Category Archives: Instructional Design

Selecting a Web-based Survey Tool

Have you used an online survey system? They often provide quick and easy solutions for gathering data and can be helpful as part of the design and development process to get feedback from testers, students, and instructors. Most of these products offer an intuitive dashboard for creating survey questions with templates and generate a URL that you can send in an email or post on a website to provide direct access to the instrument.

If you are interested in using a web-based survey system there are a few questions to answer first:

  1. What is your budget? Most of the vendors offer free and paid versions. The free versions, as you might expect, are more limited. 
  2. What types of questions do you need to ask? Multiple choice, open-ended, select all, rank order… take a close look at your instrument see if there are special considerations related to item type.
  3. How many (items and participants) do you anticipate? Free versions often have a maximum number of items per survey and/or a maximum number of responses.
  4. Do you have any special requirements? If you need to add branching logic, for example, or randomly present your survey questions, these capabilities and many others are possible with online surveys.
  5. What are you going to do with the data you collect? These systems allow you to export participant responses in multiple formats – do you need something specific for reporting or analysis purposes?
  6. Do you need to customize? Different systems offer different options for creating custom URLs, adding images (e.g. logos), and creating color schemes. These may be more important if you are creating an instrument for distribution outside of your organization that would benefit from branding.

Recently I had the opportunity to review and select a survey tool for a project associated with Inside Online Learning. I had previous experience with SurveyMonkey and QuestionPro, so started with these first. It didn’t take long to see that are a lot more tools to choose from so I asked my Twitter network for suggestions. That request resulted in a nice list of tools to try – some with personal testimonials, others from the survey companies themselves.

My preference with this project was to go with a free version if at all possible – a brief survey with limited release as a pilot. I reviewed the websites of the 7 survey systems that were recommended and created these comparison charts (below) along the way.  These charts include the features I was looking for, but there are many, many more available including social media integration, secure SSL connections, multiple languages, analytics, etc.

FREE* SurveyMonkey SurveyShare SurveyGizmo

Zoomerang

Rational Survey

# of responses 100 per survey 50 per survey 250 per month 100 per survey 1000 total
# of questions 10 per survey 12 per survey Unlimited 12 questions 100 total / 10 surveys
Logic branching no yes limited no no
Random questions no ? yes no ?
Export responses no no CSV no no
PAID* SurveyMonkey SurveyShare SurveyGizmo

Zoomerang

Rational Survey

mid-range option** $299/yr (Gold Plan) $200/yr (Pro Plan) $588/yr (Pro Plan) $199/yr (Pro Plan) $240/yr (Basic Plan)
# of responses Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited 500 total
# of questions Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited 5000 total / 50 surveys
Logic branching Yes Yes Yes yes yes
Random questions Yes ? yes yes ?
Export responses Excel, CSV, PDF, SPSS, HTML, XML Excel, CSV, SPSS CSV, PDF Excel, CSV, PDF Excel, CSV, PDF

* These charts are based on my interpretation of the information posted on the websites.

** In most cases there are multiple plans to choose from, offering a range of service packages and price points. This chart lists just one of the price categories. There are more and less expensive options for each system.

Also reviewed:

  • Qualtrics: This is an enterprise level system, which was overkill for my current needs with one small survey.
  • JotForm: Interesting! For me, not quite as intuitive as the others, but a customizable interface with emailed responses.

The comparison charts helped me narrow my list down to two: Zoomerang and SurveyGizmo. I then created my survey in those systems.  My final selection was SurveyGizmo –  It gave me the most room to work with in terms of number of questions and responses allowed, and had a (slightly) more intuitive interface for creating and managing my survey. I deployed it with little difficulty and have been pleased with the results. I was able to create a professional looking survey, insert a logo, and set up matrix-type questions. Should I need to upgrade to a paid version in the future, I will complete another comparison. While SurveyGizmo offers a lot of room in the free version, the paid options seem more costly than the other systems.

What additional features and functions should we consider? If you have deployed an online survey and have tips for selection and/or lessons learned, please consider sharing your recommendations here.

Image credit: stock.xchng

Writing Learning Objectives

Last week a colleague asked me if could recommend any resources to help out with writing objective statements. I had to admit right from the start that I, too, could use a refresher.

The Basics

It may not be the most glamorous part of the design process, but it is oh so important to nail down before moving on. The learning objectives serve to clarify the purpose of the experience you are about to create. Key questions to consider as you get started:

  1. How should the learner be changed after completing the lesson?  Will they know something they didn’t know before, be able to do something they weren’t able to do before?
  2. How will you know the change has taken place? This leads to how learning can and will be assessed. (Good to start thinking about this now.)
  3. At what level are you writing these objectives? Objectives can be written on multiple levels – program, course, module, lesson – and should be connected. Have higher-level objectives already been written?
  4. Do performance standards already exist that might guide your work? Depending on the context of the learning experience you are creating, and the content topic (think medical training, teacher education, etc.) there may be professional organizations or regulating agencies that provide standards that need to be met.

All too often the writing of learning objectives is rushed or left out completely resulting in a product that is not effective as intended – failing to provide the learners with what they need to achieve that ‘change’ that was required and expected.

Who writes, reviews, and approves learning objectives? A Subject Matter Expert may provide the learning objectives or the Instructional Designer may draft for review. Ideally, this is a collaborative process – there is a lot to consider in terms of expected outcomes, content, delivery, and assessment.

A Few Resources

  • A Quick Guide to Writing Learning Objectives – Big Dog Little Dog – There are a lot of nice posts on this site. This one provides templates and examples.
  • Writing Learning Objectives – The eLearning Coach – Another favorite blog. This post is Part 1 of 3 in a series.
  • Guide to Writing Learning Objectives – NERC – A comprehensive document with writing prompts, and lots of good and bad examples from a professional organization/industry perspective.
  • Action Words – There are a lot of these lists available online. This one seems to be one of the more comprehensive versions out there and is organized according to Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Share your experiences!

What’s the most difficult part of writing learning objectives? Who on your team writes, reviews, and approves the learning objectives? What tips would you offer others asking for help?

Image credit: Mark Brannan, Flickr

Create and Share Your Own Images

One of the many tasks involved in preparing content for delivery is locating and selecting appropriate images. Whether you are writing a blog post or developing a full academic course, images (drawings, photographs, charts, etc.) help tell a story, help to get the message across.

Where do you find images?

You may be lucky enough to have a graphic artist in-house or maybe a subscription to a stock images resource. But if you’re on a budget, you may be looking for other options – images that are available online with no fee for use. Creative Commons (CC) licenses are a popular way for photographers to make their work available for you to use. Here are a couple of ways to search for CC licensed images: Flickr and the Creative Commons search page.

Do you have images to share?

If you are interested in contributing, you can do so by creating your own online account and making your photos available – searchable and clearly labeled with your intent for their use. One option is @DailyShoot:

The Daily Shoot is a simple daily routine to motivate and inspire you to practice your photography, and share your results! It’s not a contest and there are no prizes. It’s simply about encouraging you to pick up your camera and make photographs.

Everyday @Dailyshoot tweets an assignment – an idea, a topic, to focus your efforts. You tweet a link to your photo for that assignment that includes the day’s hashtag, and it is linked to the site. For more about how it works, check out The Daily Shoot. If you post one photo per day you would end up with 365 contributions by the end of the year (next year, that is)! Even one per week would result in a gallery of 52. As a consumer of CC licensed images, now I can contribute to the pool.

Most of The Daily Shoot participants don’t post every day, but a couple do. You can browse their past photos on the site. It’s also interesting to see the differences and similarities in approach to each day’s assignment. As an example, take a look at 12/26/10 – “What fuels your creative process?”

I heard about this project at a conference in September and have wanted to give it a try ever since. Armed with a brand new camera (thanks, Adam!) I just started yesterday. I’ll be contributing via my Flickr stream.

Are you already sharing your images? If so, please let us know where! If not, consider joining in.

Image credit: gywst

Update! (12/3/11) The Daily Shoot decided to cease operations several months ago, but fortunately the organizers made their list of of prompts available via Google Docs: Daily Shoot Assignments. I managed to complete 150 assignments in the past year and have now maxed out my free Flickr account. While I consider upgrading to “Pro” I’m looking for a new source of prompts….any ideas? Please share them here!

Tools for Freelance Instructional Designers

A recent LinkedIn eLearning Guild Group member asked “What are the top tools for freelance elearning design and development?” and 100 comments later, there was quite a list.

The result was a nice mix of both specific software for getting the work done and advice and suggestions related to running a freelance business.

Here is my attempt to categorize and capture all of the recommendations, in no particular order of course. While I tried to include everything that was mentioned, my apologies if  I may have missed one or two…

  • Software Suites and Packages – Adobe Creative Suite, Adobe eLearning Suite, Articulate Studio, Microsoft Office, Open Office, Google Tools

  • Rapid Development – Captivate, Lectora, Cam Studio, Camtasia, Articulate
  • Screencapture/Screencast – Jing, Screenhunter, Snagit (very popular!), Snap4

  • Image/Photo Editing – PaintNet, GIMP, PaintShop Pro
  • Video – Sony Vegas Pro, Sorenson Squeeze, After Effects, Celtx Script Writing
  • Audio – Audacity, Soundbooth, Levelator
  • Delivery – LMS, Portal – WordPress, Drupal, Blackboard, Moodle

  • Synchronous Communication – Skype, DimDim, Elluminate, WebEx, Centra, LiveMeeting, Oovoo
  • Programming Skills – PHP, HTML5, CSS3, SCORM
  • Project Management – Gantto.com, OpenWorkbench, MSProject, LotusLive
  • Business Operations – Dropbox, GetHarvest.com, Adobe Acrobat, PrimoPDF, QuickBooks, FreshBooks, MyHours.com, FastTrack, BullZip, PDFPen, Zoho, and a local small business Accountant
  • Professional Development – Books – Roam, Clark, Horton; Advice – Entrepreneurship.com, Forbes.com; Networking and Mentorship – professional associations recommended: ASTD, IPSI
  • And more… Notepad++, iSpringFree, Flash Firestarter, SwishMax2, MindManager, Prezi, Xtranormal, ReadtheWords.com, Tokbox, Adobe Kuler, Wampserver, Balsamiq, Questionmark, Madcap Flare, Color Schemer, Fireshot, and Compliance testing sites

A few absolutes to close: Internet access, a powerful computer with multiple monitors, coffee, aspirin, a sense of humor, and a support system!

How about it, Freelancers? Any corrections or additions to the list?

Update! (12/1/2010): Please see the cross posting on OpenSesame. They have graciously provided links to each of these tools! Very helpful.

Image credit: keepthebyte, Flickr

Instructional Designer Profile – Oma Singh

The field of Instructional Design (ID) is still relatively new and professionals enter this work in a variety of ways. The possible projects, work settings, methods, job titles and descriptions are many. The goal of this planned series of posts is to introduce you to practicing instructional designers so that you can learn more about their perspectives and work.

Meet Oma Singh!

Oma is currently the Assistant Director for Assessment for a faculty support center at a large public university. Oma received her Ph.D. in Instructional Technology with a cognate in Adult Education from the University of South Florida. She has extensive experience and education in the field of Management Information Systems, and has held positions as a computer programmer, instructional designer, and instructor to name a few. Oma believes in putting theory into practice and is committed to lifelong learning and helping others learn through innovative use of technology.

Q:  How did you enter the field of instructional design/technology?

A:  I wanted to move from a business perspective of technology use to an educational perspective of technology use. I have found that an educational perspective is personally more rewarding for me.

Q:  What is the most rewarding part of your work?

A:  Actually seeing the course you developed up and running smoothly online. It felt good.

Q:  What is the most challenging part of your work?

A:  Getting the Subject Matter Experts (SME) to provide accurate content on time. Guiding the SMEs to avoid plagiarism and to keep their content authentic, to the point, and original, while avoiding fluff and fillers. This is especially true for online learning.

Q:  What do you wish you knew more about?

A:  I would like to learn more about different content development tools.

Q:  Are you currently involved in professional development activities?

A:  I attend and present at various conferences and teach myself tools that IDs are using currently. I subscribe to instructional design related blogs and journals.

Q:  What advice do you have for someone entering the instructional design field?

A:  Develop a set of skills that are considered valuable in the instructional design field – going beyond PowerPoint! Subscribe to ID blogs. Download free trials and create your own online course or a mini-course. Create an ePortfolio, putting your examples online, and make it professional for job hunting. Volunteer to develop courses or online interactions for school, home, church, community – anything that will get you some experience. If you are in school, get a part-time ID job!

Q:  If you had to name/predict the most important trends for the future, what would they be?

A:  More learning interventions that are similar to apps developed for the iPad. More 3D type simulations. Interactive eBooks.

Oma’s responses provide us with a quick look at the work of an instructional designer in higher education administration supporting faculty with the development of online educational experiences. Did any of her responses surprise you? What else would you like to know?

Photo credit: Stock.Xchng

Turning the Tables: Instructional Designer as SME

This post is a reflection on a recently completed project – I was the subject matter expert (SME) for a new online course in instructional design – a welcome opportunity to experience the course development process from a different perspective.

The project was unique in that the course being developed was an instructional design course and all of the members of the team were professional instructional designers. (Reminding me of past experiences where I had to submit a resume for positions that involved resume writing – kind of a double test! The proof is in the pudding and all of that.) I was provided with a course description and list of approved course-level learning objectives.  The next steps were up to me. This was where the adventure began. Normally I hand off a description and objectives. Time to get to work. I began by preparing and submitting a Course Outline and went from there.

Project team

My initial concern was that this could become a case of too much input or competitive in nature, but this was not the case. Collaboration was a priority and effective and I learned from the team in the process.

  • Instructional Designer/Project Manager (ID/PM) – This is my usual place on the team… keep the schedule, set the deadlines, set up and facilitate progress reports and meetings, provide feedback on the work and some copy editing.
  • Multimedia Developer – Took my development guide from Word document to online course pages complete with images, icons, navigation etc. Made great suggestions related to organization and structure.
  • SME – I was to outline the scope and sequence of the content, write any text for the units, select the textbook and course materials, and create assignments.

Food for thought

What could this turning of tables do for my practice?

  • Course/Program Fit – Where does the course fit in with the program? I was provided with the development guide for the course that would precede this one in the degree plan – very helpful! Not something I usually do, but something I should do, especially with new courses and programs. Faculty SMEs tend to be more familiar with the curriculum when working on a revision.
  • Expectations –Assumptions can bog the process down. While it was clear (via detailed contract) on what to expect with this project, there were a few nuances. For example the SMEs I work with aren’t expected to create rubrics, but I was for this project. The more detail the better in the written contract and/or statement of work.
  • Volume of Content – I have heard this from SMEs, the comments about how much original content is required. And now I have experienced it for myself! When the writing of introductions, summaries, case studies etc. is required it can be more time consuming than you anticipate. Scheduling the due dates by unit, or groups of units, was helpful here.
  • Need for Feedback – The ID/PM on this project continuously gave me feedback on the content I was submitting, providing suggestions on ways to expand and clarify the presentation. I need to do more of this with my project SMEs throughout the process.
  • Finished Product – I got a sneak peak via web conference and desktop sharing at what the final version looked like. I wanted to see more! The SMEs I work with ask for this, too. After you’ve spent so much time working with the content it is a feeling of accomplishment to see the finished course online.

This project turned out to be a reality check for me about how I work with SMEs and what could be done differently. How can you improve support to your SMEs?

Image credit: schoeband, Flickr

Rubrics. Yes? No? Maybe…

Instructional design work is increasingly standardized. As this happens, data is collected to measure student learning outcomes and rubrics come into play. Lots of them. Instructors use these rubrics (charts with a rating scheme for each element of an assignment) to evaluate student work.

Rubrics provide a way in which the instructor can compare the quality of student work against a set of specific criteria. Ideally, if you have several sections of a course running, each with a different instructor, all will evaluate student work similarly using a standard rubric –  if two different instructors each evaluated Student A’s assignment using the same rubric, their individual evaluations would be the same.

There are pros and cons to the use of rubrics.

Rubrics can be helpful.

  • Rubrics encourage a more objective evaluation of a student’s work, reducing the possibility of comparing students to each other instead of the learning objectives.
  • Have you ever taken a course or submitted a paper and received a letter grade with no details about how that grade was determined? Rubrics can take some of the mystery away from the student’s perspective by clearly stating expectations making the grade seem less arbitrary.

Rubrics can be limiting.

  • Creating accurate ones that measure student learning of a specific outcome is not an easy thing to do. This process requires evaluation of the rubric itself to find out if it is reliable and valid.
  • The use of rubrics may result in less creativity from students working to check-the-box for each of the expectations presented in rubric categories and criteria.

Questions to consider:

  • Are rubrics always appropriate and effective? Think about types of assignments here – performance tasks, creative writing, etc. and context.
  • Who prepares the rubrics? I’ve experienced the hire of an assessment expert, assignment to instructional designer, and assignment to subject matter expert. Rubrics can also be found ready-made and there are online ‘rubric makers’.
  • What about reporting? Are rubric scores/ratings useful beyond the classroom to drive changes in curriculum at a higher level?

It could be argued that while rubrics can and do serve a real purpose, there is a point at which they can become too prescriptive. In this case, the focus becomes the measurement itself. There is a personal piece to learning, something more organic, where a student puts together knowledge and gains skill through his or her own unique set of experiences. Static rubrics can also reduce the ability of the instructors to assess student work from their unique perspectives and expertise. Difficult to capture these things via rating scale. What are your thoughts on pros and cons, your successes and challenges with rubrics?

Resources for your continued exploration of assessment and rubrics:

Image credit: stock.xchng