eLearning Design Theories: Create Effective Courses
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8 Ideas For Effective eLearning Course Design

Is technology pedagogy-isolated? Or do all technologies reflect their developers' approaches regarding effective pedagogies for designing an eLearning course? Every Instructional Designer/educator should reflect on the above question before they start building up the overall expectations of the eLearning course. The designer's approach to learning and other considerations can influence the eLearning course/product.

Designers, as adult learners themselves, will bring their philosophies, skills, passions, and previous knowledge/experiences to the design stage as well as the technological tools they want to utilize when curating content. In that sense, the online educational platform will eventually be affected by the approaches used by both the SMEs (subject matter experts) and the Instructional Designers, placing pedagogy tirelessly from the center of creating an authentic, effective eLearning product.

While the choice of technology can sometimes be affected by models like the SAMR model to name one, the chosen pedagogical approach can also influence it. In light of the above, creating/documenting the overall expectations of each module in the eLearning course is essential.

There are 8 big ideas that can be documented as the overall expectations for a successful eLearning course delivery. These are:

  1. Foundations of eLearning design theories and models
  2. Analysis of an eLearning design
  3. Designing and planning an eLearning course
  4. Development of an eLearning course
  5. Implementation and online instruction
  6. Learners and community
  7. Assessment and evaluation
  8. The past, present, and future of eLearning

1. Foundations Of eLearning Design Theories And Models

One of the initial steps in eLearning design is in understanding the context of the relevant learning theories and design models. Those steps can be achieved by identifying efficient ways of eLearning design and recognizing the stages for a selected design model. By creating a safe and accepting learning environment, it’s essential to integrate the organizational ethical standards of practice in the workplace, as well as develop an awareness of issues related to eLearning design management such as cyberbullying, plagiarism, time management, copyright, and privacy. It’s also important to critically reflect on personal teaching experiences and to engage in professional discussions on the use of technology to foster learning.

2. Analysis Of An eLearning Design

After establishing the context and the learning theories, Instructional Designers can start analyzing the needs and criteria/models for creating a positive, accepting, and safe eLearning course by identifying the initial considerations before designing a useful eLearning course. Next is to keep material connected and consistent between modules by writing essential questions and learning goals for each unit/topic.

3. Designing And Planning An eLearning Course

In the design stage, Instructional Designers can apply design thinking stages to plan a unit/module within an eLearning context and integrate educational technologies using a systematic approach to meet pedagogical needs. Not to forget how important it can be to write learning goals and success criteria for a specific lesson/activity, and critically reflect on the effectiveness of an eLearning course delivery to address future amendments.

4. Development Of An eLearning Course

Before developing new or curating existing content, studying Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and backward design models can be a must. Instructional Designers can then expand their methods of development by creating page layouts using existing HTML/CSS templates or introducing of UX/UI design principles within microlearning use in content presentation. In this process, Instructional Designers/educators develop strategies that enable instructors to provide support, feedback, and social presence in an eLearning environment and differentiate learning material by adapting, modifying, and accommodating instructions to meet the needs of all learners.

5. Implementation And Online Instruction

In the online instruction (teaching) stage, instructors design activities and strategies to enhance learner-instructor communication or implement tools/exercises to explain the 4Cs [communication, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication] with technology. Those activities will introduce ways to promote engagement, understanding, and independence of learners.

6. Learners And Community

Community involvement and experiential learning connect learners locally and globally. One step in this stage can be exploring and offering opportunities to practice global competencies and skills in an eLearning course. The global competencies are critical thinking and problem-solving, communication, collaboration, creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship, global citizenship and sustainability, and learning to learn/self-awareness and self-direction.

7. Assessment And Evaluation

In the evaluation stage, it’s essential to construct fair and equitable assessment methods to support all learners. Those can be achieved by integrating multiple assessment opportunities (diagnostic, formative, and summative) and utilizing a range of assessment and evaluation strategies that support learners’ education needs and challenges. Not to forget the importance of recognizing and responding to the issues of assessment and evaluation using proven tactics as an essential reflection block.

8. The Past, Present, And Future Of eLearning

The last module/stage in the eLearning design can be reflecting on the evolving trends in the eLearning industry, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, to name some. Some of the critical questions to be addressed here are: What are the barriers and solutions to the implementation of educational technology in an eLearning design and delivery? And What new efforts and factors impact learners in a diverse and evolving society?

Co-creating the next work skills success criteria in the eLearning world can be a first start to answer the above questions and push discussions forward.

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