Is Online Learning For You?

Online learning opens the door to education for many people. To decide if online learning is a viable option for you, let’s look at a few key things about it.

online learningSome facts about online learning:

Online learning offers students high-quality instruction even if they can’t attend courses face-to-face due to their busy, work, family, or travel schedules.

Online courses offer flexible learning. Most online courses take place without a physical classroom and without fixed class hours.

Free of those limitations, students have the means to overcome geographic distance and can balance busy work and family schedules with their coursework.

Another feature of online learning is that it helps promote engagement. Online classes involve a lot of reading, writing, and practical application of what you are learning.

Some additional advantages… there is no back of the room in an online classroom. Also, students have time to process their thoughts and ideas before they share them with their instructor or classmates.

It also cultivates an interactive environment.  Many social barriers are eliminated online, and many students you might not hear from in class will become active participants in an online course.

So, is online learning for you?

Let’s debunk a myth first. A lot of people might think that online learning is easier than face-to-face.

Here’s the truth:

Online classes take as much or more time as a class you might take on campus.

Online courses are never out of session. Students are expected to log on and contribute to discussions several times a week. That also means reading messages every week from the instructor and other students.

The Real Deal:

Learning ultimately depends on the quality of the instructor, course material and participation of the students. The method, too, is important. Courses that encourage online discussion and interaction between students, their peers and the instructor typically demonstrate higher levels of participation than traditional courses.

If you’d like to learn more, feel free to contact us by visiting: umbc.edu/isd

Always in learning mode,
Your friends at ISD Now

eLearning Quality

written by: Dr. Greg Williams, UMBC ISD Graduate Program Director

LearningWhen I tell people that I am a college professor, they usually ask me what I teach. When I tell them that I teach instructional design and e-learning development, I often get a puzzled look from them. After explaining what instructional design is, the conversation usually turns to eLearning and quality.

Many times people tell me that they think the quality of e-learning is not good. I ask them what their experience is with e-learning. I asked if they have ever taken an e-learning class or have even taught a class, or have been part of an online class. The answer is usually no.

What they usually tell me is that they think that e-learning is simply ”not very effective”. As an educator I am interested in how people form their opinions. When I asked them how they formed their opinion about e-learning, I discover that they have very little first-hand experience with it.

Often times they will say “I heard that it is not very good” or “my friend took a course and didn’t like it”. As a student and working professional, I have literally taken hundreds of in-person courses. Guess what? Some of them weren’t very good either. I don’t think that e-learning has a corner on the market on low-quality courses.

Sound critical thinking tells us to try to get objective information about a topic. It tells us to ask questions to get to the heart of the matter. I find it interesting that in higher education some highly educated professionals who embrace the use of critical thinking, throw it out when it comes to eLearning. For some unknown reason anecdotal information seems to be good enough for some people when it comes to assessing the effectiveness of e-learning.

Let’s face it. eLearning is not for every instructor, nor is it for every student. What I do feel confident about is that e-learning will not be going away anytime soon. At some point the “e” will be dropped from the term “e-learning” and we will simply focus on what is important….the “learning” itself.

Finding the Balance with Design and Development

design or developmentDesign or Development?

What skill is more important in creating a course…design or development?  Are they overlapping skills?  Does one feed off the other?  Confusing?  You bet!

Can you have both?  Absolutely! There are many instructional designers who are also experts with software development tools. Then again, there are great authoring tool experts who really don’t know that much about instructional design.

Today I see more and more people blurring instructional design and instructional development. 

Both are important and both are necessary for creating effective instruction.  Design and development seems to be overlapping now more than ever.  Just take a look at job descriptions for “instructional designers and “eLearning developers”.  Some employers seem to want candidates that have it all.

Anyone can claim they are instructional designer.

Instructional design is not a profession that is regulated by a professional association such as  certified public accountants (CPA), project management professionals (PMP) or professional engineers (PE). I met someone once who told he was an instructional designer because he knew Dreamweaver.  I asked him if he knew how to write instructional objectives.  He said no, but if instructional objectives were important that he would figure out how to do it.  But that doesn’t stop him from saying he is an instructional designer.

There is a current school of thought where some people confuse the use of developing courses with software authoring tools (e.g. Captivate, Articulate, Flash) with instructional design skills.  Someone may be an expert in Articulate’s Storyline. That development skill may enable them to create a class. However, that doesn’t guarantee that they possess the knowledge, skills and abilities of a well trained instructional designer.

For example, I know how to swing a hammer. Therefore, I can build a house if I wanted to, but how well constructed would the house be? Wouldn’t it be better to work with a trained architect to design the house according to the client’s specifications?

I imagine that some of this phenomenon can be attributed to the competition for the work itself.

Keeping with the contractor example, I know that some carpenters do masonry work when demand for carpentry work slows down.  Some consulting companies do the same thing.

Several hiring managers have told me that authoring software keeps getting easier and easier to use. Therefore, they contend that they think it’s more important that their employees have very strong analysis and design skills.

I am not sure there is a right or wrong answer to this.  What do you think?

Always in learning mode,
Your friends at ISD Now

Join us for the ISD Now Forum October 28, 2014

ISD-Now-Forum

Excited about eLearning? We are too.

We are excited to welcome eLearning expert, Connie Malamed, to UMBC’s ISD Now Forum on October 28, 2014! She will present on The Emerging Role and Skill Set of the Learning Professional.

Connie Malamed consults, writes, and speaks in the fields of online learning, visual communication, and information design. She is the author of the Instructional Design Guru mobile app and the book Visual Language for Designers. She also publishes the popular site, The eLearning Coach and produces The eLearning Coach Podcast. 

ISD-Now-Forum
WHEN: Tuesday, October 28, 6 – 8:30 PM
WHERE: UMBC Ballroom, University Center, 3rd Floor

Join us for this free event to explore:

  • How changes in culture and technology affect the learning ecosystem.
  • How the current and future workforce members can learn with new approaches to technology.
  • The new roles and skills that will be required by Learning and Development professionals.

We hope to see you there!
Your friends at ISD Now

Storytelling: A Valuable Tool for Instructional Designers

Can storytelling make you a more effective designer?

Think back. Of all the things you have learned over the course of your life, how many of those lessons began with a story? It’s indisputable that human beings love to tell and consume stories but have you ever considered how valuable storytelling might be to you as an Instructional Designer?

storytelling

Storytelling is multifunctional

Stories entertain us, engage us, AND educate us.  For centuries, human beings have been using stories to transfer information from one individual to another, ensuring that we benefit from each other’s experiences.

From avoiding those delicious looking poisonous berries, to understanding why it’s important to heed your father’s warnings and not fly too close to the sun, storytelling allows learners to envision and plan for experiences they may have never lived through themselves.

Both socially and individually, we as humans live storied lives, think in narrative structures, and most often recall information in story form. For this reason, storytelling mimics the way we naturally process information and learn.

Storytelling offers great benefits to learners

Because stories both alter and impersonate how we process reality, storytelling offers designers a valuable tool for creating a safe place in which learners can explore and adapt to new content. In doing so, learners are better able to make connections between imagined and past experiences and unlearn ideas that may pose obstacles to new learning.

In the fresh new realm of the story, learners are able to open themselves up to different ways of thinking and envision the subject through another person’s eyes.

In this way, storytelling allows learners to personalize and memorize content they may have normally felt little connection to. Even dry data can benefit from a designer who knows how to harness the art of storytelling.

In her blog, “The eLearning Coach”, Connie Malamed posted an interesting four-minute video by Hans Roslings that illustrates how a topic like global health statistics can be presented in a way that truly “comes alive”.


To learn more about how to incorporate compelling stories into your design, listen to Connie Malamed’s interview Lisa Cron, author of Wired for Story. Cron offers some great insights into why stories are important to learners and common mistakes storytellers make. Listen Here: 

For more information on the brain science of storytelling and three ways you can use storytelling in everyday life, read The Science of Storytelling: Why Telling a Story is the Most Powerful Way to Activate Our Brains.

We’d like to hear from you. Do you incorporate storytelling into your design? How has it worked for you?

Always in Learning Mode,
Your friends at ISD Now

ISD Now Forum with Thiagi – A Video Snippet

Written by ISD Now Staff
Follow us on Twitter: @ISDNow

On October 4, 2012, we had the pleasure of welcoming Dr. Thiagi to UMBC Campus. He presented to a full house on “Increasing and Improving Interactivity in Webinars.” He had the whole audience on their feet laughing and learning.

Here’s a snippet of some audience members’ reactions to the presentation.

Full video coverage and pictures will be posted soon. Stay tuned!