Category Archives: Good Teaching

The Future of Instructional Design Programs

Blogging the 2014 AECT International Convention.

Facilitator: Anne Mendenhall, University of Nevada Las Vegas
Presenters: M.David Merrill, Retired Utah State University; Vanessa Dennen, Florida State University; Joel Gardner, Franklin University; Charles Morgan Reigeluth, Indiana University; Wilhelmina Savenye, Arizona State University

Opening Comments

David Merrill:  Instructional design needs to move to undergraduate. If you have a Masters, you’ll be a manager and you’ll manage people who aren’t trained in instrucitonal design – you need to create templates and tools to support the people under you.

Vanessa Dennen: Everything new is old; and everything old can be new again; a new label is added to something – we panic; but actually we have foundational knowledge that still applies to the new tools. We have a challenge with accreditors looking for those classes on social media on your transcript, and of course they aren’t there; need to show how we apply foundational knowledge. I resonate with this; where my social media and videoconferencing expertise is not represented on my academic transcript, but instead via my digital footprint.


Charles Reigeluth:  Transfer from teacher-center to learner-centered systems. The implications for instructional theory; implications for what graduates will do when they finish.

Joel Gardner:  What are instructional designers actually going to be doing when they are working; what is the context in which they will be working; working with people, managing projects, using interdisciplinary knowledge; direct people to do instructional design; being a leader or manager – those with Masters or PhDs will be leaders or managers and may need skills in that area.

Wilhelmina Savenye: Where are these degrees within our colleges; are we ed tech? we aren’t just that? how do our institutions see what we do?; tension on proving our value; graduates are going into corporate, non-profit, government; there’s a lot of opportunity to prove our worth.

Online Boom = Boom for Instructional Design?

Audience question: Will the online boom transfer into a continued boom for instructional design and instructional technology? (Noticing – it seems some in the audience are using instructional technology and instructional design interchangeably)

Merrill: Putting things online is getting easier and easier and the quality of the instruction is getting worse and worse; MOOCs the ultimate level of “shovelware” – put stuff online; study of 175 MOOCs to see if any of them have the First Five Principles of Instruction; a lot of stuff out there without quality; our contribution is not just HTML but that we have something to add in terms of instruction. We definitely need to continue to sell ourselves. Instructional design is an underappreciated academic discipline, and so is education in general. The way to sell, is to work with a few, the ones who are willing, and use those as examples to show what instructional design can bring to the quality of online courses.

Gardner: In higher ed, a greater push to show accreditation that we have outcomes connected to what we are doing, instructional designers are especially able to do this.

Reigeluth: We need more tools created that help SMEs create high quality instruction – when we have those tools, we won’t need as many instructional designers; the tools can support the design in the future

Dennen: The issue of how many instructional design programs that we need; at the moment we probably need more instructional designers than we have; to put more students through our programs – what will they do? maybe we will have more faculty development jobs – doing workshops for faculty, for example; how do we evangelize for ourselves

Instructional Design or Learning Design?

Question: What about names – change from Instructional Design to Learning, Design, and Technology; or Learning Design and Technology; the word instruction or instructional is seen as pejorative. Should we be changing names?

Dennen: If names are changed, does anything else change?

Reiguluth: Learning is what happens inside your head; instruction happens outside your head. Instruction facilitates learning.

Thinking. How does this conversation connect with the strands of behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism in AECT thinking? Pegi Flynt’s dissertation.

Advice for Young Instructional Designers

Question: What ideas or rules do you have for young instructional designers?

Dennen: Know your learners, your context, your objectives. Don’t let the technology drive the instructional design process. Instead of following a shiny object; start with what I know about supporting the learning process. Media selection is an important part of instructional design models and it always has been. What is happening now is that tools come out so quickly and are so accessible to everyone so quickly.

Merrill: First Principles of Instruction – those principles are critical for whatever delivery mode you have – online, MOOC, face to face, blended, with ipads, etc. etc. Story: How to select the media. Put on a blindfold and go to your media closet and pick something. It’s not the media that matters. It’s the principles of instruction that matter.

Brain-based Learning

Question: Connections with brain-based learning?

Reigeluth: It’s important to understand learning theory and instructional theory. Brain-based learning theory isn’t as practical of what specifically to do in the instruction. Learning and instructional theory can help bridge to when to use different methods of instruction.

Leadership and Management in Instructional Design Programs

Question: Let’s connect back to leadership and management. My instructional design taught me about courses and modules; but I didn’t learn about selecting an LMS for my institution, for making decisions on personnel and resources, how to meet the requirements for programmatic and institutional accreditation. The accrediting bodies are now focusing on measurable student outcomes for the programs. The accreditors are parroting what we’ve said on instructional design, but they don’t know it as well as we do. Studies of ID programs found only 11% had leadership or management training. Are our programs able to provide this, or are we stuck too much at the course and learning outcomes level? Are we capable within our structure with meeting the higher leadership needs? or do we have to teach others what we know?

Gardner: Our program is Instructional Design and Performance Systems – this helps students to see the big picture and the bigger system. We teach them how to see the process; but not how to lead people. What are the skills for leading in a knowledge society? Critical thinking skills, leading others, etc.

Reigeluth: Our graduates go into so many different lines of work: museums, corporate, many different types of jobs. This makes it a challenge to provide what they need to be successful in their work.

Audience Comment/Question: This is an instructional design problem we are looking at. We could use an instructional design approach to offer the right level of training – and to realize that a successful graduate will not be able to rely on just what they learned. It seems we should work on minors, even ID as a minor. Another possibility would be to consider how to work across the university to have various specialties – instead of competing with one other. It’s the beauty of our field that it is applicable to so many areas. Instructional design could be a stealth component of any kind of design out there. We need to train our people with an eye towards
what market they want to go into – and what do they need to work in that area?

Dennen: There is also a right moment for training; and some of our young students aren’t ready for leadership because they haven’t yet had very many years of experience. As junior instructional designers they may not be ready to take advantage of leadership training. It may be the job of employers or organizations to provide leadership training.

Merrill: Moving ID to undergraduate level will allow for more credits and more opportunity. If we did that, then we could add some of these other skills to the masters level. A class example of having students work in groups to create a proposal for a real client addressing a real instruction problem. Then he’d mix up the groups and choose the team leaders by, for example, having a woman or international student be the team leader with a couple of
chauvanistic men. Lots of leadership learning happened as they tried to sell their proposal to the client while working within a group. In this class they learned to meet deadlines and work with others.

Gardner: So far our comments are around we use instruction to help people learn. Embedded in this discussion is the idea that we need to help people learn. We need to help our students learn how to be independent learners. I’ve learned by continuing to read after my PhD. We have to help people become independent problem solvers.


Question: I vote against teaching instructional design at the undergraduate level because they aren’t interested in learning. At the undergraduate level, you have to have classes at 40-50 students. How can you teach higher order thinking skills with such large class sizes? You need to have a certain amount of life experience in order to learn how to be an instructional designer. … We are starting to run into people in the field who are using SAM or AGILE and moving away from ADDIE. How do we address that?

Gardner: At our institution, the dean said we are going to be agile now and we’re going to do SAM instead; but our IDs don’t like it. It does seem the same as ADDIE, but there are more iterations.

Merrill: He’ll be debating SAM in an upcoming TechTrends. After 50 years in the field, it is fun to see the same ideas keep coming around and around. It’s possible to teach undergraduates and international students First Principles of Instruction at the undergrad level. There are ways to use technology to deal with 40-50 students.

Merrill: Don’t just design a bit; design a shell so that you give designers assignments to fill in the shell. Create an interaction template in PowerPoint; and then you can plug in other content. Teach masters students how to design a shell. You don’t need expensive authoring tools.

Rabbit Trails I Followed

Getting to Know AECT Thought Leaders

Blogging the 2014 AECT International Convention.

I’m new to AECT, and some colleagues recommended that I attend the Breakfast with Champions on Thursday morning. I’m also new to higher ed educational technology. AECT seems to consider itself THE organization for educational technology and instructional design for higher education. My take is that it is much more research-based and less cool-tool-based than ISTE; more like AERA in it’s research and theory focus.

Because my training is in K12 ed tech, online learning, and leadership, I’m not yet familiar with the big names at this convention. So, I’m doing my own little investigation here to get a feel for the conversations that happen via AECT events.

So I’m listing here the names for the Champions Breakfast, and then linking to info about them, and what their main field/area of research seems to be at a quick glance. I welcome comments and corrections!

Top Professionals

Games-based learning for exploration and discovery

Blogging the 2014 AECT International Convention.

Preconference Workshop: Games-based learning for exploration and discovery

PresentersHannah R. Gerber, Sam Houston State University; Dodie J. Niemeyer, Sam Houston State University; Carolyn Stufft, Stephen F. Austin State University

Interesting Notes and Ideas

  • Minecraft snapshot

    Universities are starting to give scholarships for esports; the U.S. is starting to give visas to pro-gamers.

  • Watch out for gaming as a reward; students who could benefit most from this type of learning may not get to experience it
  • One way to gamify a whole course is to create role play throughout the whole course. I would love to do that!
  • Terms: Affinity space (as opposed to community of practice), paratext, metagame, ludology vs. narratology, makerspaces, machinima, fan fiction, walkthroughs, gamification, modding, edutainment, novice, feedback loop (assessment engine)
  • James Paul Gee
    • A video game is just a set of problems – you have to solve them in order to win. Connect that to problem based learning; problem posing learning – students learn to pose problems or forecast them.
    • The theory of learning behind games is quite different than regular learning. It’s much more complex than in school. If games couldn’t teach you, they would go broke. We teach the way we do because of the tests. We have to change the assessment, because it drives the teaching system. You wouldn’t be tempted to give a gamer a Halo test; if he finished the game, he already knows it. The learning system should be so immersive that the assessment is built in. Situated and embodied learning – can you DO stuff with your learning?
    • Learning – you need to be able to USE and ARTICULATE your knowledge.
  • Adaptive learning – you can’t move on until you are expert at that level. That’s a gaming concept also.
  • Games are one-on-one – the gamer is learning at their own level. It’s individualized instruction.
  • The differences of a game where the concepts are all connected in the game vs. where you answer a math problem and then get to move a car forward – but those two are connected.
  • One thing to watch out for with using off the shelf games is that students can be frustrated that the fun is taken out of the game because it’s been “school-ified”.
  • Game mechanics for gamification – feedback loops, iterative sequences for learning, levelling up with a reward system, may have real-life ramifications. Immediate feedback and self-reflection.
  • Issue of extrinsic motivation vs. intrinsic motivation. There aren’t enough studies to really say that extrinsic motivation are a detriment to intrinsic motivation.
  • The trick is really designing the curriculum around the game – and the creativity of the teacher.
  • Affinity space is the location, metagaming is the activity there, and paratext is the product of the collaboration/community.
  • There are communities around this – virtual communities, or playing with family, brothers, parents, uncles, in a real human interaction around the game. Well, of course! We have human interactions around Scrabble too! 
  • Types of writing around gaming: fan fiction, machinima, walkthrough, maker spaces.
  • How to gamify assessment:
    • health bar – to show how healthy your character is
    • a map to show where you are compared to everything else in the course
    • leaderboards?? maybe
    • XP – experience points
    • Present more challenges and opportunities to earn points
    • Quests and missions – students can choose these different goals and customize based on their interest
  • The idea of in course workshops (in the form of writing workshops) to support learning needed to be successful in the course game
  • How to do modification / modding – students can recreate parts of the class based on their interest

Resources and Links


Best Practice Workshop Presentation Tips

Things I noticed that worked well in how they ran the workshop.

  • Access prior knowledge by asking for a personal definition
  • Pass out terms related to the concept on an index card and have participants in pairs write down what they know already and what they want to know about the term (tactile KWL)
  • Silent reading time adds variety to an all day workshop

Student Reflection

Student reflection is designed to assist students in thinking about their learning processes, their learning experiences, and their metacognition. Reflection is a critical component for teaching students to be self-directed learners. Students should reflect on the course content and it’s application to their personal and professional lives.

Dee Fink’s Guide to Designing Courses for Significant Learning includes a series of questions for including reflection in course design (p 19-20).

Students reflect with:

    • oneself through journaling or learning portfolios
    • others through class discussion or others outside of class
  • Students reflect about:
    • the subject of the course: what is an appropriate and full understanding of this topic?
    • the learning process:
      • What am I learning?
      • Of what value is this?
      • How did I learn?
      • What else do I need to learn?
  • Students reflect via:
    • one-minute papers
      • i.e. What is the most important thing you learned in this module?
      • What was the “muddiest point” from this module?
    • weekly journal writing
    • learning portfolios

Need more ideas for designing reflection?

Talk to your Instructional Facilitator for more ideas or assistance with applying these ideas to your course.  Find these tips and more online in the Online Course Development Support Site.

Faith Integration

Andrews University is a Christian school; and therefore faith integration in online learning is an important value and task. Among other statements, the Andrews University Mission Statement includes this: Andrews University students will seek knowledge as they understand life, learning, and civic responsibility from a Christian point of view. How this is done makes for interesting discussion and research. There are certainly many viewpoints on the best way to integrate faith and learning; as well as different views on what it really means.

Some core issues for online course development and teaching online at Andrews are:

  • How does your own faith experience intersect with your teaching and learning?
  • In what ways do you encourage students to consider the course content & discipline’s philosophy from a Christian point of view?
  • What can students learn or experience regarding civic responsibility from a Christian point of view?
  • What are the Biblical foundations that intersect with your course content (as applicable and appropriate)?

What could this look like in an online course? The evidence may come in instructor-student interaction, in discussion on how the Christian worldview intersects with the content knowledge, in how students are viewed and treated as whole persons made in the image of God, in the instructor’s teaching presence. Here are some examples:

Instructor Presence

  • Hosting and encouraging student participation in an online chapel
  • Tone of your interactions with students
  • Ways that you show students you care – praying for them, helping struggling students, etc.

Writing Assignments

Another common way to explore the intersection of a Christian worldview and course content is through discussion forums, essays, and/or writing assignments.

Teaching Civic Responsibility

Biblical Foundations

Are there any natural connections between Biblical perspectives and your course content? Here are a few examples to challenge your thinking:

Note that it is important that these connections be appropriate, thoughful, integrated, and respectful of other faiths represented in your classroom.

Hopefully these ideas provide some background to help you consider how a Christian worldview intersects with your course content – and how best to assist students in their own growth and understanding throughout the process.

Talk to your Instructional Facilitator for more ideas or assistance with applying these ideas to your course.  Find these tips and more online in the Online Course Development Support Site.


Critical Thinking

Last week as we considered creating a Learning Community, we briefly shared some ways to encourage critical thinking in an online course. This week, let’s examine some specific instructional strategies that can be used in the online classroom.

To learn more about critical thinking, explore What is Critical Thinking? and the Critical Thinking Toolkit.

Group Work

The following examples are designed for group work, which can be supported by the discussion forum and collaborative tools such as a wiki, Dropbox, or GoogleDocs.

Writing Assignments

These writing assignment examples can be submitted directly to the teacher via the Assignment tool or TurnItIn, or shared with the class to stimulate further discussion.

Need some more examples? Browse the Reusable Learning Objects for Critical Thinking.

Ready to assess critical thinking in your class? Try the Critical Thinking VALUE rubric.

Learning Community

One of the biggest concerns of faculty and students new to online learning is the feeling of disconnection and distance. Creating an interactive learning community can make all the difference for student satisfaction in an online course. In addition, the learning community is a great way to encourage students to think critically about your academic content, to reflect on their learning, and to consider connections between a Christian worldview and the core content to be learned.

The Community of Inquiry model of online learning includes the Social Presence and the Cognitive Presence. (We will examine the Teaching Presence in depth later.) Let’s look at some ways to support the Social Presence and Cognitive Presence in your online classroom.

Social Presence

Social Presence is “the ability of participants to identify with the community (e.g., course of study), communicate purposefully in a trusting environment, and develop inter-personal relationships by way of projecting their individual personalities” (Garrison, 2009).

In a face to face class, how do students and the professor get to know each other? They see each other’s faces and body language. They share their ideas in classroom discussion. They may meet each other outside of class to work on additional learning.

Online, we need to deliberately set up spaces for students to get to know each other and for you to get to know them. In high quality online programs, students even feel a bond of solidarity and friendship and are excited to meet each other later face to face.

Here are some ideas to enhance the social presence of your online classroom:

  • Create an introductions forum for students to get to know each other personally and professionally. Have students share prior knowledge and experience on the content.
  • Create general forums to support the class. Some examples to choose from include:
    • Watercooler
    • General Questions
    • Technical Questions
    • Learning Process Comments
    • Housekeeping Issues
    • Online Chapel
  • If you have a live synchronous time, always include icebreaker times. Have students share the weather where they are, or something interesting from their location.
  • Encourage students to share personal experiences to connect with the content, where appropriate.

Cognitive Presence

Cognitive Presence is the extent to which learners are able to construct and confirm meaning through sustained reflection and discourse (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2001).

Talk to your Instructional Facilitator for more ideas or assistance with applying these ideas to your course.  Find these tips and more online in the Online Course Development Support Site.

Stimulating Learning Experiences

As you continue to think about the learning design of your course, consider this week the learning activities and student engagement in your online course.

 How will you provide diverse opportunities for engaging intellectual discovery, inquiry and creative problem-solving? What ways can you provide choices for students to meet learning outcomes?

Offline Activities

Just because a course is online doesn’t mean that the student has to stare at a screen the whole time. Here are some ideas for learning activities outside of the online classroom:

Using the Forum for More Than “Discussion”

The discussion forum is great for interaction, but what else can you do with it besides “discuss”?! Here are some ideas to bring in some variety:


Consider how you can provide choices for students to meet your learning outcomes.

Talk to your Instructional Facilitator for more ideas or assistance with applying these ideas to your course.  Find these tips and more online in the Online Course Development Support Site.

Learning Design: Thinking about Alignment and Assessment

Before you get too far down the path of building your syllabus, we encourage you to think through your learning design. We provide a Storyboard Framework for you to consider the big picture of your course. You will, if you haven’t already, discuss this further with your Instructional Facilitator in the Learning Design Meeting.


This week, consider the concept of alignment within the context of assessment. Alignment means that we want to create continuity between the learning objectives, the course activities, the learning materials, and the assessments.

Objectives > Activities > Assessment

Why should assessments, learning objectives and instructional strategies be aligned?

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • What are the learning outcomes for this class? Do I have clear guidance from the department curriculum?
  • Are my learning outcomes observable (strong action verbs) and measurable?
  • Are my intended learning activities consistent with all the learning outcomes?
  • Does each intended learning activity help students reach the learning outcome? How does it help them? How do I know they have met or deeply understand the learning outcome? What evidence will I have of the students’ learning for this outcome?
  • Are the feedback and assessment activities consistent with the learning outcomes and the learning activities?


As you consider the broad strokes of your class, think about your options for assessment. What are some options besides quizzes and exams? Do any of these other options align with your learning outcomes?

Converting a course from a face-to-face format to an online format provides an opportunity to rethink and reconsider your usual teaching patterns. Take some time to think through these concepts and integrate these ideas into your plan for your online course.

Talk to your Instructional Facilitator for more ideas or assistance with applying these ideas to your course. Find these tips and more online in the Online Course Development Support Site.

Game Based Lessons: An Adult Education Experiment

By Henrietta Irizarry-Ortiz and Kimberly Gates from the Sheridan Technical Center.

In this session at USDLA 2014, Henrietta and Kimberly shared some background on game based learning, and then told the story of how they collaborated to experiment with game based education for adult learners.

They talked about why gaming gets a bad rap – violence, immersion, cocooning. However, video games can increase student engagement in real world problems. One interesting study shared was by Constance Steinkuehler on the differences in student reading for games and school reading. Watch more about it here. The main point is that interest highly influences performance. Another point was that we should use school to meet kids’ goals instead of to meet “our” goals. CHOICE: Using student interest as the main driver for their education.

Advice to parents is to pay attention to what games your kids are playing – and to help them reflect on the process and what they are learning from the experience. Self-correcting, persistence, how they are thinking.

The experiment was to have high school students design game based learning for the adult education students. They used Game Maker software and Blender.