Online Learning Environments: A Report of an Instructional Design Case Event

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

There are too few opportunities for learning service professionals and students to practice authentic instructional design as a part of their respective training and academic preparation. The professional practice of instructional design (ID) requires high-level problem solving, critical thinking, and interpersonal skills because design problems are often complex and multidimensional. Novice instructional designers encounter practical issues for which they are unprepared (Julian, Larsen, & Kinzie, 1999). Analyzing cases provides an opportunity to explore professional issues while students learn (Kinzie, Hrabe, & Larsen, 1998). A case approach aids the instructional systems design (ISD) learning process and helps to facilitate further research of online learning environments. Learning through a case-based environment allows novice instructional designers to analyze the case, reflect on relevant theories and techniques in attempting to understand a real problem, develop a response, and consider potential consequences.

Case studies have been an effective tool for developing professional knowledge across disciplines; however, case events dedicated to the study and practice of instructional design are limited among learning services professionals. This article is based on the experiences of the authors during a recent instructional development project using authentic training cases for online learning environments and similar distance education contexts. We have explored aspects of an educational approach using an online case event that served to provide designers with an opportunity for teamwork in an authentic environment. The components of this discussion include: (1) an overview of the case method as a learning strategy, (2) the role of a case in an online learning environment, and (3) learning instructional design from a case experience.

THE CASE METHOD AS A LEARNING STRATEGY

Online case-based events are student-centered, active learning experiences in which students can reflect on relevant theories and techniques in attempting to understand a genuine problem and develop the most appropriate response by considering a variety of acceptable responses to a given situation. Case methods help students examine theories during the learning process and to apply these theories to situations they may encounter upon completing a distance learning course. Authentic instructional design should emphasize learning objectives that represent the training context while on-the-job objectives represent the actual performance context. Learning objectives describe what the learners will be able to demonstrate within the learning environment. However, the learner's performance in the classroom or at the computer in a distance learning environment is not necessarily the same as on-the-job performance. Learning on simulators, models, through hands-on practice, role-play scenarios, and actual equipment and tools provides more effective training than learning exclusively from lectures, demonstrations, and other passive techniques.

Online case events provide authentic learning experiences for students, so it helps them to investigate various solutions based on their situation and find a final solution. Over the past year, a case method approach has been explored by constructing an online case event (http:// www.itcaseevent.com/) hosted at the Educational Psychology and Instructional Technology Department at The University of Georgia. The online case event provides an opportunity for novice instructional designers to use instructional systems design in an authentic, team-oriented online learning environment. The process of participating in the case event is a rewarding, challenging, and complex endeavor. While developing a case for an event, consideration should be given to the fact that novice instructional designers require a genuine problem to reflect the situations that they would encounter in the workplace, or approximate this environment as closely as possible. …