These are question and answer prompts from for work towards my PhD at Old Dominion University. The text is Web-Based Learning: Design, Implementation and Evaluation by Gayle V. Davidson-Shivers  (Author), Karen L. Rasmussen (Author),  Patrick R. Lowenthal  (Author)

Question1: Briefly discuss how these theoretical foundations (Learning theories, Communication, and General systems theory) have influenced the domains of instructional design and technology and how they may be applied in designing online instruction.

This might be the toughest question I’ve received to date, because it’s essentially explain everything I’ve ever learned thus far and relate it to designing online instruction. Whelp here it goes. Learning theories are in many cases the bedrock of any instruction be it online or in person. The two major houses, the Gryffindors and the Slytherins you might say, are Behaviorism and Cognitivism. A relative new comer that has gained significant buy in amongst instruction designers, especially with the growth of online based instruction is Constructivism (I’d say they’re somewhat Ravenclaw). The text outlines the basic premises in each but in summary; behaviorists are most concerned with the outward physical action or response from the learner, their basic tenant is “we don’t know how the human mind fully works but we can regularly prove that through repetition, reward, and punishment we can elicit particular actions from specific stimuli.” On the other end of the spectrum of learning theories would be the cognitivist whom are far more focused on how the learner mentally gets to a specific response. You can see that behaviorism is somewhat binary, either the task was performed, or it wasn’t; whereas the cognitive is much more concerned with why the task would or would not be performed to a specific standard or expectation. The newest of the theories is constructivism which is somewhat of an off shoot of cognitivism. While constructivist still believe whole heartedly in schema theory and self-regulation (tenants of cognitivism), they press further in that their belief is more firmly entrenched in the learner building up new understanding, not simply tapping into the presented material in a fixed cognitive way. It makes sense to me that this theory has grown popularity in the age of on demand, adaptive learning. In terms of how these learning theories relate to designing online instruction I actually think it’s fairly easy to see where particular types of online instruction play into the theories directly. When designing behavioral online based instruction you are most likely just concerned with the end goal being met, this might come in the form of multiple choice based assessments or activities that require a fixed response. GMAT test prep software is a good example. Cognitivist online based instructional design would most likely still want an answer based off of a specific standard but designers would most likely also like to ensure the ideal thought process was involved. This could take the form of progressive questioning in a narrative, or a mix and match interactive game in which the lead up to actions are measured and assessed. With constructivist online based design, I think you’d see things exactly like this, discussion forums and prompts that solicit learner generated open ended responses.

General systems theory is broken down into open and closed systems which utilize systematic and systemic approaches. Designing online instruction in many ways requires a systematic approach, based on the medium alone. The very nature of making websites, or web-based content requires a level of systematic thought to ensure the instruction is accessible and useful. For online instruction developers it certainly makes sense to be systemic as well so as to leverage the available resources for as much instructional value as possible. Some of these resources like software, hosting, and developers can be quite costly; being both systematic and systemic can really cut down the costs of developing online based instruction with scalability.

In some form of fashion all web-based instruction will have to consider the user’s interface with the instruction, this is where communication theory comes in. Where as a conventional classroom environment may just have to consider the white board and colors of markers, the online environment must consider accessibility, font size, colors, interaction, intuitiveness, loading speeds, the list kind of goes on a bit there. In an online environment you lack the ability to look at the body language or general engagement of the learners as you would in a classroom, thus interest and engagement are things that must be considered early and often.

Question 2: Extending your skills (pg. 73). Select one case study of your choice and discuss the strengths and potential challenges with designing online instruction within the particular scenario and contexts moving forward.

I chose case study 2 Business and Industry as that is my primary focus, the situation laid out for M2 is I’d say a typical one for an industrial training environment. Every industry is going to want to minimize time away from work to perform training, and because internal training is not part of a core business practice of M2 it is something they will want to keep the costs of to a minimum. There are two primary challenges that I see moving forward. One is based off of the ISO 9000. This standard is updated regularly to account for actual incidents and accidents that happen in the field, thus the revision of the courseware created for the M2 corporation will have to be updated somewhat regularly to ensure compliance with the most up to date safety considerations. Because of the regular basis of revision, the medium in which we design with will have to ensure it is relatively easy to update. Depending on the extent of ISO 9000 and OSHA required training elements it may make sense to not only utilize an LMS for tracking and reporting purposes but also an LCMS to manage content revisions. The second problem will be to make the course meaningful to the learners. Industrial learners are generally not interested in formal training, as they predominantly learned via apprenticeships or on the job mentoring. The choice of behavioral and cognitive theories is not a poor one but special care will have to be taken to ensure the learners feel this course is meaningful to their safety and not just another box to check.

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