The Learning Designer Goes to Learning Design School

DarrelHelenaI routinely field calls from potential customers asking about our online Energy Auditor course. I’m asked questions like: How hard is the course? Is there lot of math? How long is the course? How much study time will I have each week? I provide answers like; That depends on you and your study skills. There is some math, but it’s mostly geometry and formulas needed for calculating data on a home. The course is 8 weeks long. And finally: To be successful in the course you should expect to spend 5-7 hours per week in study and reading. To be honest I put that last time requirement out there like it’s nothing, even for those that work full time. After all it’s only a few evenings a week plus some weekend time, right? No big deal.

Well I’m about to get a taste of my own medicine.

Up to my Neck in Busy

I’m enrolled in a course called Fundamentals of Online Education: Planning and Application which begins later this month. This is a MOOC (massive open online course) generously delivered by Georgia Tech through Coursera and taught by Dr. Fatimah Wirth, who is Georgia Tech’s Instructional Designer. The course is 6 weeks long and has a workload of 5-7 hours per week. (Sound familiar?)

Like many students of Saturn Online, I work full time. I also have two kids in middle school with all the stuff they do, and a wife who wants me to finish the basement that I’ve been finishing since we built our house 10 years ago. Plus conference season is starting. ACI Northwest is just around the corner, two weeks later is the #RESNET13 conference, then preparations for the #ACI13 National Conference where I will be presenting “Innovative Online Training” with Amanda Evans and Chris Compton. Oh and a 10-day family vacation thrown in for good measure. How in the world will I find time to study 5-7 hours per week? I guess we shall see.

Why Take Learning Design Courses?

“So why are you taking this course Darrel?” Well I’m glad you asked dear reader. At Saturn we are constantly working to improve our online courses through proper learning design. I hope to take what I learn about learning design and further improve Saturn’s course offerings. We want to make our courses easier for you to use, consumable in small chunks, and always on topic, not wasting your time with information not relevant to the course objectives. The courses also need to capture and keep your attention, immerse you in the lessons, and get you to invest into your own learning. It’s a tall order to be sure, but well worth the effort.

Graduates of our courses are generally satisfied with their experience, telling us that they learned a lot and that they feel confident they will achieve whatever their goals were for taking the course. I’m anxious to see if my experience with my course will also be good. After all, an online course designed and taught by Georgia Tech’s instructional designer should be the ultimate online learning design course, right? Again I guess we shall see.

5 thoughts on “The Learning Designer Goes to Learning Design School”

  1. William H Nickerson

    Darrel, You may wan to take a look a writers class. I just had enjoyed reading your blog outside of the subject matter. This is a compliment.
    PS I was one of the raters in the room at the session on education standards changes at Orlando. Watching Brett Dillion handle Dr. Asberger Disorder was priceless. Your group presentation is very strong. Good luck to you.
    Bill Nickerson

    1. Thanks Bill. I appreciate that. I’ve always enjoyed writing, though I’ve not considered a writing class. That could be fun.

      Glad that you enjoyed the roundtable. I like it when the discussion gets a little lively. It means everyone is engaged, (or thoroughly confused). The Dr. is definitely persistent in his opinions. I always get a couple of them at each conference.

  2. Well that was disappointing. The first week of the course went by with a lot of troubles and technical glitches. For the first day the resources for week 1 weren’t available, but week 2 was. Then both were. Then 2 was gone.

    By the time we got started we see that the first assignment was to put yourself into a group. 41,000 people were enrolled into the course. The instructor wanted us in groups of 20. First try was to put your name into a Google docs spreadsheet. That was a mess. No one looked ahead of time to know that Google limits a doc to 50 simultaneous users. We actually crashed a Google docs server trying to do this. Then it was “find a groups forum with less than 20 posts and put your name it”. That also failed. Then it was a one question Survey Monkey where you submitted your name to be assigned to a group. To see what group you were assigned to you downloaded a PDF and search for your name. Not there? Submit your name again. Through all of this, not one suggestion as to why we were to join a group.

    All of that drama overshadowed the curriculum. Desktop recordings of the instructor going through PowerPoints. External reading assignments that were ineffective. Like the US Copyright Office website. Or one that you had to have an account registered to access. Assignments like “Copy your post from the group discussion here.” Then a quiz which was just 10 questions that could be directly found in the videos.

    Things looked like they may have been settling down when the course was closed today with no warning. Earlier today the instructor was making posts about the upcoming week. This leads the audience to believe it was higher-ups at Georgia Tech that made the decision to shut it down.

    Most ironic was that this course was about Innovations in Online Education. I’ve already moved on to another Coursera MOOC, E-Learning and Digital Cultures. We’ll see how that goes.

  3. Hi Scott,

    I think this is going to help me see it better from the student’s perspective. As curriculum designers we really need to know what the burden is on our students. Not to lighten it necessarily, but to be sure we convey it correctly to them before they sign up so there aren’t any surprises.

    Good luck with your class too. I need to learn more about manuals j and d also.

  4. Darrel,
    I’m in the same boat. I am currently taking an 8 week online class for manual j and manual d for Rightsuite through I am trying to finish the class much faster but like you said when do i have enough time. I have taken a couple of days of work to on some big chunks but boy time flies! Good luck with your class.

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