This article describes a design process for online learning programs that builds on a philosophical base grounded in learning theory, instructional design, and the principles of the process of change. This design process is a six-layered design approach that promotes congruency at the six levels of institution, infrastructure, program, course, unit /activity and student assessment. The conceptual framework for the design process is based on the Vygotskian theory of cognition that focuses on the four core elements of any teaching and learning experience — the learner, the faculty/teacher/mentor, the content /knowledge /skill to be acquired/or problem to be solved, and the environment or context within which the experience will occur. A set of principlebased questions for designing effective and efficient online learning programs assists in implementing this design approach.
This article describes a multi-level process for designing online learning programs. This design process builds on a philosophical base grounded in learning theory, instructional design, and the principles of the process of change. The roots of the traditional instructional design principles are based on the work of Gagne (1965); Dick & Carey (1989); and Moore & Kearsley (1996) integrated with the strategic planning principles and the structure of the institutional context as described in Kaufman (1992) and Boettcher & Kumar (1999) and the principles of technological innovation and the processes of change as described by E. M. Rogers (1995); and R. S. Rosenbloom (1998) and Lick and Kaufman (2000).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Online Course: A set of instructional experiences using the digital network for interaction, learning and dialogue. An online course does not require any face-to-face meetings in a physical location. Similar courses such as web-centric courses (also called hybrid or blended courses) are similar to online courses, but require regular scheduled face-to-face classes or meetings.
Instructional Design Theory: A “theory that offers explicit guidance on how to better help people learn and develop.” (Reigeluth, 1999, p. 5)
Zone of Proximal Development: This is a key concept in Lev Vygotsky’s theory of learning. The Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) is the “distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under the adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers” (Vygotsky, 1978, p.86).
Learning Infrastructure: The set of physical and digital buildings, applications, services and people that provide and support the environments for learning.
Learning Theory: A set of hypotheses or beliefs that explain the process of learning or acquiring knowledge and skill.
Instructional Design Process: The process of analyzing the students, content, and intended context of an instructional program to provide detailed specifications for an instructional program or curriculum to achieve effective and efficient student learning within an affordable and accessible delivery format.
Instructional Strategy: An instructional strategy is a communication activity used to engage the learner in an educational experience and to assist the learner in acquiring the planned knowledge, skill or attitude. Instructional strategies include lectures, discussions, reading assignments, panel presentations, study and media projects, problem analysis and solutions, field trips and assessment activities.