Design Levels for Distance and Online Learning

Design Levels for Distance and Online Learning

Judith V. Boettcher
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-026-4.ch165
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The importance of design for instructional programs — whether on campus or online or at a distance — increases with the possible combinations of students, content, skills to be acquired, and the teaching and learning environments. Instructional design —as a profession and a process— has been quietly developing over the last 50 years. It is a multidisciplinary profession combining knowledge of the learning process, humans as learners, and the characteristics of the environments for teaching and learning. The theorists providing the philosophical bases for this knowledge include Dewey (1933), Bruner (1963), and Pinker (1997). The theorists providing the educational and research bases include Vygotsky (1962), Knowles (1998), Schank (1996), and Bransford, Brown, and Cocking (1999). Instructional design offers a structured approach to analyzing an instructional problem and creating a design for meeting the instructional content and skill needs of a population of learners usually within a specific period of time. An instructional design theory is a “theory that offers explicit guidance on how to better help people learn and develop” (Reigeluth, 1999).
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Six Levels Of Design

Effective instructional design for online and distance learning benefits from instructional planning at six levels. Figure 1 summarizes these six levels of design, and identifies the group or individuals usually responsible for the design at that level and the length of the design cycle at each level. Ideally, the design at each of these six levels reflects philosophies of teaching and learning that are consistent with the institutional mission and consistent with the expectations of the students and society being served.

Figure 1.

Six levels of design for learning


Key Terms in this Chapter

Instructional Design Theory: A “theory that offers explicit guidance on how to better help people learn and develop” ( Reigeluth, 1999 ).

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.

Learning Infrastructure: The set of physical and digital buildings, applications, services, and people that provide and support the environments for learning.

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.

Learning Theory: A set of hypotheses or beliefs that explain the process of learning or acquiring knowledge and skill.

Instructional Design: 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.

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, 1986 AU7: The in-text citation "Vygotsky, 1986" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).

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