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Key principles to consider when designing eLearning courses

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So, you have managed to survive the transition from traditional to online teaching. What happens from now on? Are you planning to continue teaching online because of the possibility of a new lockdown? If the answer to the previous question is positive, then have you thought how to offer better eLearning courses to your students in the future?

In the rapidly evolving field of online education, there is a massive influx of teachers who, trying to fi in the shoes of instructional designers (ID), are trying to implement distance learning for their students. But how can a teacher who does not have the necessary background and experience in designing e-learning programs will be able to develop these programs from scratch to benefit one’s students? What are the characteristics that the developed product should have in order for it to be efficient and beneficial?

Key issues when designing e-learning programs

It is important to note that distance learning programs require thorough planning (Bates, 2005). The main elements that the ID should consider are:

1. Unique characteristics of each user

Initially, it is imperative to take into account the particular characteristics of the learning community to which each program-course is addressed (Bush & Mott, 2009; Sofos, Costas & Paraschou, 2015). A similar position was expressed by Kopper (2006) on the personalization of content, judging that it should be able to adapt according to the preferences, pre-existing knowledge and the needs of the fortune tellers. For example, is it worthy to use an excellent product in terms of content if it is aimed at students of a different level than those who will actually take part in it?

2. Universal approach

An online learning program should be formulated in such a way that it can be used without problem in different environments by different users, always with due formality in terms of style and language (Kopper, 2006; Ghirardini, 2011). Regarding the type of content, it must be written in such a way as to make it clear that the particular characteristics of certain groups such as gender or race are not insulted (Ghirardini, 2011).

3. Social learning

Success also lies in the ability of the course offered to serve and enhance the creation of communities of practice and learning among the subjects who use it (Bush & Mott, 2009). In fact, according to proponents of the theory of social constructivism, cultivating and supporting such learning conditions that promote interaction between participants is a key need. The above can be done through the existence of a communication forums, chat rooms (asynchronous communication) as well as regular teleconferences between the participants (synchronous communication).

4. Presentation of knowledge

According to Kopper (2006), proper design should use different pedagogical approaches to achieve the establishment of knowledge and not focus only on one method. People differ in the way they perceive the knowledge offered, which means that the curriculum should be given in a multidimensional way and not limited to one or two ways of presenting information. If the information is not given in one way but instead is enriched with multimedia such as graphic illustrations, sounds or videos, the user will be able to more easily perceive the new knowledge (Ghirardini, 2011)

5. Feedback system

Finally, it is important to provide immediate feedback to the user as well as record one’s performance (Bush & Mott, 2009). Keep in mind that although personalized feedback from the tutor is required for eLearning programs to succeed (Wei, Peng & Chou, 2014), occasionally this is not feasible due to lack of time or due to a big number of students. Therefore, mechanisms should be used that will enable the student to perceive one’s performance directly and mainly automatically, without the need for feedback from a real person.

References

Σοφός, Α., Κώστας, Α., Παράσχου, Β., 2015. Online εξ αποστάσεως εκπαίδευση. Αθήνα:Σύνδεσμος Ελληνικών Ακαδημαϊκών Βιβλιοθηκών. Retrieved May 30, 2010 από http://hdl.handle.net/11419/182

Bush, M. D., & Mott, J. D. (2009). The transformation of learning with technology: "learner-centricity, content and tool malleability, and network effects". Educational Technology, 49(2), 3-20.

Bates, A. W. (2005). Technology, E-learning and Distance Education. NY: Routledge.

Ghirardini, B., Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations., & Germany. (2011). E-learning methodologies: A guide for designing and developing e-learning courses. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Koper, R. (2006). Current research in learning design. Educational Technology & Society, 9(1), 13-22.

Wei, H., Peng, H., & Chou, C. (2015). Can more interactivity improve learning achievement in an online course? Effects of college students' perception and actual use of a course-management system on their learning achievement. Computers & Education, 8310-21. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2014.12.013

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