3.2 Instructional Strategies

A well designed course, whether it be face-to-face, blended, or online, must be well structured with careful attention to instructional strategies in the selection of instructional material, the planning of learning activities, and the selection of media.  In this section of chapter 3, we consider strategies for planning and building a strong foundation of course design.

Learning Objectives

  • Develop instructional strategies for verbal information, intellectual skills, psychomotor skills, and attitudes.
  • Sequence learning outcomes to best facilitate learning.
  • Motivate learners in online courses.
  • Develop lessons that include all of the instructional events.

Instructional Strategies

An instructional strategy describes the instructional materials and procedures that enable students to achieve the learning outcomes. Learning outcomes are what the student should know, or be able to accomplish at the end of the course or learning unit. Your instructional strategy should describe the instructional materials’ components and procedures used with the materials that are needed for students to achieve the learning outcomes. The strategy should be based on the learning outcomes and information from the other previous instructional design steps. You can even base your strategy on how you or others have solved similar problems. You can save time and money by not re-inventing the wheel. However, be careful; a lot of existing instructional material is designed poorly.

Use the instructional strategy as a framework for further developing the instructional materials or evaluating whether existing materials are suitable or need revision. As a general rule, use the strategy to set up a framework for maximizing effective and efficient learning. This often requires using strategies that go beyond basic teaching methods. For example, discovery-learning techniques can be more powerful than simply presenting the facts. One common pitfall in creating online lessons is teaching in the same way as was done with traditional methods. If this is done, then there may only be minimal value in transferring the material to an online system. As Emile Chartier said, “Nothing is more dangerous than an idea, when it is the only one you have.” Note that you can address a variety of learning styles if you teach with a variety of different methods and media. No one single teaching method or medium is ideal for all learners. As you proceed through developing an instructional strategy, start specifying the media that would most effectively teach the material.

Goal Analysis

Goal analysis includes classifying the instructional goal into the domain, or kind of learning that will occur. The domains can be verbal information where learners state, list, describe, name, etc., intellectual skills such as learning how to discriminate, identify, classify, demonstrate, generate, originate, create, etc., psychomotor skills where learners make, draw, adjust, assemble, etc., and attitudes such as making choices or decisions (Fenrich, 2005). (These domains will be discussed in more detail below.) Establishing the domain is important in determining what instructional strategies to use in subsequent steps.

The sequential steps derived in the goal analysis are often too large to be taught in one step. The learner might need more information prior to learning a step. The learner needs some information about zooming in or out. Consequently, you need to break the steps into smaller components, using a subordinate skills analysis. A subordinate skills analysis is a process for determining the skills that must be learned before performing a step. When identifying subordinate skills, ensure the components are not too numerous, which can bore learners and interfere with learning, or too few, which can make the instruction ineffective. For each learning domain classification, you need to conduct a different type of subordinate skills analysis:

LEARNING DOMAIN STRATEGIES

Each learning domain classification (i.e., verbal information, intellectual skills and cognitive strategies, psychomotor skills, and attitudes) is best taught with different instructional strategies.

Tip
Different classifications of skills require different instructional strategies.

Verbal Information

Verbal information is material, such as names of objects, that students simply have to memorize and recall.

When teaching verbal information:

  • Organize the material into small, easily retrievable chunks.
  • Link new information to knowledge the learner already possesses. For example, use statements such as
    “Remember how”, or “This is like …”. Linking information helps the learner to store and recall the material.
  • Use mnemonics and other memory devices for new information. You may recall that the musical notes of the treble clef staff lines can be remembered with the mnemonic Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge.
  • Use meaningful contexts and relevant cues. For example, relating a problem to a sports car can be relevant to some members of your target audience.
  • Have the learners generate examples in their minds, such as create a song or game with the information or apply the knowledge to the real world. If the student only memorizes facts then the learning will only have minimal value.
  • Avoid rote repetition as a memorization aid. Rote learning has minimal effectiveness over time.
  • Provide visuals to increase learning and recall.

Intellectual Skills

Intellectual skills are those that require learners to think (rather than simply memorizing and recalling information).

When teaching intellectual skills:

  • Base the instructional strategy and sequencing on the hierarchical analysis done earlier. Always teach subordinate skills before higher-level skills.
  • Link new knowledge to previously learned knowledge. You can do this explicitly (e.g., the bones in your feet are comparable to the bones you learned about in your hands) or implicitly (e.g., compare the bones in your feet to other bone structures you have learned about).
  • Use memory devices like acronyms, rhymes, or imagery for information such as rules or principles. You can use the first letters of words to help memorize information. For example, “KISS” means “Keep It Simple Stupid”. General rules can often be remembered through rhymes such as “i before e except after c”. Remember that rules often have exceptions. Tell your learners about the exceptions. Memory devices are best for limited amounts of information.
  • Use examples and non-examples that are familiar to the student. For instance, when classifying metals, iron and copper are examples while glass and plastic are non-examples.
  • Use discovery-learning techniques. For example, let students manipulate variables and see the consequences.
  • Use analogies that the learners know. However, be careful that learners do not over-generalize or create misconceptions.
  • Provide for practice and immediate feedback.

Psychomotor Skills

Psychomotor skills are those that require learners to carry out muscular actions.

When teaching psychomotor skills:

  • Base the instructional strategy on the procedural analysis done earlier.
  • Provide directions for completing all of the steps.
  • Provide repeated practice and feedback for individual steps, then groups of steps, and then the entire sequence.
  • Remember that, in general, practice should become less dependent on written or verbal directions.
  • Consider visuals to enhance learning.
  • Consider job aids, such as a list of steps, to reduce memory requirements. This is especially important if there are many procedures or if the procedures are infrequently used.
  • After a certain point, allow learners to interact with real objects or do the real thing. How much can you learn about swimming without getting wet?

Note that some skills involve other learning-domain classifications. For example, when learning how to operate a camcorder, many of the skills are psychomotor. However, deciding how to light an image is an intellectual skill. Also, note that the required proficiency level can affect the instructional strategy. There is a big difference between being able to imitate a skill and being able to automatically do a skill.

Attitudes

Attitudes involve how a student feels about the instruction, whether they will value or care about the material presented to them.

When teaching attitudes:

  • Base the instructional strategy on the instructional design steps done earlier.
  • If you can, show a human model to which the students can easily relate. One consideration is that it may be better if the model is of the same socioeconomic group.
  • Show realistic consequences to appropriate and inappropriate choices.
  • Consider using video.
  • Remember that attitudes taught through computer technology are not guaranteed to transfer to the real world. If appropriate and possible, consider arranging for practice opportunities to make the choice in real life. Alternatively, use role-playing to reinforce the attitudes taught.

Note that it can be difficult to test whether the attitudes taught have transferred to real situations. Will learners behave naturally if they know that they are being observed? If learners have not voluntarily permitted observations, then you must consider whether it is ethical to make the observations.

SEQUENCING LEARNING OUTCOMES

Using the subordinate skills analysis, determine the sequence of how the learning outcomes will be taught. In general, to best facilitate learning, you should sequence the learning outcomes from:

  • easy to hard
    • You could teach adding fractions with common denominators and then with different denominators. Your lesson could first deal with writing complete sentences and then writing paragraphs.
  •  simple to complex
    • As an example, teach recognizing weather patterns and then predicting the weather.
    • Cover replacing a washer and then replacing a faucet.
  •  specific to general
    • You could teach driving a specific car and then transfer the skills to driving any car. Similarly, you could cover adjusting the brakes on a specific mountain bike and then generalize the procedure to other mountain bikes
    • Note that some students like to learn through an inductive approach (that is, from the general to the specific). For example, students could be presented with a number of simple examples, and based on those, be asked to generalize a rule. That general rule can then be applied to solving specific examples. Since some students will not enjoy an inductive approach, do not use it all of the time. Rather consider an inductive approach as a way to provide some variation and occasionally address other learning preferences.
  •  concrete to abstract
    • As an example, teach measuring distances with a tape measure and then estimating distances without a tape measure. Cover writing learning outcomes and then evaluating learning outcomes.
  • the known to the unknown
    •  You could do this by starting with concepts learners already know and extending those concepts to new ideas. In other words, build on what has been previously taught.
Tip
Be sure to teach learning outcomes in the order that best facilitates learning.

Each of these methods of sequencing learning outcomes enables students to acquire the needed knowledge base for learning higher-level skills. Note that these guidelines are not black and white rules.

Motivating Students

As Lao Tzu observed, “You can no more teach without the learner than a merchant can sell without a willing buyer.” Follow the ARCS motivation model to ensure that students will be motivated to learn.

Tip
Motivate learners because without motivation learning is unlikely to occur.

ARCS Motivational Model
As described by Keller, motivation can be enhanced through addressing the four attributes of Attention, Relevance, Confidence, and Satisfaction (ARCS). Try to include all of the attributes since each alone may not maintain student motivation. Your learner analysis may have provided useful information for motivating students. You should build motivational strategies into the materials throughout the instructional design process. This is challenging since each learner is an individual with unique interests, experiences, and goals.

Attention

Gain attention and then sustain it. You can gain attention by using human-interest examples, arousing emotions such as by showing a peer being wheeled into an ambulance, presenting personal information, challenging the learner, providing an interesting problem to solve, arousing the learner’s curiosity, showing exciting video or animation sequences, stating conflicting information, using humor, asking questions, and presenting a stimulus change that can be as simple as an audio beep. One way to sustain attention is by making the learning highly interactive.

Relevance

Relevance helps the student to want to learn the material by helping them understand how the material relates to their needs or how it can relate to improving their future. For example, when teaching adult students how to solve percent problems, having them calculate the gratuity on a restaurant bill may be more relevant than a problem that compares two person’s ages. You can provide relevance through testimonials, illustrative stories, simulations, practical applications, personal experience, and relating the material to present or future values or needs. Relevance is also useful in helping to sustain attention. For material to be perceived as being relevant, you must strive to match the learner’s expectations to the material you provide.

Confidence

If students are confident that they can master the material, they will be much more willing to attempt the instruction. You will need to convince students with low confidence that they can be successful. You can do this through presenting the material in small incremental steps, or even by stating how other similar students have succeeded. Tasks should seem achievable rather than insurmountable. You should also convince students who are overconfident that there is material that they need to learn. You can do this by giving a challenging pre-test or presenting difficult questions.

Satisfaction

Satisfaction provides value for learning the material. Satisfaction can be intrinsic from the pleasure or value of the activity itself, extrinsic from the value or importance of the activity’s result, for social reasons such as pleasing people who’s opinions are important to them, for achievement goals such as the motive to be successful or avoid failure, or a combination of these. Examples of intrinsic satisfaction include the joy or challenge of learning, increased confidence, positive outcomes, and increased feelings of self-worth. Examples of extrinsic satisfaction include monetary rewards, praise, a certificate, avoidance of discomfort or punishment for not doing it, and unexpected rewards. Some evidence suggests that extrinsic motivation, such as a certificate for completing a course, does not last over time. Nonetheless, it is better to assume that some students need extrinsic motivation. To be safe, try to provide your learners with both intrinsic, which should have more of the focus, and extrinsic rewards. If the intrinsic motivation is high for all learners, you will not need to plan as much for extrinsic motivation. Note that satisfaction can be provided by enabling learners to apply the skills they have gained in a meaningful way. Remember to let the students know that the material to be learned is important. Consider increasing extrinsic motivation through quizzes and tests.

INSTRUCTIONAL EVENTS

As Robert Gagné described, that instructional events (gaining attention, informing the learner of the learning outcome, stimulating recall of prerequisites, presenting the material, providing learning guidance, eliciting the performance, providing feedback, assessing performance, and enhancing retention and transfer) represent what should be done to ensure that learning occurs. If you address each instructional event, you will have a solid foundation for creating effective instructional materials. You will need to determine what will be done for each instructional event for each learning outcome.

Gaining Attention

Gain attention by getting the students involved and motivated. Ideas for gaining attention were presented earlier within the ARCS model of motivation above. Consider using an interesting animation or video on the title page and first screen of each lesson. This is called an attract sequence. Note that video tends to be more effective than still images in gaining attention. Remember that you also have to keep the learners attentive throughout the entire lesson. You can maintain attention by using different media, leading lively discussions, asking questions, providing different learning activities, etc.

Informing The Student of the Learning Outcome

Help students focus their efforts in this event. You can do this with simple statements or thought-provoking questions. If possible, also make the students feel that they need to learn the knowledge and skills. You can let the learner know about the learning outcome in an introduction or overview. This can be a good use for video, since some students skim over text as they find it boring.

Stimulating Recall of Prerequisites

Prepare students for what is to come in this event. One strategy you can use is simply stating the needed prerequisite skills. Alternatively, pre-tests can remind learners of the prerequisites and also help to determine a student’s current skill level. You should advise students who do not have the prerequisite skills to learn the skills before continuing. Stimulating recall of prerequisites should be done before major learning occurs. This is often done in an introduction or overview. The learner analysis should have previously determined the relevant knowledge and experiences that typical students will bring into the learning situation.

Presenting the Material

When presenting material to the students in this event, in general, you should sequence the material in increasing difficulty and in small incremental steps. This helps ensure success and increases learner confidence. A variety of methods can inspire interest. No single approach can be used to teach all learning outcomes, but the activities you choose must effectively address the learning outcomes and different learning styles. As much as possible, the activities learners do online should match what will be done in the real world. Learning by doing is very powerful. As the Buddha said, “Teach you? I cannot teach you. Go, experience for yourself.”

Where appropriate, the instructional activities you create should include fun ways to learn. However, remember that some learning is simply hard work. Every instructional activity can have strengths and weaknesses, depending on the learning outcome being taught. Incorporating a variety of creative instructional approaches can help maintain student interest and motivation as well as ensure that each student occasionally has a match between their learning style and the teaching style. Many effective lessons include more than one type of instructional activity.

Tips:

  • Use a variety of methods to teach
  • Try to make learning fun.
  • Consider teaching both the correct material and what can go wrong.

Remember to provide examples that are meaningful, relevant, and realistic. Base some of the content on the potential for making mistakes. Get this information by asking subject-matter experts about typical mistakes students make after they are taught the content in the traditional way. If you only teach what is correct, the learner may never learn what can go wrong. For example, teaching what can go wrong is important in teaching physicians how to make an accurate diagnosis.

Base the total amount of material presented in a lesson on the learners’ age and assumed attention span, the material’s complexity, the activities needed, and the time needed for all of the instructional events. A rough estimate of the proportional amount of effort needed to cover a learning outcome should be based on the learning outcome’s frequency, importance, and difficulty.

  • Frequency—How often is the behavior needed?
  • Importance—How significant is the behavior to job performance?
  • Difficulty—How hard is the behavior to master?

For each learning outcome, give a rating (e.g., a number out of five) for the frequency, importance, and difficulty and then add the total. Base the estimated amount of content (e.g., a percentage of the number of screens) proportionally for each learning outcome.  See Learning Outcome Rating Example Below:

Objective Frequency Importance Difficulty Total Percent
Number 1 2 1 1 4 10%
Number 2 4 3 5 12 30%
Number 3 2 3 3 8 20%
Number 4 3 1 2 6 15%
Number 5 1 5 4 10 25%
Total 40 100%

You can gain ideas for presenting the material through brainstorming with all team members, other instructors, resource personnel, and even target audience learners. You can also review existing materials for  ideas. You should not be responsible for generating all of the creative ideas yourself. When thinking about  ideas, remember that people are social. Collaboration and discussions can be powerful in enhancing learning  and can easily be done through computers and the Internet. In groups, students can discuss, debate, and  explore many things. Imagine how much can be learned if students discuss issues or explain concepts to each  other. As Giambattista Vico said, “One only knows something if one can explain it”. Also through computers,  it is possible to tap into real data or tools such as those used by scientists. Wouldn’t students enjoy learning  about climate, for example, if they could use real data and models to predict the weather?

Depending on the learning outcome, you may need to teach some of them or support them through computer-based resources when the more common online strategies will not suffice. Computer-based resources include drill and practice, tutorials, simulations, online labs, educational games, intelligent tutoring systems, and virtual reality.  Some drill and practice activities can be effectively provided within Learning Management Systems. However, depending on the learning domain, thinking level required, complexity of the problem presentation, and feedback that needs to be provided, some drill and practice activities will need to be created with specialized tools.

PROVIDING LEARNING GUIDANCE

In helping students to learn the material, you can provide ways to categorize materials, provide memory devices, and link new knowledge to previously learned knowledge. You can also emphasize differences between related skills. As an example, you might explain that adding two digit numbers is similar to adding single digit numbers, except that a value may have to be “carried”. You can also provide students with strategies for recalling information and encourage them to create their own memory recall techniques. Providing guidance is particularly important because many students have not learned how to learn effectively. Remember that learning is minimal if you simply provide information. As Paulo Freire said, “To teach is not to transfer knowledge but to create the possibilities for the production or construction of knowledge”. This event is usually integrated with “presenting the material”.

ELICITING THE PERFORMANCE

Learners must know how well they are progressing. You can do this by asking questions or providing opportunities to practice the skill being taught and then giving feedback. This event is also usually integrated with “presenting the material”. It is better to provide a little bit of practice often as compared to a lot of practice given seldom. Allow for practice as learners logically need it after each concept of a lesson has been presented, rather than at a fixed interval such as at the end of each lesson after many concepts have been presented. This is even more important when learners need to practice sub-skills before proceeding to higher-level skills. In other words, help learners learn the material as the content is taught. Learning effectiveness can be compromised if you wait too long. Make the difficulty level of the practice proportional to the difficulty of the task. Practice should not be so easy that it is trivial nor so difficult that it is frustrating.

PROVIDING FEEDBACK

Feedback should be positive, constructive, and immediate. It should provide complete information as to why their answer and other possibilities are right or wrong, and/or guide students towards attaining the learning outcome. Detailed feedback is important to ensure understanding, especially if the learner’s answer was simply a guess or if the learner’s answer was correct but the reasoning was wrong. This event is coordinated with eliciting the performance.

ASSESSING STUDENT PERFORMANCE

Students are tested in this event. This step is basically more formal than the “elicit the performance” event. As much as possible, the tests you create should approximate real situations. Test all learning outcomes and only the learning outcomes. Tests should be criterion referenced (that is, performance based on achieving the specified learning outcomes). You should provide the students with their test results as soon as possible. The feedback you provide should pinpoint areas in which the student had difficulties.

ENHANCING RETENTION AND TRANSFER

In this event, ensure students retain the information and that the information can be transferred beyond the specific ideas presented in the lesson. More exposure leads to more retention. You can increase retention through questioning, giving reviews, paraphrasing, and providing summaries. Retention activities should occur at spaced intervals and occur before more complex skills are learned. You can facilitate transfer by providing links to related situations, related information, or novel problems and solutions. If possible, transfer should focus on real-world situations.

Tip
Increase retention by exposing the learner to the material in a variety of ways.

DEVELOP AND SELECT INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS

Based on the instructional strategy for each learning outcome, and information from the other steps of the instructional design process, you need to determine whether materials should be gathered or developed. The main reason for using existing materials (those owned by your institution or purchased) is to save time and money.

Gather Existing Material

Some but likely not all of the needed material may exist. Learning-object repositories may be found within your institution or at provincial/state, national, and international sites. Compare any existing material to the instructional strategy. Determine whether it is suitable and cost-effective. Determine whether the existing material can be adapted or supplemented. ne alternative is to get permission to repurpose existing materials for your own needs. Remember, if you include work done by others, you have the proper permissions, and have researched all copyrights regarding the material you have selected.

Develop The Needed Material

The instructional strategy of the materials you develop should consider the learning domain, motivational techniques, each event of instruction, and all of the information gained through the systematic instructional design process. It is wise to create a paper-based version (storyboard) of what will appear on each screen that a student will see. See the Storyboarding section of this chapter for more information. Storyboards are easier to review and edit than content within a learning management system.

Based on the storyboard, make final decisions about the media needed to effectively teach the material. These decisions are based on what will most effectively teach the material as well as practical considerations such as cost and available expertise. Once you make the decisions, start creating the media. You must consider the file formats that will be used and where the media will be stored, such as DVD-ROM, CD-ROM, Internet, or intranet.

A final storyboard must be created for the person who transfers the material to the learning management system. An accurate storyboard will reduce the number of subsequent revisions needed. After you develop the media, individual pieces can be incorporated into the system. After this, you can begin the final formative evaluation. The components of a complete instructional multimedia package can also include:

  • an easy-to-use student manual with directions, strategies, learning outcomes, and summaries
  • remedial and enrichment material
  • an easy-to-use instructor’s manual

An instructional strategy should describe the instructional materials’ components and the procedures used with the materials needed for students to achieve the learning outcomes. Your instructional strategy should be based on your instructional analysis, the learning outcomes, and other previous instructional design steps, or on how others have solved similar problems. At the end of this process, you should have a clear set of specifications describing how the material will be taught. You will use the instructional strategy as a framework for further developing the instructional materials or evaluating whether existing materials are suitable or need revision. Consider strategies that go beyond basic teaching methods. Remember that you can address a variety of learning styles if you teach with a variety of different methods and media. No single teaching method or medium is perfect for all learners. As you proceed through developing an instructional strategy, start specifying the media that would most effectively teach the material.

Each learning domain classification is best taught with different instructional strategies.

When teaching verbal information:

  • Organize the material into small easily retrievable chunks, based on a cluster analysis done earlier.
  • Link new information to knowledge the learner already possesses.
  • Use memory devices like forming images or using mnemonics for new information.
  • Use meaningful contexts and relevant cues.
  • Have the learners generate examples in their minds, do something with the information, or apply the knowledge to the real world.
  • Avoid rote repetition as a memorization aid.
  • Provide visuals to increase learning and recall.

When teaching intellectual skills:

  • Base the instructional strategy and sequencing on a hierarchical analysis done earlier.
  • Link new knowledge to previously learned knowledge.
  • Use memory devices like forming images or mnemonics for new information.
  • Use examples and non-examples that are familiar to the student.
  • Use discovery-learning techniques.
  • Use analogies that the learners know.
  • Provide for practice and immediate feedback.

When teaching psychomotor skills:

  • Base the instructional strategy on a procedural analysis done earlier.
  • Provide directions for completing all of the steps.
  • Provide repeated practice and feedback for individual steps, then groups of steps, and then the entire sequence.
  • Remember that, in general, practice should become less dependent on written or verbal directions.
  • Consider visuals to enhance learning.
  • Consider job aids, such as a list of steps, to reduce memory requirements.
  • Allow learners to interact with real objects or do the real thing.

When teaching attitudes:

  • Base the instructional strategy on the instructional analysis done earlier.
  •  If you can, show a human model to which the students can easily relate.
  • Show realistic consequences to appropriate and inappropriate choices.
  • Consider using video.
  • Remember that attitudes taught through computer technology might not transfer to the real world.
  • Note that it can be difficult to test whether the attitudes taught have transferred to real situations.

Based on the subordinate skills analysis, sequence the learning outcomes from lower to higher level skills, easy to hard, simple to complex, specific to general, concrete to abstract, and/or the known to the unknown.

It is important for your lessons to motivate learners because without motivation learning is unlikely to occur. Regular and on-going instructor/teacher presence, especially when students are studying partly or wholly online, is essential for student success. This means effective communication between teacher/instructor and students. It is particularly important to encourage inter-student communication, either face-to-face or online. Motivation can be enhanced through addressing these attributes: Attention, Relevance, Confidence, and Satisfaction (ARCS). Try to include all of the attributes since each alone may not maintain student motivation. You should build motivational strategies into the materials throughout the instructional design process.

  • To gain attention, involve and motivate the students. Do this throughout the lesson.
  • Inform the student of the learning outcome, before major learning occurs, to help them focus their efforts.
  •  Stimulate recall of prerequisites by stating the needed prerequisite skills or giving a pre-test.
  • When presenting the material, sequence the material in increasing difficulty and in small incremental steps. Use a variety of methods to maintain interest. Provide examples that are meaningful, relevant, and realistic. Base some of the content on the potential for making mistakes. The proportional amount of effort needed to cover a learning outcome should be based on the learning outcome’s frequency, importance, and difficulty.
  • While presenting the material, provide learning guidance to help students learn the material.
  • While presenting the material, elicit the performance so that learners can find out how well they are doing. Do this by asking questions or providing opportunities to practice the skill. Remember to address metacognition within this activity.
  • When eliciting the performance, provide detailed feedback. Your feedback should be positive, constructive, and immediate. Your feedback should provide complete information as to why the answer and other answers are right or wrong or guide students in how to attain the stated learning outcome.
  • Formally assess the students’ performance. Tests should approximate real situations. Test all learning outcomes and only the learning outcomes. Tests should be criterion-referenced.
  • Enhance retention and transfer so that students retain the information and can transfer the information beyond the specific ideas presented in the lesson.

Each type of instructional activity has strengths and weaknesses depending on the problem being solved. Incorporating a variety of creative instructional approaches can help maintain student interest and motivation as well as ensure that each student occasionally has a match between their learning style and the teaching style. Many effective lessons include more than one type of instructional activity, some fun ways to learn, and social activities like collaboration and discussions.

Based on the instructional activities for each learning outcome, and information from the other steps of the instructional design process, you need to determine whether materials should be gathered or developed. The main reason for using existing materials (those owned by your institution or purchased) is to save time and money.

The instructional strategy of the materials you develop should consider the learning domain, motivational techniques, each event of instruction, and all of the information gained through the systematic instructional design process. It is wise to create a paper-based version (storyboard) of what will appear on each screen that a student will see. Storyboards are easier to review and edit than content within a learning management system. Based on the storyboard, make final decisions about the media needed to effectively teach the material. After you develop the media, individual pieces can be incorporated into the learning management system.

DESIGNING LEARNING ACTIVITIES

The importance of providing students with a structure for learning and setting appropriate learning activities is probably the most important of all the steps towards quality teaching and learning, and yet the least discussed in the literature on quality assurance.

This is the most critical part of the design process, especially (but not just only) for fully online students, who have neither the regular classroom structure or campus environment for contact with the instructor and other students nor the opportunity for spontaneous questions and discussions in a face-to-face class. Regular student activities are critical for keeping all students engaged and on task, irrespective of mode of delivery.

These can include:

  • assigned readings;
  • simple multiple choice self-assessment tests of understanding with automated feedback, using the computer-based testing facility within a learning management system;
  • questions regarding short paragraph answers which may be shared with other students for comparison or discussion;
  • formally marked and assessed monthly assignments in the form of short essays;
  • individual or group project work spaced over several weeks;
  • an individual student blog or e-portfolio that enables the student to reflect on their recent learning, and which may be shared with the instructor or other students;
  • online discussion forums, which the instructor will need to organize and monitor.

There are many other activities that instructors can devise to keep students engaged. However, all such activities need to be clearly linked to the stated learning outcomes for the course and can be seen by students as helping them prepare for any formal assessment. If learning outcomes are focused on skills development, then the activities should be designed to give students opportunities to develop or practice such skills. These activities also need to be regularly spaced and an estimate made of the time students will need to complete the activities. Student engagement in such activities will need to be monitored by the instructor.

It is at this point where some hard decisions may need to be made about the balance between ‘content’ and ‘activities’. Students must have enough time to do regular activities (other than just reading) once each week at least, or their risk of dropping out or failing the course will increase dramatically. In particular they will need some way of getting feedback or comments on their activities, either from the instructor or from other students, so the design of the course will have to take account of the instructors’ workload as well as the students’.

Most university and college courses are overstuffed with content and not enough consideration is given to what students need to do to absorb, apply and evaluate such content. A very rough rule of thumb is that students should spend no more than half their time reading content and attending lectures, the rest being spent on interpreting, analyzing, or applying that content through the kinds of activities listed above. As students become more mature and more self-managed the proportion of time spent on activities can increase, with the students themselves being responsible for identifying appropriate content that will enable them to meet the goals and criteria laid down by the instructor. However, whatever your teaching philosophy though, there must be plenty of activities with some form of feedback for online students, or they will drop like flies on a cold winter’s day.

 

Evaluate

The last key ‘fundamental’ of the teaching and learning process is evaluation and innovation: assessing what has been done, and then looking at ways to improve on it. New tools and new approaches to teaching are constantly coming available. They provide the opportunity to experiment a little to see if the results are better, and if we do that, we need to evaluate the impact of using a new tool or course design. It’s what professionals do. But the main reason is that teaching is like golf: we strive for perfection but can never achieve it. It’s always possible to improve, and one of the best ways of doing that is through a systematic analysis of past experience. We will discuss the evaluation process (formative and summative evaluations) in section 3.3 of this text. Continuous evaluation that drives the implementation of improvements is a never ending process ensuring the instructional process is effective and engaging for the student learner today and for tomorrow.

Building a Strong Foundation of Course Design

The emphasis in this series of steps is on getting the fundamentals of teaching right. Regardless of what revolutionary tools or teaching approaches are being used, what we know of how people learn does not change a great deal over time, and we do know that learning is a process, and you ignore the factors that influence that process at your peril.

For learning leading to successful outcomes, it is important to remember that most students need:

  • well-defined learning goals;
  • instructional strategies linked with the appropriate learning domains;
  • a proper sequencing of instructional events; providing a clear timetable of work, based on a well-structured organization of the curriculum;
  • appropriate and engaging learning activities; with regular feedback
  • manageable study workloads appropriate for their conditions of learning;
  • a skilled instructor; regular instructor communication and presence;
  • a social environment that draws on, and contributes to, the knowledge and experience of other students;
  • other motivated learners to provide mutual support and encouragement.

There are many different ways these criteria can be met, with many different tools.

 

Key Terms

  • Instructional Strategy describes the instructional materials and procedures that enable students to achieve the learning outcomes.
  • Learning Outcomes are what the student should know, or be able to accomplish at the end of the course or learning unit.
  • Subordinate Skills Analysis is a process for determining the skills that must be learned before performing a step
  • Learning Domain Classification verbal information, intellectual skills and cognitive strategies, psychomotor skills, and attitudes.
  • Verbal information is material, such as names of objects, that students simply have to memorize and recall.
  • Intellectual skills are those that require learners to think (rather than simply memorizing and recalling information).
  • Psychomotor skills are those that require learners to carry out muscular actions.
  • Attitudes involve how a student feels about the instruction, whether they will value or care about the material presented to them.
  • Relevance helps the student to want to learn the material by helping them understand how the material relates to their needs or how it can relate to improving their future.
  • ARCS refers to the attributes Attention, Relevance,Confidence, and Satisfaction. The ARCS model promotes student motivation.
  • Instructional Events (gaining attention, informing the learner of the learning outcome, stimulating recall of prerequisites, presenting the material, providing learning guidance, eliciting the performance, providing feedback, assessing performance, and enhancing retention and transfer) represent what should be done to ensure that learning occurs.

Key Takeaways

  • Learning domain classification (i.e., verbal information, intellectual skills and cognitive strategies, psychomotor  skills, and attitudes) are best taught with different instructional strategies.
  • Teach learning outcomes in the order that best facilitates learning.
  • The four attributes of the Keller’s ARCS Motivational Model are; Attention, Relevance, Confidence, and Satisfaction. Including all of the attributes may increase student motivation.
  • The unique interests, experiences, and goals of each learner influence motivation.
  • Instructional events include; gaining attention, informing the learner of the learning outcome, stimulating recall of prerequisites, presenting the material, providing learning guidance, eliciting the performance, providing feedback, assessing performance, and enhancing retention and transfer.

Exercises

  1. You have been tasked with designing a university orientation course for freshmen community college students? Everyone at the institution is aware that students feel an orientation course is not necessary and that it is a waste of their time.  Explain what portion of the ARCS Motivational Model might be applied into the design of the course to help students understand why this course is important for their success?

OER Derivative Licenses and Attributions

CC LICENSED CONTENT, ORIGINAL

Experiential Learning in Instructional Design and Technology, Chapter 3.2 Instructional Strategies. Provided by: the authors under an Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.

This chapter contains an adaptation of Teaching in a Digital Age  by Bates, A. W., and is used under a CC-BY-NC 4.0 International license.

This chapter also contains an adaptation of Education for a Digital World: Advice, Guidelines and Effective Practice from Around the Globe  by BCcampus and the Commonwealth of Learning, and is used under a CC-BY-SA 3.0 International license.

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Experiential Learning in Instructional Design and Technology by Joshua Hill and Linda Jordan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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