DISTANCE EDUCATION TRAINING FOR DISTANCE EDUCATION TRAINERS: The Roadmap to Effective Distance Education Instructional Design Project

Article excerpt

This article provides an overview of a 6-university collaborative project, Roadmap to Effective Distance Education Instructional Design. This project developed instructional materials and innovative approaches to better prepare instructional designers at land-grant universities and other universities with agricultural academic programs to support their universities' distance education teaching programs. Previous studies indicate that distance education faculty training is conducted by staff instructional designers, and that a large percentage of these instructional designers do not have training or knowledge of distance education instructional design methods before being hired at their universities. The case study outlined in this article describes the process the project development team undertook, research results to date, and the collaboration process among partnering institutions.

BACKGROUND

Institutions of higher learning are facing the challenge of offering support for technologybased faculty training and development efforts (Campus Computing Survey, 1999). More than a technological infrastructure is necessary to effectively encourage and train faculty members to teach at a distance. Other components, primarily focused on providing institutional support to assist a faculty member's development, such as teaching incentives, instructional design support, and technology training, have been shown to be necessary in creating successful distance education training and development programs (Berge, 2001). Researchers have said instructors need new knowledge and skills to teach effectively by distance education (Beaudoin, 1990; Brigham, 1992; Dillon, Hengst, & Zoller, 1991; Shaeffer & Farr, 1993; Willis, 1993; Wolcott, 1993).

In addition, Spotts (1999) indicated that if instructors are expected to use instructional technologies-including distance education technologies-they need technical support and training. Instructional designers and technology specialists need to be knowledgeable about not only the latest technology, but also the educational methods to use that technology, according to Telg (1995) and Irani and Telg (2001). A study of 14 land-grant universities (Irani & Telg, 2001) found that nearly two thirds (61.5%) of distance education faculty training was conducted by staff instructional designers-with no faculty appointment. Also, 64.3% of instructional designers who actively work with faculty to develop distance education courses had had no prior training or knowledge of instructional design methods used in distance education before working at their universities. Twelve of the 14 respondents said they had learned distance education instructional design methods while "on the job."

These findings mirror a previous study of video production specialists who support their universities' distance education effort. Telg (1995) found that many video production specialists had learned distance education instructional methods while on the job. Telg (1996a) recommended that a training curriculum be developed to teach television-productionspecialistturned-instructional-designers the information and skills-particularly knowledge of instructional design-that they needed to perform their jobs, so they can subsequently support faculty members' efforts. Particular areas of instructional design in which video producers needed more knowledge included audience identification and needs, adult education theory, adapting content to the technology, distance education theory, interaction methods in distance education, and evaluation techniques in distance education (Telg, 1996b). Instructional designers must be adequately prepared in order to assist faculty, so that faculty can effectively teach undergraduate and graduate distance courses. However, these two questions still remain: Who provides the technology skills and instructional design training and support for faculty? And are these staff members adequately prepared to train and support the faculty? …