Philosophy of Instructional Design

Synthesis Statement

GMU Masters in Instructional Design 2017

One of the most important influences from my masters program at GMU is the fact that I am deeply rooted in learning theory, which guides the decisions that I make regarding activities, interaction, engagement, and visualization within e-learning design. Thanks to GMU, my understanding of instructional design is grounded in a constructivist leaning epistemoligal belief, which guides my use of learning theories into pedagogical models, and thus instructional strategies and learning activities. As a teacher for ten years, I avoided lecture and powerpoints like the plague, but instead used class discussions, group activities, and games. It is through my research and my courses at GMU that I realized that this is right on track, and through my internship with Leopard Media I was able to gain sixty hours of experience converting boring lecture presentations into activity laden face-to-face training. For the online e-learning corporate side, this philosophy has translated into constantly striving for creation of animations, scenario based learning, and accessibility. If there is a way to chunk or present the material visually, then that can often be more memorable than plain text with pictures. I have a passion for designing learning that is engaging, interactive, and memorable.

Here is a chart which explains my philosophy behind creating engaging learning experiences:


I also have a philosophy deeply rooted in creating accessible design. Completion of EDIT 526, “Web Accessibility and Design” combined with EDIT 530, “HTML 5” worked together to help me understand how to create learning experiences with Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in mind. Since then, I have continued to build my HTML 5 and CSS 3 skills through free online Coursera courses, and hope to learn Javascript in the next few months as well. Although coding is not required for good design, a deep understanding of HTML 5 and CSS 3 is helpful as we move toward creating e-learning in the style of websites through a content management system (CMS). I see this trend continuing as CMS authoring tools such as Gomo and Articulate 360 become more common. I am very thankful for my foundation in coding at GMU, and have been able to apply that knowledge to create an “Executive Summary of Section 508 Compliance” for a website for my ICF internship. I also converted all the online course materials to Section 508 Compliance, which enabled the first blind student to complete a certification prep course online. I created a full one hour e-learning course on Section 508 Compliance for my ICF internship and also created an Accessibility 101 course for my EDIT 611 course. To me, good design is accessible design – by creating instruction that is accessible to everyone, you allow learners to be able to participate in whatever ways they are able. For instance, there should be good color contrast and text size should be able to be increased. If the information is presented as audio, a transcript should be made available. I was also able to obtain training on how to design accessible e-Learning when I attended DevLearn 2016, and look forward to applying that information to future e-learning design.

I also have a user-centered focus while designing instruction. I credit EDIT 732 and EDIT 752, “Analysis and Design of Technology Based Learning Environments” and “Design and Implementation of Technology Based Learning Environments” for teaching me how to apply User Experience (UX) methodologies to the instructional design process. UX can also inform the ADDIE process, especially when approached from the angle of design thinking. Our small group worked closely with the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access (SCLDA) to design a website which would assist teachers in using the Smithsonian Learning Lab (SLL). The SLL is a searchable online database of millions of Smithsonian assets. Since then, I have attended local UX meetup groups to continue to develop my understanding of how UX intersects with instructional design. A user-centered focus works well with my constructivist leaning philosophy. For instance, if a student is having difficulty navigating a course, I would look at the usability of the e-learning design first. If they didn’t read directions – are the directions clear? Easy to find? Written with clarity and images? I tend to look at the design of the navigation as a starting point for evaluation. Usability and User Experience are very important in the design of e-Learning; it doesn’t matter how great the instruction is – if they can’t find it, or they miss something, or they hate it, then it’s all for naught! As a learning experience designer, a user-centered focus plays a large part in what I would propose for e-learning design.

In addition to a strong grounding in learning theory, it is also important to keep up with the most recent pedagogical research around best practices for designing multimedia instruction. In EDIT 611, “Innovations in E-Learning,” we applied Clark and Mayer’s research on principles of design for multimedia. The Contiguity Principle, Modality Principle, Coherence Principle, and Redundancy Principle all shape my instructional design for e-Learning. Each of these principles also corresponds well to my constructivist leaning, accessible, user-focused design.

I have also benefited from EDIT 772, “Serious Games and Gamification.” I have many ideas I’d like to test out on how to increase engagement with gamification. The process of creating a serious game is more than simply PBL (Points, Badges, and Leaderboards) and I have continued life-long learning on this topic by studying Yu-Kai Chou’s Octalysis Framework and reading his book, “Actionable Gamification.” I look forward to implementing gamification techniques in future e-learning design.

Finally, I have gained business skills to create a business case for training through EDIT 706, “Business of Learning Design and Technologies.” Based on this class, I would feel comfortable analyzing the needs of a learning problem and constructing a data driven business case with ROI for training design and development. I also have picked up a mind set of change management with this course, and better understand how training can help performance improvement and the bottom line for an organization.

I have really enjoyed my three years learning about Instructional Design and Technology at GMU with a Graduate Certificate in E-Learning. As a result of this training, I have a user-focused, constructivist leaning, accessible and interactive philosophy of e-Learning design. I look forward to being able to apply this training in a future e-Learning development position.

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