Writing Instructional Objectives

Writing effective instructional objectives in education and training is one of the most important things a teacher or a trainer can do. They set the stage for designing a good course, linking behaviors to outcomes and creating effective evaluation measures. Many people think that writing instructional objectives is very difficult. In fact, there is a simple formula to use.   In this video, lead by Dr. Greg Williams, Director of the Instructional Systems Development program at UMBC, will show viewers not only what the formula is, but how to use it successfully.

Viewpoint: mLearning and Today’s Schooling


Written by: Zane L. Berge, Ph.D.

Over the past two decades, mobile devices have transformed not only the way we communicate, but also the social and business landscapes generally. It is difficult to pick up an educational journal or read a blog on education without reading something about mobile devices. There are many case studies described mobile technology used for educational purposes. From elementary grades to graduate school, these cases strike a similar note: they demonstrate a possible transformation in education compared with the business-as-usual-schooling experience. Let me hasten to add that many educational technology projects have been tried over the past three-quarters of a century, but very few have shown the systematic or cultural changes necessary to be considered sustained efforts.

Shifting gears for a moment, historically, one of the roots of the current mobile learning phenomenon, in its broadest sense, is distance education. In their book, Moore and Kearsley (2012) define distance education and go on to point out a problem with the terminology commonly used in the field. Many people use the term distance learning or now elearning,synonymously with the term distance education. But there is a clear distinction: what students do at a distance is distance learning; distance education is the context provided to them by their teachers within many different flavors of educational establishments. The terms are not synonymous.

I contend there is a disconnection with the potential of using mobile devices for schooling. In the case of mlearning, the common usage is probably much more accurate than if we were to say mobile education. The use of mobile devices that is so prevalent in transforming communication, business, and society is also transforming everyone’s learning, but not schooling. Why? Mobile devices are most useful for performance support or for solving just-in-time problems, in context, that are driven by personal curiosity or need. Does that sound much like schooling?  Education is, for the most part, built on the notions of just-in-case knowledge acquisition, that is driven by standardized curriculum for a classroom full of students (i.e., not individualized situations nor motivated tasks driven by personal curiosity).

My sense is that, as time moves on, the mobile devices we have (phones and tablets of all shapes and sizes) and that will be developed will become more widespread throughout the world, so affecting everyone’s learning very significantly. Yet, unless the core structures and philosophies driving schooling change, mlearning will be just one more of the long list of educational, technological innovation that failed to help our schools. Formal schooling will continue on its path to total irrelevancy with regard to learning; while actual learning will take place more and more in the world outside of school.

Dr. Berge is a Professor of Education at UMBC. His chief research interests are related to distance education and online learning. He is a prolific and widely published author of books and journal articles on these topics.

A Complex Undertaking

Written by: Greg Kearsley, Ph.D.
Dr. Greg KearsleyBeing an instructional designer is a complex undertaking.  Generally speaking, I feel that Instructional design programs aren’t as effective as they could be in preparing people for this vocation. While most Instructional Design programs provide good coverage of instructional theory and the process of curriculum design,  some skills areas don’t get addressed, but are critically important for instructional designers to have. Some of these skills include:

  • Project Management – getting courses done on time and budget
  • Collaboration – successfully working with content experts
  • Management – handling organizational/management issues that affect course development
  • Environment – creating a suitable learning environment
  • Creativity – being original

As with all industries, classroom and professional settings vary greatly. Like so, instructional design activities in the academic domain are quite different than the training world (i.e., lack of performance outcomes). When key skill areas go unrecognized in the classroom,  new instructional designers lack the skills needed to be proficient, and it takes a long time to acquire these skills on the job. To ensure instructional designers are fully prepared to enter the work force, instructional design programs must consider the benefits of internships and project-based coursework, and integrate these components into curriculum.

For a longer discussion on this topic please visit this post on What Instructional Designers Really Do.

Dr. Kearsley is the director of online graduate programs at the University of New England, Adjunct Instructor in the ISD program at UMBC, and has written a number of articles and books about eLearning.

Follow us on Twitter @isdnow!

Got Game?

The image above may appear as an ambiguous geometric design at first. In this post, Steve Sugar explains how low-tech games (like the one pictured above) can lead to high-powered learning

Written by Steve Sugar- UMBC ISD adjunct faculty member, writer and teacher of low-tech learning games.

Low-tech fun can equate to high-powered learning. Successful low-tech training games are easy to describe. They’re simple in design and fun to play.  A successful game can energize content and deliver powerful learning.

Games Promote Learning
Games introduce a playful environment and create a challenge between the topic and the participant. They also create opportunities for the learner to “interact” with the game questions or scenarios so as to demonstrate their understanding of the topic through information recall and experiential application.

Low-Tech Games are Fun with a Purpose 
Low-tech training games create a cognitive interaction between the learner and the topic in a buoyant, challenging environment.  Games celebrate your topic and reward individual and group achievement.  With a focus on learning, low-tech games allow learners to connect their own dots and experience their own ideas — bringing a joy of discovery into the learning process.

QUIZO – An Example of an Interactive Game
Quizo is a question-and-answer game similar to bingo that gets people interacting. Here’s how it works:

  • The instructor distributes one bingo-style gamesheet to each team and announces the game objective:  “win by covering five spaces in a row.”
  • The instructor presents the first question – “It’s a good policy to pay higher commission for a new customer than for the retention of a present customer. True or False?
  • The team selects their response – The team discusses the question, and by doing so, players experience the content and theory of the topic by inventorying what is known and unknown about the topic. They develop a common, shared understanding of available information.  Their response demonstrates their ability to develop criteria for selecting an answer and committing to a course of action. The team responds:  “False.”
  • The instructor presents the correct response – “False,” and shares that this policy sometimes reduces the motivation to service or sales people to keep providing quality service to current customers.”
  • The instructor awards a game sheet space – The instructor announces that the students cover the gamesheet space “Q-4.” The awarding of the game sheet space provides real-time feedback on whether the team is moving closer to or away from stated goals or objective.
  • The game is played in this fashion until one team scores five in a row.

Click here to learn about Quizo and other low-tech games. Steve Sugar’s games can be found in five books offered by John Wiley and ASTD Press.

What has your experience been with interactive games in learning? We’d love to hear from you! Share your experience in the comments or send us at tweet @ISDNow!