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Speedy Learning: Best Practices in Accelerated Online Instructional Design


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For presentation at the 2014 Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning - Madison, WI
Lately, more and more academic programs, particularly at the graduate level, are moving to an accelerated distance education model in an effort to help adult learners achieve necessary skills and credentials more conveniently (Rafferty & Lindell, 2011; Wlodkowski & Ginsberg, 2010). The movement toward accelerated coursework allows learners the freedom to work more quickly toward desired goals, transcending time and place (Pastore, 2010; Seamon, 2004). However, since the goal of any graduate-level program is to develop higher levels of learner expertise that can be put into practice immediately, it is important to ensure that deep learning of skills and knowledge is evoked, even when time is compressed (Biggs, 1987; Biggs & Tang, 2007; Clotfelter, Ladd, & Vigdor, 2007; Rafferty & Lindell, 2011; Wier, Stone & Hunton, 2005). What kinds of features, strategies, and tools must be in place to ensure that students in accelerated programs receive the same opportunities to learn deeply as their counterparts in more “traditional” programs? This case study investigated an accelerated program in education in order to learn from students and from the instructional design strategies employed.

Published in: Education, Design
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Speedy Learning: Best Practices in Accelerated Online Instructional Design

  1. 1. Anastasia M.Trekles, Ph.D. Clinical Professor and Director of LearningTechnologies Purdue University North Central Westville, IN
  2. 2.  Accelerated online degree programs are becoming more and more popular  These programs present a question: can students learn deeply enough to become experts?
  3. 3.  Graduate-level online accelerated programs are increasing rapidly to help adult learners achieve necessary skills and credentials more quickly  Research in effectively meeting deep learning outcomes in online learning is mixed  Looking at student approach to learning may be more telling than actual learning acquisition, which can present many uncontrolled variables
  4. 4.  Many variables can impact online learning acquisition, so studying deep learning presents a challenge  Course design, student motivation, and learner development all can impact learning performance and approach  Accelerated learners have several unique perceptions and characteristics
  5. 5.  Graduate-level coursework is intended to bring students toward expert-level understanding – i.e., deep learning  Instructional design models, such as Merrill (2012), provide for the systematic increase of student learning depth  But, there are still significant gaps in understanding deep learning approaches in accelerated online coursework
  6. 6.  Population: All students in graduate-level coursework considered accelerated (time-compressed) and delivered asynchronously online  Sampling method: From available programs, one program at a Midwestern public university was selected  136 total students in Master of Science in Educational Administration program  Sample:  9 courses (out of 10, excluding internship)  17 survey respondents  5 interview participants  Participants recruited via email, course announcements from advisor  Volunteered to participate
  7. 7.  Research Question 1:  Revised 2-Factor Study Process Questionnaire (R- SPQ-2F) (Biggs, Kember, & Leung, 2001)  Interviews via Skype  Research Question 2: Course analysis using Merrill’s e3 rubric (2009; 2012) and SOLO Taxonomy (Biggs & Tang, 2007)
  8. 8.  Case study limited to one program and a small sample despite the fact that participants came from a wide geographic area  University program was master’s-level in education – other disciplines may be different  University was public and located in the Midwest – other regions and types may be different
  9. 9.  RQ1: How do learners approach their learning in accelerated, asynchronous online graduate courses?  Results from R-SPQ-2F and interviews showed certain things to influence students’ learning approaches: ▪ Time ▪ Personal motivation and direction ▪ Course structure and content ▪ Assignment scheduling ▪ Use of projects vs. quizzes ▪ Real-world concepts and assignments ▪ Peer interaction ▪ Technology expectations
  10. 10.  RQ2: Which instructional design characteristics and strategies used in accelerated asynchronous online courses play a role in helping learners reach deeper levels of learning?  Course analysis through Merrill’s (2012) rubric and SOLO Taxonomy supported RQ1 finding that learning approach can be promoted through course design  Course objectives covered all levels of SOLO Taxonomy  Activities provide real-world practice, peer collaboration, field experience, and reflection  Courses built logically from one activity to the next to increase depth of understanding and performance level  5 weekly modules, consistent look and feel throughout courses
  11. 11.  Projects = positive reaction  Tests = negative reaction  Big projects favored over “mini-projects”  Authentic, real-world projects are essential  Courses should be easy to follow – no surprises  Provide worked examples as guides when appropriate  Be willing to answer questions  No midweek due dates!
  12. 12.  Online, accelerated graduate course and program design should:  Use consistency in structure and scheduling  Use real-world projects over exams and other less authentic assessment measures  Focus on key objectives and avoid including extra work or information that is just “nice to know”  Further research may:  Include greater numbers of programs and participants  Investigate other disciplines, other types of programs  Investigate learning approach in comparison to learning acquisition
  13. 13.  Review these slides:  References in NOTES section of downloadable PowerPoint  More downloads and info:  PNC Office of Learning Technology: