Exploring the World of Instructional Design

Through exploration comes discovery!

Let’s start with Bates’ article, A Short History of Educational Technology.

I appreciate how Bates structured the article, using the main modes of communication to provide the educational technology developments1. “One of the earliest means of formal teaching was oral – though human speech – although over time, technology has been increasingly used to facilitate or ‘back-up’ oral communication”1. It is interesting that we look for ways to support what we are teaching or being taught, we must go beyond the lecture. When lectures first began, it was simply reading off of a scroll, so why do we need to support this now1? I think technology has brought learners to question the teachings. Instead of taking the teachings and understanding what they are being taught, learners try and counter those that teach them. Information has become so accessible, that there are countless numbers of sources available at your fingertips, each with its own perspective. Is this a gratification type of need? Why is there this question to the instructors and information being taught? How do we, as instructors or instructional designers, get past this? Can we get past this?

“The development of web-based learning management systems in the mid-1990s, textual communication, although digitized, became, at least for a brief time, the main communication medium for Internet-based learning”1. Online learning platforms provide such great opportunities for students to continue education. This goes beyond a lecture style of learning and takes print to a more publicly available platform. I am curious to know the impact that web-based learning management systems have had on textbook publishers. Do students always purchase textbooks or do they look to alternate sources available? This could save quite a bit of money for students and with post-secondary education being quite costly, I would be interested in seeing if there has been an impact to sales. My other question would be, has there been a major shift from print sources to “e” or online alternatives?

Telephone, broadcasting, recording, conference calling, and webinars have been introduced, yet these technologies don’t change the oral basis of communication for teaching1. Again, we return the impact and reliance on oral communication for learning with the support of technological developments. Technology has simply made oral communication more accessible and readily available for students. The question is, is this enough?

The settlers have landed and now look to explore the lands.

Let’s continue our exploration with David Merrill’s, First Principles of Instruction.

Merrill’s four phases: “… (a) activation of prior experience, (b) demonstration of skills, (c) application of skills, and (d) integration of these skills into real-world activities” closely align with how I have designed my courses2. I was recently hired as a Business Finance Instructor at a local University and I used this approach in designing my courses. I have found that you need to teach, teach again, watch, and then correct to really help students absorb the material. Business Finance is all about problems. We look at puzzles and cases and try to find ways to solve or make sense of the issue. I really like this approach, but I wonder how relevant these four phases can be to all types of teaching. For example, what if I can’t activate prior experience for my students? Can I use a real-world example instead? Does this impact the flow of these four phases in learning, since a real-world activity is the final phase? I’m also very interested in the reflection concept.  “Learners need the opportunity to reflect on, defend, and share what they have learned if it is to become part of their available repertoire”2. Reflecting and processing the information in order to be able to share it with others, seems like an integral step within the process. Is it the sharing that provides the most benefit? Or is the ability to reflect on the content and analyze that content to see what you do and do not understand? Where does Nelson’s emphasis on collaboration fit? With more of a focus on application, versus demonstration2, it seems that the sharing can really happen at any stage. Can it beneficial to learning collaboratively versus solely and then collaborate? Where do students have that “ah ha” moment?

I’m really looking forward to learning more about instructional design and testing out some of these theories and processes within my own teachings.


1Bates, T. (2014, December 10). A Short History of Educational Technology. Retrieved from https://www.tonybates.ca/2014/12/10/a-short-history-of-educational-technology/.

2Merrill, M. D. (2002). First principles of instruction. Educational Technology Research and Development50(3), 43-59.