Molding eLearning best practices to fit online college courses - Resources?

Feb 12, 2015

Does anyone out there know of a community (like this one), an organization (like ATD) or other useful group which is focused on helping instructional designers develop interactive (like those created with Storyline) materials used in the academic world (such as online colleges and universities)? 

I've used this forum a lot to help guide (and spark ideas) my online college course materials development, but there are IDs out there who have a difficult time getting past the idea that forums like the Articulate forum are focused on instructional design in the training realm. 

More and more online institutions are adopting Storyline and other similar course authoring software to help build and add in the missing pieces of interactivity which help keep students engaged. It's helpful when that interactivity is more than simple page-turners which are chock-full of text (that's what turns students away in the first place). That's one of the main reasons I come here to get ideas. 

So, if anyone out there knows of a place/organization/forum/group (thing) which helps IDs in the online education realm, can you point them out, please? 

17 Replies
Mike Enders

Hi Cathy,

While there is a lot of attention placed upon effective course design and instruction at the K-12 level, higher ed receives comparatively little attention. Like it or not, It's hard to tell someone with an advanced degree that they might need some work on their course design!  It's a bit of a blind spot that many of us faculty have!  To wit, check out the major issues that the AAUP is focused upon.  Notice the absence of course design and teaching best practices?

While there are some newer groups out there (such as HETL), I'm not real familiar with how effective their conferences and outreach are.  A couple suggestions:

1. You could look to orgs that also cover K-12.  For example, the NEA does cover some higher ed topics:

2.  True to the academic approach, there is a lot of research out there involving online course design.  While not a forum or an org, a quick search on a phrase such as "online course design" produces some useful material.  Also, there are some journals focused upon the topic that you might find helpful.

Ultimately, I totally get where you're coming from.  It would be great to have a forum of like-minded designers who are focused exclusively on academia.  With that said, I would gently push back on the notion that ID and course design in academia are really all that different from industry. I cut my teeth on ID in higher ed (for 10 years, I was a full time faculty member at a college which put us through extensive ID training) and also freelanced as an eLearning designer for many years.  

When I replaced the academic term "Faculty" with the industry term "Subject Matter Expert", I found that the challenges and approaches were the same.  Both realms are striving to not only transmit knowledge to their students, but to also bring about behavioral change.  Both realms struggle with creating engaging and effective eLearning content/modules/courses/etc. And both realms use the same ID models.

I get that it might feel odd for your colleagues to approach what they perceive as an "industry" related forum looking for advice on the academic realm, but there are a lot of academics here in the Articulate forums. Encourage your colleagues to ask away, we'll be here to help!


Steve Flowers

There are some interesting things happening with community surrounding the academic space. While I think a lot of the "thinking" overlaps between designing training and education, inputs, constraints, goals and outcomes are often not that similar (skills / task-ability <--> developed perspective, for example.) 

Lots of stuff in the edu-sphere seems to be wildly individual or institutionally focused. Makes some sense, it's a super competitive market. Everyone wants to stand out and most folks think the system is broken (I don't, by the way ;) ) and they have the opportunity to fix it.

While not specifically about building e-learning objects, here are some interesting things happening around the web in the edu-space:

  • Mike Caulfield has started experimenting with a Federated Wiki for collaborative exploration. This is really neat and potentially a cool way for educators to gather in community as well. Lisa Chamberlin wrote a really nice piece on the potential of this community approach.
  • There are a few communities in Google+. These are hit or miss but you'll probably be able to pick up a few really great contacts. One example is the Learning Creative Learning Group. I believe the course runs periodically, but remains pretty active. You can find a few others with a variety of focal points including approach and technology. 
  • Twitter offers some nice community connections and scheduled gathering space for educators. Some good follows and chat groups. I believe #edchat is one of those.
  • I've always admired the DS106 community for the model they use for participation and contribution. It's all about the do:)

I'm sure there are a ton of other resources including some useful open courses / communities (MOOC style events.) Hope folks will pile on.


Kristin Anthony

It's so cool that you mentioned this, Cathy! I recently decided that I wanted to direct my attention towards the academic realm. I have been trying to promote a community of practice called AWSM Prompts. It hasn't got anywhere yet but targeting it more towards development prompts and challenges for academic IDs would be really helpful for both myself and others like you. What do you think?

Cathy Edwards

I completely agree that an ID is an ID no matter what we are doing, what we are working on, or for whom.  The challenge is in tapping into that creative genius we all have lurking below the surface.  Also, it doesn't hurt to consider a few best practices when it comes to training and education; one of them being to determine what you want the learners to do (with the information you wish to impart).

I'll be bookmarking those links you all shared as well as creating a list of them to share with my colleagues in our shared space. As time goes by, we may be able to come up with a set of our own best practices in relation to creating engagement within our online courses.

And most definitely, Mike, I will encourage everyone to create an account with Articulate...we'll all soon have Storyline licenses. And like I said, I've always found this forum and the Articulate blogs to be very helpful in sparking my own creativity.

Steve Flowers

Thought of a couple of other resources. I really like the direction Tony Bates is heading with is Open Education Resource guide and guidance / factors for selection of media.

I mentioned Mike Caulfield earlier, he spoke about the idea of a design pattern language / library late last year. This is an idea a few of us in the community have had over the past few (10 or so) years:) This is similar in some ways to best practices as frames but offer a clear structure and connection between the problem, the solution, and the validation that best practices can sometimes lack.

Ashley Terwilliger-Pollard

Hi Steve, 

I'm guessing the links are triggering our spam detection, and we had a lot of spam over the weekend so it may be a heightened state of security. :-) I've shared this thread with our ELH web team to take a look - so I'll leave it flagged for right now until they've had a chance to take a look at it. 

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