This year I’ve been participating in the Penn State ID-2-ID instructional designer mentoring program with another ID from the University of Nebraska. One of our “assignments” was to read and discuss a book together. The one we chose was Julie Dirksen’s Design for How People Learn, and I think it was a good pick.
This book is meant to be a review of instructional design theory and practice, but aimed for non-specialists. It’s perfect for a faculty member or Web designer who wants to “branch out” into online education, but isn’t always aware of what factors go into building an effective online course (or effective face to face course). Chapters cover important issues such as student background, motivation, memory and understanding different instructional goals. For each chapter, she
As a “practicing ID”, I was also glad to review basic concepts as a refresher. There are so many factors that go into a good design that it’s easy to lose track of some of the issues. I have also found that if I teach a course in my original discipline (linguistics), I am in the kind of expert mode that makes it even more likely I will lose track of instructional design practice. To this day I am still shocked that people are as interested in Latin grammar as I am.
Of course the book is somewhat of a simplification. I personally am not sure what the distinction between “knowledge” and “skill” is other than the difference between background knowledge. This comes up in accessibility training where background is very important. If you know a lot about accessibility but are learning a new HTML editor, you just need information about where to insert an image ALT tag. But if you are new to accessibility, you need to understand what an image ALT text is.
Dirksen has a good discussion of diagnosing what you need to cover based on audience prior knowledge. But one good discussion I had with my ID-2-ID partner was how to handle a mixed background audience. Truthfully this is probably the most common situation I have encountered, yet can be one of the most frustrating. Normally the result is that everyone is forced to revisit introductory concepts, but this discussion reminded me that it’s important to introduce some customization into the learning, especially for a longer course.