential is the course is be web-based.
identify learner characteristics are:
What demographics are
important when designing instruction (gender, ethnicity, age, etc.)?
What is the size of the
Where are the learners
located geographically? Is access a consideration?
What are the attributes
of the learners? Are there particular strengths or limitations that would
have an impact on instruction?
What are the learning
style preferences of the group? Does this have an impact on the instructional
What prerequisite skills
do the learners have/need? How will you address these differences?
Are learners there by
choice or are they required to attend?
What expectations do learners
Topics/tasks are identified
by performing a content analysis. The advanced instructional design class
and the computer-based training class both identified competencies needs
by students entering the HRD field. When designing these classes subject
matter experts and exemplary performed helped develop the content and provided
specific skill sets that needed to be mastered. Because of time constraints,
it was also imperative to focus instruction on the "need to know" elements
rather than the "nice to know." One of those elements in the design class
that fell by the wayside deal with changes in the field of instructional
design. In the computer course, it was even more necessary to focus in
on instruction and we determined that an overview of web-based course principles
was more expedient that learning an authoring language like html.
identify task/content issues are:
What skills do the learners
need to acquire/master to perform the task(s)?
What changes in learner
behavior and attitude do want want to take place?
What content areas need
to be covered?
What sequence is most
effective to learn how to perform the task or to understand the information
(hierarchical, functional, general to specific, etc.)?
What domain(s) is instruction
geared to (cognitive, psychomotor, affective)?
are related directly to the goals and focus on desired learning outcomes.
They need to be communicated in measurable terms, so that the success of
instruction can be measured. Learner objectives are similar whether they
are in distance learning or on-site instruction. An excellent source for
guidance in developing objectives is the work by Robert Mager. Adult learners
tend to use objectives to measure their own accomplishments, so it is important
to make these known at the beginning of the instruction.Questions to identify
whether objectives have been written correctly are:Are the objectives derived
from the goals?Are the objectives stated in measurable terms so that the
learner understands what he/she is accountable for? Do the objectives contain
actions, conditions, and criteria for performance? Are the objectives sequenced
appropriately for the tasks/content? Do the objectives reflect the desired
The methods of assessing
performance need to match the desired outcomes of instruction. This may
range from simple on-line tests to working through complex case studies.
As of this time, we have not been able to develop on-line case studies
but they are in process. The use of video, audio, and text-based artifacts
to support cases would be a valuable addition to instruction, but many
students donít have the necessary technology to support this. In the design
class, we are currently using on-line simulations that can be downloaded.
An excellent example for the design class is found at http://www.hrd408.hrd408.htm.
Computers also provide
students with the opportunity of getting instant feedback on short quizzes
so that they can measure their own progress and review materials at their
own pace. Performance assessment should take place immediately following
instruction to determine if learning took place and how the student reacted
to instruction. If instructors feel that a test needs to be taken in a
classroom setting, the students can be asked to come in; however, the equivalent
of take-home exams are a better vehicle for on-line instruction.
identify performance assessment issues are:
is necessary to demonstrate mastery?
Is the level of mastery
attainable by the learner?
Under what conditions
will the performance assessment be conducted?
Is a prerequisite skill
inventory required before presenting the program?
Does the evaluation match
the domain specified in the objective?
Have activities been to
assess learner performance that are congruent with objectives and domains?
Is time a relevant factor
when evaluating performance?
are the learning experiences developed to present instruction and allow
learners to demonstrate their ability to meet the desired performance level.
Learning activities may range from delivering lecture-based materials using
a Powerpoint presentation package to integrating case studies or problem-based
learning. The entire case may be presented on-line or students may use
the internet to look up resources to find information suggested by the
case. The number of activities and information to support each learning
objective must be carefully considered because time is an important element
to adult learners. The series of learning experiences need to be sequenced
for skill building. In the Instructional Design II class, each component
of the model is presented and learning experiences build upon one another
as students learn different aspects of the design process. Materials are
similarly layered in the Computer-Based Training course, so that students
first understand an overall context and then gradually learn additional
skills as they add more complex layers to the design of their training.
Questions to identify
the issues in designing and developing a range of instructional strategies
What are the most
effective ways of presenting this material to the learner?
Is there a need for pre-
or post-instructional activities to support the learning?
How much learner control
of the learning process is desired (self-paced, mastery, etc.)?
Do the strategies match
the learner characteristics? Is there sufficient variety? Are the learners
actively involved in the learning process?
Have sufficient time and
activities been designed to ensure mastery and transfer of learning?
Are the instructional
strategies compatible with the resources available?
Do the activities match
the task, topic, and domain requirements specified by the objectives?
Have the learning activities
been designed based on logistical concerns(comfort, space, convenience,
etc.) ? Has there been sufficient time allocated for breaks and refreshments
Has the instruction been
designed in such a way that the learner can bookmark his/her place and
then return to the instruction?
Choices for the delivery
of instruction are numerous; being freed from a classroom environment provides
a whole world for learners to explore via the internet. To just transfer
lecture notes to a computer, as many instructors do, is to not take advantage
of the technology. The selection of instructional delivery systems requires
far more analysis than just to decide to use the technology without exploring
how to best take advantage of its capabilities. Examples of changes in
the instructional process include both spacial and temporal elements; instruction
is no longer space bound or time bound. Students can access instruction
when it is convenient and can have access to expertise anywhere in the
world. Instructors need to be willing to exploit new technologies and understand
the strengths and limitations of a variety of media.
be asked when exploring instructional/delivery systems include the following:
Has an in-depth analysis
been done to explore the options available to support instruction and make
the most informed choices?
What are the advantages
and disadvantages of each type of delivery system (print, hands-on, slides,
field trips, computer-based training, interactive, etc.)?
What are the most ideal
systems for presenting the instructional material?
How do learner characteristics
impact the delivery of instruction?
What constraints or
limitations are there due to the current investment in particular instructional
Resources impact all
stages of the design cycle. Limited resources may determine the level of
complexity used in computer-based-instruction. Print-based material like
a syllabus is easily transferable and many instructors use the WWW to put
their lecture notes on-line. It lowers the cost of reproducing handouts
and other materials. However, this use does not add anything to the instruction.
Many instructors prefer not to work with the technology because of their
own lack of comfort with the equipment and the lack of technical support
when the equipment fails. One solution to this problem is to assemble a
cross-functional team of people interested in working with the technology,
thus maximizing the expertise of the group.
Key members of the
team could include programmers, graphic artists, instructional designers,
project managers, media specialists, and writers.
Questions to ask that
refer to available resources include:
The entire design
process goes through a reiterative cycle as the course is implemented.
As our courses were subjected to a formative evaluation, several changes
were made. The instructors wanted control of when students accessed particular
segments of the material so that they could not move through the course
too quickly. Our courses blended classroom teaching with Web-based instruction.
Students used E-mail to communicate with the instructor and then we added
chat rooms so that they could communicate with each other. Case studies
were added, but still need to be refined. Each time the courses are taught,
student input provides us with new things to try, but at this point in
time, we are still not completely replacing classroom interaction; we are
supplementing it. Our adult students prefer to have the opportunity to
meet face-to-face, but they do like the freedom to integrate both distance
learning and in-class instruction.
What are all the resources/constraints
impact the project?
What is the expertise
of the designer/design team? Are choices limited because of a lack of expertise
in specific media? Should additional expertise be added?
Has sufficient time been
allotted to design the program?
What costs are connected
the design, development , and production of materials?
How can the best use be
made of the allocated budget?
What equipment and materials
are currently available?
Are there materials already
developed which can be used or repurposed for instruction?
Has the administrative
and clerical support needed for the project been provided? Are they available?
Dick, W. and Carey,
L. (1996) The Systematic Design of Instruction, 4th ed. Scott
Foresman Co., Gleview, IL.
Ehrlich, D. and Reynolds,
L " Integrating Instructional Design and Technology: A Model and Process
for Multimedia Design" Interactive Learning International,
Vol 8: No. 4 October-December, 1992. Pp 281-289.
Kemp, J.E. (1985) The
Instructional Design Process, Harper and Row, New York.
Dr. Diane Ehrlich is
a professor and coordinator of the Human Resource Development program at
Northeastern Illinois University. She teaches courses in instructional
design, consulting, needs assessment, and leadership development. She has
presented at international conferences in Russia, the Netherlands, and
Australia on multimedia and instructional design. She also has published
articles in Interactive Learning International and Computers
in Education. She has contributed chapters in several books on interactive
teaching methods. Diane also consults in both education and industry, working
as an instructional designer for IBM, Eli Lilly, Baxter International,
Abbott Laboratories, Marion Merrill Dow, etc.
University, 5500 N. St. Louis Chicago, IL. 60625. E-mail : Dfirstname.lastname@example.org.
Office Number: (773) 794-2779. Fax: (773) 794-6558.
Allison Kommel is
a visiting lecturer at Northeastern Illinois University. She is currently
teaching courses in Computer-Based training, instructional strategies,
instructional design and multimedia, as well as supervising HRD interns.
Allison also consults as an instructional designer and works with developing
web sites. She is currently balancing taking care of her new daughter with
developing computer-based instruction.