My â€œtoolboxâ€ of important concepts, processes, and tools for the design of instruction within a distance education program is by no means complete nor is it neatly organized. As my practical understanding of online instruction continues to grow with my theoretical basis of knowledge, I become evermore cognizant of the complexities of the design process. While this list of important considerations is by no means complete, it serves as a preliminary basis for further research and discussion.
**Online training must be convenient, compatible, and revisable (Welsh & Anderson, 2001). This includes a variety of important technical elements that must be considered by designers. â€œChunkingâ€ of training content into small manageable chunks for delivery is an important means to this end.
**Articulation of online pedagogy for the given online learning system is critical. In fact, the unique attributes of the online pedagogy need to be capitalized upon during development (Dabbagh, Bannan-Ritland, & Flannery Silc, 2001). Dabbagh et al. note, â€œIn order for WBI to be effective, it must be pedagogically driven, dynamically designed, interaction oriented, and content specific. Focus should be placed on designing a pedagogical approach appropriate for the content, inclusion of organization and interaction strategies that enhance the studentâ€™s processing of the information, and integration of the mediumâ€™s attributes to support the designated goals and objectives of the courseâ€ (p. 352-353).
**All members of the learning community need to have equal access to the necessary technology (Hedberg, Brown, Larkin, & Agostinho, 2001). This goes beyond simply making sure people have Internet access, but to ensure that they have the necessary software and computing skills to successfully navigate the online learning environment. The idea of accessibility for all is an increasingly important consideration for both web designers and online instructional designers alike (Nielsen, 2000). Online content should be designed for the â€œlowest common userâ€ â€“ in which I am referring to those users with the least level of accessibility or computing skill.
**The open, flexible, and distributed learning environment of the Web should be maximized in the development of training that is accessible for all. The elements of Khanâ€™s Web-Based Learning Framework (Khan, 2001) should be addressed in the development process, which includes the following dimensions: pedagogical, technological, interface design, evaluation, management, resource support, ethical, and institutional.
**Bandwidth is also an important limiting factor to consider, which refers to the volume measure of information flow (Moore & Lockee, 2001). Bandwidth places formidable limits upon what can occur at any given time during the instructional event. Moore & Locke (2001) state, â€œIn web-training environments, the delivery network infrastructure must be considered so that training developers can avoid creating instruction that diverts a learnerâ€™s attention due to unnecessary delaysâ€ (p. 274). This coincides with the concept of keeping training accessible and for all learners.
**An element of self-assessment should be included in the design (Hedberg et al., 2001). Learners should be encourage to reflect upon their learning experience and share those reflections with others in the learning experience.
**A sense of community among learners should be developed (Palloff & Pratt, 1999). Online learning provides the opportunity for engaging collaborative learning experiences based on a constructivist approach to education. The development of community is among one of the key processes in the development of a collaborative learning environment. As learners feel connected with the instructor and fellow students, they will not only feel much more engaged but they will be more apt to contribute to the discussion that takes place.
I could continue to list important attributes to the design of an online learning program, but I am quickly realizing that this assignment could turn into a term paper or a thesis if Iâ€™m not careful! I will stop typing for now, and I look forward to adding additional â€œtoolsâ€ to my â€œtoolboxâ€.
Dabbagh, N. H., Bannan-Ritland, B., & Flannery Silc, K. (2001). Pedagogy and web-based course authoring tools: Issues and implications. In B. H. Khan (Ed.), Web-based training. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.
Hedberg, J. G., Brown, C., Larkin, J. L., & Agostinho, S. (2001). Designing practical websites for interactive training. In B. H. Khan (Ed.), Web-based training. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.
Khan, B. H. (2001). A framework for web-based training. In B. H. Khan (Ed.), Web-based training. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.
Moore, D. R., & Lockee, B. B. (2001). Design strategies for web-based training: Using bandwidth effectively. In B. H. Khan (Ed.), Web-based training. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Training Publications.
Nielsen, J. (2000). Designing web usability. Indianapolis, IN: New Riders Publishing.
Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (1999). Building learning communities in cyberspace: Effective strategies for the online classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Welsh, T. M., & Anderson, B. L. (2001). Managing the development and evolution of web-based training: A service bureau concept. In B. H. Khan (Ed.), Web-based training. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.