Synthesizing the Content in Instructional Design
When the instructional content and the media that transports it is developed, ensure that it is synthesized into an integrated program. It should flow as naturally as possible, with each lesson, module and/or activity building the foundation for the next one. Provide variety that is conductive to learning.
Mix the practice sessions in with instructional periods, rather than having all the instruction in the beginning, followed by nothing but practice. Research has shown that spaced practice (sometimes called distributed practice) is more effective than an equivalent practice session that is given in one long stretch of time (Caple, 1996; Reynolds, Glaser, 1964).
Time will have to be consider when synthesizing the complete learning program. For example:
- If you have five, 3 hour blocks of instruction, how do you break them down to run smoothly in two days?
- Which one gets chopped to two hours one day and one hour the next day.
- Will it have an effect on learning?
- Must the blocks run in order or can you switch them so the least difficult block gets broken apart.
- Will it be better to break the most difficult one apart so the learners get a respite from the toils of hard learning?
- Since most workdays are eight hours and your program totals 15 hours, what should be done with the one additional hour that will best benefit the organization?
- Can you make one hour of it elearning that they complete before coming to class?
Reigeluth's Elaboration Theory
Charles Reigeluth developed a sequencing approach in which the instruction is made up of layers and each layer of instruction elaborates on the previously presented ideas. By elaborating on the previous ideal, it reiterates, thereby improving retention. This layering has a zoom lens sequencing approach that runs from simple to complex and repeated general-to-specific:
- Present overview of simplest and most fundamental ideas
- Add complexity to one aspect
- Review the overview and show relationships to the details
- Provide additional elaboration of details
- Provide additional summary and synthesis
For more information, see Reigeluth's Elaboration Theory for Instructional Design.
Learner Control deals with the freedom of the learner to control the selection and sequencing of the instructional elements. Whenever possible, give the learners a menu to choose from, rather than require them to learn in a preset, linear order.
Patrick Penland (1977), a library school professor at the University of Pittsburgh performed a survey in which a section of it pertains to why learners prefer to learn on their own, rather than in a class or course. The main reasons, in ranking order, are:
- Desire to set my own learning pace.
- Desire to use my own style of learning.
- I wanted to keep the learning strategy flexible and easy to change.
- Desire to put my own structure on the learning project.
- I didn't know of any class that taught what I wanted to know.
- I wanted to learn this right away and couldn't wait until a class might start.
- Lack of time to engage in a group learning program.
- I don't like a formal classroom situation with a teacher.
- I don't have enough money for a course or class.
- Transportation to a class is too hard or expensive.
What is interesting about the survey is that for the most part, it is not that learners lack resources or hate attending formal classes, for these items are at the bottom of the rankings, but rather they prefer being in charge of their own learning.
So unless the learning platform requires the material to be presented in a certain order, let the learners decide on the order of sequencing.
Caple, C. (1996). The effects of spaced practice and spaced review on recall and retention using
computer assisted instruction. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI. Retrieved October 14, 2010 from http://www.eric.ed.gov:80/ERICWebPortal/contentdelivery/servlet/ERICServlet?accno=ED427772
Penland, P. R. (1977). Self-planned learning in America. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh.
Reynolds, J. H., & Glaser, R. (1964). Effects of repetition and spaced review upon retention of a
complex learning task. Journal of Educational Psychology, 55 (5): 297-308.
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