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Effective Courseware Design

January 27, 2013

I found this Chapter 1 of the course text to be very interesting and informative and a good way to start thinking about courseware design, both Face-to-Face and online.

Characteristics of Good Courseware:

1. Courseware design and content must support the cognitive learning process. Clark and Mayer (2011) make this point when they state “benefits gained from these new technologies will depend on the extent to which they are used in ways compatible with human cognitive learning processes” (p. 8). We all need to resist the temptation to add the latest gadget to our instructional arsenal just because it’s pretty or fun or different. I have seen my share of powerpoint presentations where the presenter clearly spent more time on the animation than the content. I sometimes feel a migraine coming on with all the blinking lights and spinning words! Effective courseware design wades through the mountain of available features and chooses the best based on learning outcomes, students, and environment.

2. Effective courseware encourages learning through increasing enagement in both behavioral and psychological fields. Many courseware designs assume they are effective because there is behavioral engagement. Indeed I have endured many HR online trainings (with the “inform” learning goal) that measure compliance by tracking whether I selected the forward arrow through enough screens. One quickly learns that reading the screens is not the point; forwarding through them quickly to return to actual work is! 🙂  Rather, Clark and Mayer (2011) rightly stress that there needs to be design and assessment considerations that address pscyhological engagement before it addresses behavioral engagement.

3. Effective course and curriculum design needs to match the learning goal to the architecture. While reading through this section, I realized that my frustrations with information literacy sessions that I teach stem from this mismatch. Parameters surrounding this instruction mean that course faculty determine where and when I may provide this instruction to their classes within a busy semester schedule. Typically I come into a group of novice students and am given one course session; this is called “one-shot information literacy instruction”. My learning goal is ultimately for the student to “Perform Tasks” as described by Clark and Mayer (2011). Students need to be able to strategically identify information needs, choose the best resource, conduct an effective search strategy and access and evaluate information resources found. According to Clark and Mayer, the best architecture for for this learning goal is the “Guided Discovery”. They also state that the learner competence level must be considered. Guided Discovery is most effective with experienced learners. Therefore I am in an impossible situation which explains my frustration. My learning goal is to assist students to become information literate in all educational (and even life) situations, a Perform Tasks learning goal. However, they are not yet at the learner competence level to support the Guided Discovery architecture required for this goal; they are only at the level to support Receptive and Directive architecture. I could reach the architecture level of Guided Discovery if given substantial time with students, but I am limited to one-shot instruction sessions based on negotiations with faculty. However, I am starting to see that in some situations, I may be able to provide more instruction, flexibility and contact with students if I am able to provide additional online instruction outside the classroom.This may help me to present with various architecture levels to help students reach the learning goal. I hope that this course helps me to create some of that design and content.

Clark, R. C., & Mayer, R. E. (2011). E-learning and the science of instruction : proven guidelines for consumers and designers of multimedia learning. San Francisco: Pfeiffer.
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