If you’re a teacher, professor, trainer or any type of wannabee Instructional Designer, this blog is for you! If you want to improve your skill set prepping materials in digital format, this blog is also for you! Stick with us for a while and we’ll prove it!
Doing the Numbers
Did you know that over one in four students had taken online courses by 2015? And more than three million more students will take all their courses online soon? Eight million students more have taken one or more online courses. In fact, a recent Department of Education Study recently concluded that coursework is frequently better absorbed online than material presented in live classrooms (Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics).
In fact, these data are now over six years old, and during that time going digital and online has flourished, blowing away the aforementioned numbers. The Babson Survey Research Group re-examined these issues in 2014 and based on their data pool found a slow but steady increase of online students:
• The number of students taking at least one online course increased by over 411,000 to a new total of 7.1 million.
• The online enrollment growth rate of 6.1 percent is the lowest recorded in this report series.
• The proportion of higher education students taking at least one online course is at an all-time high of 33.5 percent.
“The study’s findings point to a competitive marketplace, in which traditional institutions are gaining ground on the for-profits in online and distance education… While the rapid pace of online learning growth has moderated, it still accounts for nearly three-quarters of all US higher education’s enrollment increases last year.”
Co-author Jeff Seaman
Co-director of the Babson Survey Research Group
Evidence elsewhere supports the notion that online instruction can be just as effective, if not more so, than classic face-to-face instruction. And that’s just for college-age students, Increasingly, many adults are enrolling in online courses, entire high schools are being built on a totally virtual basis, and more and more elementary, junior high, senior high and higher education teachers are putting digital handouts online–Web Quests, website tours, and lists of links that students can use in their studies. Many independent freelancers are now offering online training opportunities–photographers, chefs, and rocket scientists. Why not you?
Where Do Texts Fit In?
In none of these situations is the use of reading books or texts ruled out; in fact, doing so is an integral part of many courses and many professions. Increasingly, as you’ve probably noticed, the book may be in digital format and read on a computer or laptop screen or, increasingly, on mobile screens such as iPads, iPhones, other smartphones, iPods, and various other tablet devices.
And, of course, we still find some kids slogging home 40 pounds of real books on a daily basis.
Are there other adoptions or adaptations? Sure!
For example, the first time I ever saw a SmartBoard being used was in a classroom in central Kentucky at the turn of the century. It was a first-grade classroom, and the bottom of the board was flush with the floor. Kids were sitting on pillows on the floor, taking turns with the board. Mesmerized and watching them do things I’d never seen before, it struck me that if first graders could be so enthralled with the way in which they were using the technology, so to could teachers, instructors, and faculty.
Fast-forward 10 years and I was having trouble teaching college faculty — all of whom were much older than first-graders — how to use SmartBoards.
But What about Those Textbooks?
However, teachers and instructors are not nearly as wedded to the use of textbooks as they once were. Considering their rapidly escalating costs, the availability of digital materials on the internet, and pressures to “teach to the test,” many are foregoing the linear structure of the paper text. These days, more teachers, instructors, and faculty are creating and placing digital handouts and presentations online for their use during lectures–a model called blended learning. Many are bringing PowerPoints to the classroom or are making use of devices like SmartBoards in their instruction. And an increasing number of these professionals are even delving into the world of Web 2.0.
If you’re one of these visionaries, this blog is for you…
And if not, we’re going to try to convince you that dabbling digitally will be time well spent!
How Did It All Start for Teachers, Faculty,
and Instructors? The PT3 Program.
Those teaching today find themselves in a unique position: at a time when workloads and class sizes are increasing, they are expected to do more with less. At the same time, there is a rising surge of interest in instructional technology. It’s almost as if the field of education “discovered” the user instructional technology in just the last decade.
For numerous decades, though, support and training have existed in terms of teacher training and the adoption of technology, but it was often marginal at best, sporadic at worst. For example, from 1999 to 2003, the federal government awarded 300 million dollars in the form of over 400 grants to schools, universities, and educational consortia. This program, known as the PT3 or the Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology Program, acted as a “jump start” for many school districts, universities, teachers, and faculty–especially where one of the strings attached held that college and university faculty would work with local school districts.
The PT3 Program acted as a “jump start” for many school districts, universities, teachers, and faculty. The PT3 program was a federally-funded training and experimentation program, the purpose of which was to integrate the use of technology more closely with teachers’ instruction.
Think of the PT3 Program as being a small snowball rolling down a long steep hill–and over two decades later we’re not yet at the bottom. But, over the last few years, it is larger now and has more momentum than ever before!
Recognizing the gap between teacher skills and an already-established infrastructure, it was clear early on that teachers were not comfortable adopting technology and changing their teaching practices. Many teachers had neither the inclination nor the time; others just didn’t have the interest. Mostly, though, such practices simply weren’t rooted in the culture of schools, colleges or universities. When someone did adopt the use of planning instruction that used in technology in any way, it was always done on a voluntary–and usually non-sustainable–basis.
The PT3 Program tried to resolve these issues in a coherent and planned manner. These resources took the form of:
• Grants awarded since 1999: 441
• Total program funds: $337.5 million
• Served more than 35 Historically Black Colleges and Universities and more than 25 Hispanic-Serving Institutions
• Reached 52 of the 100 largest teacher preparation programs
The kinds of activities funded included:
• Faculty development
• Course restructuring
• Certification policy changes
• Online teacher preparation:
• Video case studies
• Electronic portfolios
• Mentoring triads
• Embedded assessments
Early on the Office of Education occasionally funded proof-of-concept projects, sometimes even earlier than the PT3 Program.
For example, Project CADRE (Computer Application Development, Refinement, & Evaluation), was funded at $900,000 for a three-year period (from 1993 to 1997) at Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina. This project spanned five counties, K-12 teachers, and numerous faculty almost a quarter of a century ago. The intent of this program was to train faculty and teachers from the surrounding districts to use and adopt multimedia practices.
During this period, the CADRE staff mad use of a lot of third-party media for demonstration purposes. One of the favorites? Dinosaurs! Who doesn’t like dinosaurs? Unless they want to eat you…
The consumer world has made great gains in terms of not only just viewing content but also in terms of creating content. The range of devices that have cropped up in the last five years is astounding, and many of these devices already sit in the pockets of our students–a fact that many school districts have capitalized on by establishing–and some even requiring–BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) programs: the students bring their own devices, and the teachers supply the instruction. What they are presenting is a focus of the balance of this blog.
And presently, leaders are attempting to “grease the skids” between industry and education, making it easier to introduce new developments to an aging infrastructure…
All this change has not come without personal cost, however. Teachers, faculty, and instructors continue to use their own time to learn and master skills that would make them better and more effective. Indeed, time–or lack of it–has been the major stumbling block over the last couple of decades. Teachers keep busy all day, some seldom stopping for lunch or Nature’s Call.
Also, access to tech gadgets has increased significantly over the last decade, blending into our lives and culture. Handheld devices now rival what desktops can do. And the range of what they can do is nothing less than amazing. These days, even an all-nighter in an airport can be a fun creative experience.
Not surprisingly, most teacher learning often takes place at night, on weekends, and during the summer. And while it’s true that half-day professional workshops can open doors in the minds of teachers. the sessions are seldom enough to add to and change their skill sets on an enduring basis. An additional problem is the limited penetration of instructional design and technology use in the local curriculum. While some aspiring teachers have jumped into the effort feet first, many others haven’t.
You can’t learn to embed technology effectively into one’s instruction in an afternoon workshop. It takes time, sweat, effort, and commitment.
Many teachers have tried the “quick fix” and have walked away disappointed, never to try again. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix. Like any discipline, learning instructional design principles and practices–and how these relate to the use of technology–takes patience and resolve.
Among other findings, it was determined that technology-enabled teachers to:
• reinforce and expand their content (74%)
• motivate students to learn (74%)
• respond to a variety of learning styles (73%)
• Seven in 10 teachers (69%) said educational technology allowed them to “do much more than ever before” for their students.
Fortunately, the tools for creating digital instruction have been increasing in number, dropping in price, and getting easier to master and use–all good news for teachers and faculty.
With time, as teachers become more enabled and comfortable with the marriage of content and technology, this will change. In another decade or two we’ll look back upon what we do today and wonder how and why we ever taught this way. For those teachers, faculty, and instructors reading this work, welcome aboard. Fasten your seat-belt as it’s going to be quite a ride!
One of the challenges of adopting technology and embedding it in your teaching is that so many things are changing so quickly these days, it’s like trying to get onto a train just after its left the station. It’s moving and you have to run faster just to catch up. New tools, ideas, and creative techniques arise every week, month, and year. Some of these don’t pan out and eventually reach an evolutionary dead end. Others become quickly adopted and widely popular in short order, changing everything.
The “New” Instructional Designers?
One of the discussions raging through the blogs and online communities for instructional designers these days is whether one needs to obtain a certificate or degree to “become” an instructional designer.
Instructional design, as a profession and an industry, has grown through the years on more of a freelancer or “independent” model than a licensed and regulated effort. People who were self-taught, and who performed well, survived and thrived working alone or in small groups. Some of these evolved and grew over the last three decades to become major development groups–enterprises such as Allen Communications in Salt Lake City, for example.
Over the last twenty years, many instructional design programs have morphed at colleges and universities from existing traditional media departments to include an all-digital focus. As more digital opportunities arose, many of the departments eventually dropped the analog and embraced the digital.
But those times and learning experiences are long gone–or, at least, the analog ones are. Not surprisingly, as teachers and designers, we’re now up to our ears in terms of designing and using digital experiences and learning events. Not only legacy programs are offered at colleges and universities; but also many new degrees and certificate programs have been developed in the last decade. Hundreds of programs have recently cropped up, many of which offer slightly different or unique slants in their curricula. Some are programs for special education, others offer Bachelors, Masters, PhDs, and certificates in instructional design. If interested, here is some sound advice to consider and good questions to ask as you consider such a choice. Just in the New England area alone, there are scores of programs! Nationwide, proportionately more.
Do you really need a degree to be an instructional designer? Not now, but in ten years it may be requisite for employment in the field. In today’s world, the reality is that many if not most designers have been home-grown and self-taught over the last two decades.
And, if you are a skilled teacher, don’t bother getting a certificate or a degree unless it gives you a step up the ladder. If not, just continue with what you usually do to prep and present quality interactions to your students. Fall back on Professional Development (PD) to expand your skills set, both in terms of scope and depth. on the other hand, if you’re going to trade canoes in mid-stream, check out ID certificate programs.
These days, it’s not what you have, but what you can do that will make all the difference in your and your students’ lives.
Even if you didn’t have a degree and were working in a larger enterprise, you may yet survive and thrive. These days, what it comes down to is not so much what you know, but what you can do -– how quickly you can do it and how well you can do it.
I worked once in a large online for-profit university; of the 44 instructional designers in place, only four or five actually had certificates or degrees. The rest had good experience, a broad background in the corporation, and a “good eye.” Such an observation was repeated and discussed recently by Tom Kuhlmann, contributor to Articulate’s online community, The eLearning Heroes. In this venue, many freelancers discuss issues and post samples of their work.
Who’s Tom Kuhlmann?
Tom is the host of The Rapid E-Learning Blog for Articulate. He’s passionate about learning and technology and has over 20 years experience in the training industry where he’s developed hundreds of hours of elearning and managed elearning and training projects at Capital One, Washington Mutual, and Weyerhaeuser. He has a Master’s in Education Technology from Pepperdine, where he researched how to cultivate communities of practice through the development of personal expertise.
Currently, he’s the Chief Learning Architect for Articulate with a focus on building a passionate community of rapid elearning developers, the members of which approximate six hundred thousand.
Recently Tom was elected as one of the top ten influential contributors to the field of eLearning.
Elsewhere, blogs abound where instructional designers:
What’s in the Future?
Most professions start off informally; degrees aren’t necessary and mentorships and apprenticeships flourish. Eventually, though, training programs within organizations aim to bring the designer up to speed; thereafter, they perform well under the system’s umbrella.
Physicians started this way, as did nurses, plumbers, and electricians, nurse practitioners and midwives. As professions mature and more-established instructional programs start to take root, the professions become more regulated, requiring specific courses, apprenticeships, internships, and/or journeyman experiences.
Considering the number of programs in existence for designers and teachers, the skills sets will improve and corporate and educational expectations for the performance of instructional designers will increase and become more challenging. The world of instructional design ten or fifteen years from now will be far different from what–and more regulated than–it is now.
This means we have to find a way to change our selves and our workplaces, or the market will do it for us the hard way. Disruption is what happens when something new comes along that changes the underlying rules of the game. If we are doing the disrupting, it can actually be very good for us. When it’s imposed on us, then the results usually tend to be unfortunate. So we must be doing the disrupting to ourselves, and that begins and ends with shifting our mindset and perspective, especially in deeply understanding the nature of the truly pervasive digital operating environment we now find ourselves in.
–Dion Hinchcliffe https://dionhinchcliffe.com/2015/02/17/what-are-the-required-skills-for-todays-digital-workforce/
Logan Thompson, a code developer, often gets asked if one needs a degree in that profession. Though different from instructional design, Logan argues that a formal degree is not required as yet. He also provides a lot of advice on how to stay current, learn new skills, and keep your eyes on the horizon for opportunities. Source: AskaDev.
Does that Mean Everything with Technology Adoption is Going Great?
Not by a long shot.
There’s more going on here than just adding audio to an existing PowerPoint. The worlds of design and teaching are undergoing some significant changes, some of which are currently visible and some that we can’t see as yet, but will soon. These changes aren’t going to happen overnight. The process of change occurs in institutions very slowly; sometimes glacially so. Some changes have been going on for thirty years and are just now becoming evident. Others, like the advent of iPads in the schools, seem to occur overnight. But of twelve major sectors of our nations economic structure, education’s remained the least changed by technology. Education Dive’s (2015) survey of over 150 administrators and teachers revealed challenges, listed priorities, and mentioned some successes.
Nonetheless, the three factors found to be limiting the adoption of technology into the schools were:
• Budget Limitations (mentioned by 76% of the respondents)
• Inadequate training opportunities for teachers and staff (54%)
• Teachers resistant to change (41%).
In any system, when four out of ten teachers don’t handle change well, it doesn’t portend well. Disruption? Probably not. More like a burp now and then. The three greatest priorities for the upcoming years?
• Professional development (75%)
• Overcoming teacher resistance. (43%)
• Using online assessments. (39%)
And, the three technologies found most beneficial to date?
• Laptops (62%)
• Interactive/smart whiteboards (59%)
• Tablets (50%)
Yes, it’s going to be a long uphill trek.
A Final Word on Texts
The problem is not the difficulty of the content of a high-grade-level text, but its density. Too much meaning per word, too many words per sentence, and too many sentences per visual element create a challenge for a [learner] engaging with eLearning.
Jennie Ruby, IconLogic
Bottom Line: Wordy PowerPoints on your school projector are just as “exciting” as the same PowerPoints that you sent up to the Internet. Not! And we’ll be revisiting the issues of texts in a few weeks!
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