Iterations and Prototypes in Instructional Design
Traditional waterfall-type projects are developed in lengthy sequential phases. Learning methods and delivery flaws are normally only discovered during the delivery or evaluation phases. Fixing these defects can waste resources and cause delays to the learning platform or process due to the rework required. This is often referred to as the 1-100-1,000 rule: if it cost one to fix it in the initial stages of the project, It will cost 100 times more to fix it at the end of the project and up to 1,000 times more to fix it once it is delivered.
Note: ADDIE or ISD is NOT a waterfall method, unless the designers decide to use the tool in this manner.
Using agile methodologies or concepts allow the designers to test the learning platform up-front in order to ensure it is built upon a sound architecture by discovering the risks and alternatives involved during the planning stage, selecting valid learning objects, and then iterating them in a logical fashion.
Iterations are normally performed using two methods:
- Design Iteration (interpretive) — the iteration is performed to test a learning method, function, feature, etc. of the learning platform to a small set of learners to see if it valid.
- Release Iteration (statistical) — the iteration is released as a product to the business unit or customer. Although it may not be fully completed or functional, the designers believe that it is good enough to be of use to the learners.
Note that these types of iterations are similar to formative and summative evaluations.
A Design Iteration is a micro-technique in that it uses a small set of learners to test part of the learning platform so that you make an interpretation of its effectiveness. This method is normally used for innovative design. A Design Iteration will generally use two types of prototypes:
- Drawing or print prototypes — This uses paper and pencil models as it allows the design to be quickly sketched out so that you can get input from the learners. It normally solicits more input than a fancy model printed from a computer as the learners do not think of the design as being locked-in. In addition it is quite versatile as you can add notes, sketches, post-it notes to the paper drawing to simulate drop-down menus, dialog boxes, etc.
- Interactive prototypes — uses a more realistic model of the learning platform. Its advantage is that it gets you closer to where you need to be. In addition, the learners think it is more locked-in, thus once you have captured their basic needs with the paper and pencil prototypes, they are more hesitate to offer suggestions unless there is a real need for the changes (this helps to prevent running in circles with design changes).
A Release Iteration is a macro-technique in that it uses a large set of learners in order to satisfy two requirements: 1) it gets the learning platform out as fast as possible, even though it may not be fully ready; and 2) it allows large scale testing of the platform before it is polished.
A large and difficult or innovative project might use several Design Iterations and then make a Release Iteration. In turn, this process is repeated until the learning platform is completed.
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