I work at a secondary school in London, England, where my job is not only to teach, but to work with teachers every day to help them incorporate online learning tools into their curriculum. I develop interactive content for students and teachers to use in lessons and for parents to have access to the content at home to support their children.
One of the amazing qualities I admire in teachers is that they are always trying to find different, more effective ways of enhancing a student’s ability to learn content, both for the sake of exams and for learning in general. With e-learning, teachers have a powerful tool to boost learner engagement, support classroom learning, and deepen understanding.
I’d like to walk you through a recent project to show you my instructional design process when I’m teaming up with one of my fellow teachers. Hopefully you’ll get some inspiration for how you can use e-learning in the K-12 setting.
E-Learning for English Class
The Head of English at Chiswick School approached me recently because he wanted to help his Sixth Form students learn and retain information from a play. His goal was to create an application that could use technology to:
- Maximize student achievement and engagement by providing students with videos to learn about the different characters from the play, as well as a small description of each act on the startup screen.
- Provide students the opportunity to study on their own.
- Let students test their understanding and get feedback.
- Enable parents to see and interact with the same content their children would use to study.
- Create a glossary to help students learn the vocabulary necessary to be successful on the exam.
- Have a resources and FAQs section so students could get follow-up information.
So I set off to figure out how to get this done. Here’s the process I used for working with teachers and students.
The first thing I always do is meet with the teacher requesting the project. I give him or her an idea of what is possible digitally and how we can help students be successful.
For a lot of K-12 teachers, this is the first time they’ve worked with e-learning, so they’re not always sure what’s possible. That’s why I give them examples of what I have created in the past. It opens their eyes to the possibilities and really gets their creative juices flowing!
Once the teacher grasps what is within range, we arrange a new meeting where I ask the teacher to bring me a lesson or two from the curriculum. We then look at the curriculum to identify multimedia opportunities for video, audio, and animation.
Together we come up with a storyboard outlining what’s included in the project, such as text, images, and video. Only then can I get a good idea of the scope of the project.
Prototyping and Testing
Once the storyboard is developed and approved, I use Articulate Storyline 2 to develop the project. I like Storyline 2 because it’s so easy to use, and I get such great support from the Articulate community. It makes it a lot easier to get up and running fast.
One of the best things about using Articulate Storyline is the ability to play the content in a downloadable player. With the player, we can easily distribute our content to every student in the school. This also makes it easy to share content with each student’s parents. This is essential because it supports a process where parents, teachers, and students all work together to help students succeed. Priceless!
Using Storyline 2, I create a prototype of the application and share it with the teacher. We work together to iterate the prototype until we’re both comfortable with it. But that’s only the first part of the feedback.
I always want to make sure that the application is suitable for the varied levels of student skills and abilities. In this case, the Head of English suggested that we ask some of the students to work with me to ensure the project would be totally student-friendly. My student partners suggested content to improve the prototype and gave me really great feedback about the usefulness and usability of the application. They also helped test to ensure everything was working correctly.
Lessons Learned: Developing for a K-12 Audience
The most important thing I’ve learned about creating content for the K-12 audience is that you have to be incredibly organized. There are so many small challenges along the way, including finding time to meet with teachers and coming up with an effective content and design approach for the course. Then you’ve got to arrange for students to test the application and share their feedback. And once you’ve got a final project, you need to successfully distribute the application to different devices and troubleshoot any problems along the way. It takes a lot of organization to ensure everything goes well.
The second key takeaway is that I have to continue to expand my skills and knowledge. My subject matter expert partners constantly push me to create more sophisticated interactive content. Thankfully, Storyline continues to allow me to create cutting-edge interactive materials quickly and easily. And I am grateful to have the amazing templates, articles, and support from the E-Learning Heroes community.
The third lesson learned is that empowerment is key to a successful class and school. By providing students and their parents with the learning materials, we empower them to take control of their own education. Learners have a direct say in the learning process, rather than feeling that a teacher is telling them when or how or what to study. We also felt that a mixture of online and in-class learning is best for students, especially those who are getting ready to go to university or enter the world of work.