5 Golden Rules of High-Quality Instructional Design

The quality of an instructional design is often gauged on three things: effectiveness, efficiency, and cost. Here are 5 rules that will help you achieve a high-quality instructional design:

  1. It must begin with an end in mind.
  2. It must be student-centered.
  3. It is refined through continuous assessment and improvement.
  4. It follows a well-defined system.
  5. It considers the big picture.

Source: info.shiftlearning.com, via e-Learning Infographics

What additional rules would you add for high-quality instructional design? Leave a comment with your ideas!

Top Advantages of Asynchronous eLearning

Top Advantages of Asynchronous eLearningvia LeanForward

Asynchronous eLearning Advantages:

  1. Greater Accessibility
  2. Save Time and Boost Productivity
  3. Minimize Disruption to Workflow
  4. Scalability
  5. Eliminate Travel Costs
  6. Simplified Training Documentation
  7. Personalization
  8. Consistency
  9. Free Up Instructor Time

What additional advantages do you see for asynchronous online learning that you’d recommend adding to this list? Leave a comment with your thoughts!

Creating and Using Course Wikis

As part of the 2014 Teaching with Technology Institute at Northern Illinois University, I led a breakout session for faculty where we explored creating a course wiki.  We looked at both 3rd party wiki tools as well as integrated course wikis within the learning management system (Blackboard), using a sandbox wiki on Jottit. The following are links to the resources and I shared regarding wikis during this session:

What is a Wiki?

Collaborative website where all participants have equal ability to make change to content

Key features:

  • Easy to use
  • History of contributions
  • Ability to revert to previous versions

Why Wikis in Higher Education?

  • Facilitate constructivist approaches to learning
  • Equal “voice” for all participants
  • Students retain access to constructed knowledge after course ends
  • Can be public or private
  • Easy to use; no advanced programming skills needed
  • View and contribute from any Internet connection

Uses of Wikis

  • E-portfolios
  • Group collaborations
  • Soliciting input from others
  • Presentations
  • …any collaborative content creation activity!

Wiki Activity Ideas

  • Brainstorming of ideas
  • Outlining text materials
  • Drafting weekly summaries of instructional content
  • Collecting bibliography of supplemental resources
  • Creating interactive glossary of key terms
  • …the list goes on, limited only by your imagination!

Sample Wikis

Free Wiki Tools

  • Wiki Tools – directory of 30+ free wiki tools compiled by Jane Hart, Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies
  • DokuWiki – open source wiki software which can be installed on your own web server
  • Jottit – wiki tool that makes getting a website as easy as filling out a textbox
  • MediaWiki – open source wiki software that powers Wikipedia
  • WikiMatrix – compare multiple available wiki tools
  • Wikispaces

Selecting the Right Wiki Tool

  • Does you institution already offer and/or support a wiki tool?
  • Is free hosting available?
  • Is a “WYSIWYG” (What You See Is What You Get) editor built into the wiki?
  • Is special “wiki markup” needed for advanced editing?
  • How long with the wiki be available to students?
  • Can pages be made either public or private?
  • Can other files be uploaded & stored with wiki pages?
  • Can other media elements be embedded in wiki pages? (e.g. videos, spreadsheets, calendars, etc.)
  • How well does the wiki tool integrate with other online services?
  • How stable is the wiki hosting provider?

Wiki Resources

Tips for Teaching with Wikis

  • Decide whether to use single wiki for class or multiple wikis (e.g. each group)
  • Provide suggested organizational structure or create empty pages (recommended)
  • Customize navigation for easy access (ie: links to pages)
  • Create sub-pages within hierarchical structure

Tips for Designing Wiki Activities

  • Specify clear purpose for use of wiki
  • Provide expectations and structure for contributions
  • Allow time for students to become familiar with the wiki tool (e.g. make contributions to individual page)
  • Include instructions for use and/or links where students can find more information (e.g. screencast instructions)

Wiki Issues and Limitations

  • Authorization of users (ie: users must have a login to the wiki tool)
  • Monitoring for inappropriate user
  • Risks to allowing manipulation of site data
  • Structuring initial content and pages can be a challenge
  • How one accesses information, navigates, creates links, etc. must be addressed early
  • Represents collective perspective

Blackboard Wikis vs. 3rd Party Wikis

  Blackboard Wikis 3rd Party Wikis
Access Only registered students and instructor can access in Bb course Can be made available for anyone to access publicly without a Bb login
Availability Available to students and instructor for duration of course Available to students, instructor, and potentially others after course ends
History History of changes tracked and can easily be compared, reverted back to History of changes tracked and can easily be compared, reverted back to
Integration Can be easily graded using interactive Bb rubric and feedback securely provided to students in Grade Center No integration for grading in Bb
Security Student-created content is secure and only available for other students in the course to view Depends on the wiki tool selected
Support Support offered by Blackboard support personnel Depends on the wiki tool selected

Visitors and Residents: Understanding individuals’ Engagement with the Web Based on Motivation and Context

In this video David White (@daveowhite) of the University of Oxford explains how the Visitors and Residents model provides a framework to understand individuals’ engagement with the Web based on motivation and context. In part 1 of this series, he argues that the metaphors of ‘place’ and ‘tool’ best represent the use of technology in contemporary society and allow us to better adapt to the challenges of new forms of academic practice.

In part 2, David explains how the Web is changing academic practice and challenging traditional notions of credibility and authority.

Do his thoughts resonate with your experience with the Web? Leave a comment with your thoughts!

Recommended Resources for Getting Started Designing Online Courses

Start Here

Photo courtesy Todd Dailey

With the interest expressed among my students in my summer course, ETT 511: Instructional Media and Technology, to learn more about designing “good” online courses as well as the frequent requests I receive from faculty on suggested resources for those getting started online teaching, I thought I’d share here a few of my favorite resources for those interested in learning more about the basics of designing and teaching online courses. While there are MANY different models to online course development, from individual “do it yourself” approaches where instructor designs and builds the course to more systematized and standardized production models where instructor works alongside instructional designers and other media development specialists, the following resources should be helpful to anyone interested in learning more about the mechanics of designing and teaching courses online.

Quality Standards

A good place to begin exploring online course quality is to look at some of the available quality standards that have been developed and adopted by institutions. While there are widely-accepted competencies for instructional designers as well as competencies for online instructors, a number of different online quality standards are available, a few of which include:


Here are a few of my favorite books for beginners desiring “nuts and bolts” assistance getting started designing and teaching online:

Vai, M. & Sosulski, K. (2011). Essentials of online course design: A standards-based guide. New York: Routledge. ISBN: 0415873002

Smith, R. M. (2008). Conquering the content: A step-by-step guide to online course design. San Franciso: Jossey-Bass. ISBN: 0787994421

Thormann, J. & Zimmerman, I. K. (2012). The complete step-by-step guide to designing and teaching online courses. New York: Teacher’s College Press. ISBN: 0807753092

Elbaum, B., McIntyre, C., & Smith, A. (2002). Essential elements: Prepare, design, and teach your online course. Madison, WI: Atwood. ISBN: 1891859404

Palloff, R. M. & Pratt, K. (2007). Building online learning communities: Effective strategies for the virtual classroom. 2nd ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. ISBN: 978078798825-8

Jossey-Bass has a fantastic book series, “Guides to Online Teaching and Learning” with titles on specific aspects of online teaching, listed at http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/Section/id-814784.html

Tanya Joosten has compiled a resource list of additional books on online teaching here.

Online Courses

For those serious about embarking in the journey of online teaching, I highly recommend taking an online course where you can not only be exposed to online teaching technology but also pedagogical approaches that work well in the online learning environment. Here are a few of the available online courses and you might consider enrolling in:


My colleagues and I with the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center at Northern Illinois University offer a number of workshops for NIU faculty related to online teaching. These online workshops are archived and shared on YouTube here. A few notable workshop archives related to online teaching that you may find of interest include:

Other professional organizations devoted to quality online teaching, such as Illinois Online Network and Sloan Consortium, also offer workshops and short online courses worth checking out.


Here are a few additional resources that I highly recommend checking-out and bookmarking:

I highly recommend following the University of Central Florida Center for Distributed Learning for fantastic tips and resources, such as their faculty seminars in online teaching, teaching online community, and teaching online pedagogical repository (TOPR).

There you have it…a few of my favorite resources for online teaching. What resources do you recommend? Leave a comment with your suggestions!