Accessibility in e-learning

Dr. Norm Coombs’ presentation on Good Distance Learning Principles describes EASI’s (National Center for Accessible e-learning) concern that students and professionals with disabilities have the same right to access information technology. Dr. Coombs has been a long-time leader in the field of distance education and accessibility issues. He is visually impaired and presents a very enlightening presentation regarding the importance of accessibility issues in e-learning at:

I found several of Coombs’ points to apply directly to the staff development efforts that I am involved with. First of all, the idea that, “distance learning is not always at a distance” (Coombs, n.d.). Through the needs analysis that I conducted, I found that my volunteers, even while they all live within a fifteen minute drive from the church, would rather have the availability of participating in learning without having to travel to another location, no matter how short the distance may be. The globalization of our society as a whole I believe has a lot to due with this, as people enjoy the conveniences of everything from banking to ordering a pizza, all from the comfort of their home. As I seek to develop accessible staff development opportunities for my volunteers, the online format has proven to be an advantageous option for many adults who serve in our ministries.

As I continue to study successful models of distance education, I have become a firm supporter of Coombs’ statement that, “I urge all distance learning teachers not to try to repeat and replicate what you do in the classroom” (Coombs, n.d.). Distance learning models can provide revolutionary means by which constructivist methodologies can be utilized. This engaging learning environments can far surpass the quality of a traditional lecture-based teaching. I must admit that currently our volunteer development classes have been primarily instructivist in nature, despite my attempts to add collaborative activities to the short workshop times. I look forward to experimenting with much more collaborative environments possible via the online format.

One final key which I really identified with was the necessity for online instructors to be accessible and approachable. While these are attributes that any instructor should seek to develop, I believe they are increasingly important for online instructors. As Coomb’s mentions, a tendency exists for new online learners to feel detached from the learning environment. Online teachers must see themselves as facilitators, or “hosts” as Coombs’ mentions, and be willing to take extra steps in remaining visible and accessible within the online classroom. A simple email can make a big difference in communicating to a learner that s/he is important.

Distance learning certainly has many means of applicability, whether it be to facilitate learning across the street or around the world. As online instructional designers we should not limit our viewpoint of online instruction to such huge contexts that we overlook the myriad of more localized ones which are just as important.

– Jason

Success factors for online learners

The National Center for Online Learning Research publishes the Journal of Interactive Online Learning as a resource online educators and instructional designers with the purpose of, “providing a venue for manuscripts, critical essays, and reviews that encompass disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives in regards to issues related to higher-level learning outcomes” (“About JIOL,” 2004). This peer-reviewed journal aims to not only disseminate timely research pertaining to interactive online education but also to deepen the level of knowledge available regarding innovations and application of online education.

Smith and Winking-Diaz refer to success factors for online learners in their article entitled, “Increasing Students’ Interactivity in an Online Course”. They refer to the necessity for online learners to understand the online learning processes in order for them to be successful (Smith & Winking-Diaz, 2004). The relatively high attrition rates in online learning settings can be attributed to unclear perceptions of online methodology and course requirements. They also stress for learners to have possess a level of self-motivation and to be willing to interact with the content, learners, and instructor (Smith & Winking-Diaz, 2004). The rich collaborative environment is one which many online learners do not initially expect or are prepared for.

As I reflect on my own online learning experiences, I find myself whole-heartedly agreeing with Smith and Winking-Diaz. I’ve seen many learners through my online master’s and now doctoral degree coursework initially opt for the online mode of learning simply because they thought it would be an easy way to complete a course. What these learners have found that to the contrary of that idea, the online format is a much more engaging, intense, and rich format of learning than any traditionalistic means of learning. I’ve seen that as learners experience the benefits of the online format for themselves, these preconceived notions of “easy learning” will be replaced with the concept of “meaningful learning”.

– Jason


About JIOL. (2004) Retrieved April 28, 2004 from,

Smith, M. C., & Winking-Diaz, A. (2004) Increasing students’ interactivity in an online course. Retrieved April 28, 2004 from,

Specificity before starting to designing instruction

The benefits of such specificity prior to beginning a project are obvious, such as: defined processes, clarified needs, rationale for project steps, etc. Now that I understand the formalized processes of these analyses, what I find interesting is that I have subconsciously performed such analyses all along. As I now possess an understanding of the clarified steps to these analyses, I can present to administration or staff a clearly defined rationale for such project development.

Task analyses may be sometimes viewed as constrictive of the development process or may hinder the speed at which development may take place. Supporters of such arguments fail to see that the extra planning efforts at the beginning of the project should actually advance development by eliminating wasteful spending of resources or energy. To any skeptical client of supervisor, I would stress that the initial analyses will ultimately foster a more quality and cost effective development process.

– Jason

IBSTPI Competencies for Instructional Design

The International Board of Standards for Training, Performance, and Instruction has developed a set of standard competencies for those involved in instructional design at:

What does “instructional design” mean to you?

Before beginning my first course in instructional design, my definition of “instructional design” has been simply, “a process by which instruction is designed.” I’m certain that this definition will be revised throughout my experiences in this course. Up to this point, I’ve never put much thought into my expectations or disagreements regarding the concept of instructional design.

I currently work in the religious education field and direct the children’s ministries department of a church. A large part of my responsibilities in this setting within the local church deal with curriculum development and instructional design for volunteer training and classroom religious education for children. I subsequently have built an extensive background in curriculum development for elementary religious education, specifically within the Assemblies of God. In addition to my work within the local church setting, I serve as a national field advisor for curriculum development for the Christian boys organization “Royal Rangers” and have done extensive curriculum development work for the training programs for this organization.

I also am very intrigued with utilizing technological methods to develop engaging and accessible training opportunities for religious educators. I’ve begun making these online children’s ministry training workshops available online at: I look forward to continuing to develop additional online training workshops and to employing the instructional design principles I learn. I plan to conduct developmental research to examine the development, implementation, and evaluation of online training for children’s ministers and hope to make this the focus of my dissertation.