D Is For Design
The second ADDIE stage is Design. The goal of this stage is to create the structure of the course. It can take the form of something as simple as a storyboard accompanied by some sketches, or as elaborate as a detailed plan, full of descriptions and schematics. Whatever form it takes, the layout of a course usually includes the descriptions of the main topics the course will cover and goals it sets out to achieve, as well as short descriptions of pages’ contents and a general idea of what the navigation and the user interface will look like. At the conclusion of this stage you should have on your hands a handy document you will use during the development stage, one that will contain the answers to the most questions course developers may have.
The Design phase aims to accomplish three main goals:
- Deciding on the format of the course.
At this stage the developer has to decide how to best impart the knowledge to the target audience. Should they use the tried and true frontal teaching method, prepare a manual learners will be able to study at their own pace, create an electronic course on a computer, or resort to blended learning? This decision should be made based on the preliminary analysis of the target audience and its characteristics, preferences, and habits. If the target audience is comprised of people with little technical skill who do not routinely deal with computers, the elements of the course should be as simple as possible. If you plan to use interactive elements, it is recommended to try them out first. Invite a few participants belonging to the target audience and run them through a short course with some interactive elements to see if they would be able to grasp the concept. Another option you have is to combine an electronic course with frontal teaching, replacing technically complex elements of the electronic course with simpler frontal practices and tests. This technique is called blended learning, and in situations like this it can simplify the task of imparting knowledge to your learners and increase the effectiveness of your course.
- Developing the education strategy.
The education strategy is comprised of lectures, discussions, tasks, tests, projects, and supplementary materials meant to help the learners better understand the course material. All of these fulfill the four main goals of the education strategy:
- Preliminary activity.
The main goal of preliminary activity is to let the learners know what topics will be covered in a particular section of the course and motivate them by explaining the advantages of possessing the knowledge and skills that will be imparted to them during the education process. Motivating the learners will make them more patient, and also more interested in completing their education. At this stage it is beneficial to tell the learners about the goals of the course, as it will help them understand the global structure of the course, and also how they would be able to apply the obtained knowledge after completing the course.
- Presentation of material.
Make an effort to keep your course concise and avoid unnecessary details. Leave everything unrelated to the skills the course aims to teach on the cutting floor. Make sure to include a few examples to help learners understand the material better.
It is vital to enable the learners to practice what they are being taught. The amount of practice a learner gets while taking the course and after completing it directly corresponds to how quickly and well he or she obtains the requisite skills. Providing timely feedback on the completed tasks is equally important - it helps the learners better understand the material and hone their skills.
After the learners have completed the course, it is beneficial to hold a meeting with them to discuss the results. This is a good opportunity to summarize the main idea of the course and its goals, which will help the learners to better retain and remember the knowledge obtained while taking the course, and start applying it in their everyday jobs. This is also a chance for the learners to ask questions about some specific topics covered in the course they did not understand very well.
- Preliminary activity.
- Evaluating results.
During the Analysis stage you are meant to define the results the learners have to achieve for the course to be considered a success. Depending on the specific goals of the course, it is important to decide on the correct way to determine whether the learners have reached the stated goals of the course to gauge the effectiveness of the course. It is important to choose a way of rating the learners that clearly shows whether they have acquired the knowledge the course was meant to impart, and if the obtained skills meet the requirements set for the course. The information you have gathered about the course’s target audience will come in handy during this stage, as it can greatly impact your choice of the method for grading the learners’ results. The learners’ age and their technical proficiency will determine what tasks you will set before them to test their knowledge, as well as the phrasing of the questions. To pick the correct type of test, it is important to consider the goals set before the learners. If the course is meant to primarily broaden their knowledge, a standard test consisting of Multiple Choice and True/False questions will suffice. However, if the course is meant, for example, to teach the learners to use Microsoft Office proficiently, it would be better to have the learners complete real-life tasks in Word or Excel (or teaching emulators of these programs), as in this case it is paramount to test the practical skills acquired by the learners. Keep in mind though that the final scoring is not a goal in itself. It is important to monitor the learners’ progress throughout the duration of the course to make sure that they are able to grasp the main concepts and ideas of the course.
A carefully constructed plan makes building the course much easier for every member of the team. The more effort and care you put into this stage, the less time you will waste on do-overs during development. Measure twice, cut once, as they say. After the Design stage is completed, the creation of the course begins, and so the next installment of our series will tell you about the third ADDIE stage - Development. Until next time!