A place to log ideas and thoughts

George Veletsianos, PhD

Category: instructional design

CFP: Attending to Issues of Social Justice through Learning Design

The call for proposals below comes at an opportune time following the Scholar Strike action that occurred on September 8 and 9 both in the US and in Canada.

Journal of Applied Instructional Design Special Issue 2020 
“Attending to Issues of Social Justice through Learning Design” 


We specifically seek contributions from K-12, higher education, and other organizational or workplace contexts (e.g., non-profit organizations, government, corporate) that focus on how learning design can serve as a tool for pushing back against and/or changing systems that often promote or perpetuate injustice and inequality. Such work will likely deviate from more traditional instructional design and performance improvement approaches or improve upon them in some way to address topics that include but are not limited to:

  • Culturally-situated and cross-cultural approaches to instructional design and research
  • Improving performance in the context of workplace inequity
  • Participatory models of learning (e.g., Youth-led Participatory Action Research)
  • Long-term projects that address disparity issues regarding access to technologies and resources (e.g., digital and pedagogical divide)
  • Applications of critical theory in learning design
  • Ethical and responsible (i.e., humanizing) concerns regarding the collection, analysis, and presentation of data and findings

Deadline October 16, 2020. Complete details can be found here:
https://aect.org/news_manager.php?page=21693

In education, what can be made more flexible?

Even though flexibility and flexible learning most usually focus on enabling learners some degree of control and freedom over the location, time, and pace of their online studies (hence the terms “anytime anyplace” learning), flexibility may be applied to a wide range of pedagogical and institutional practices. Here’s some examples:

  • Flexible assessments (e.g., providing learners with “a menu” of assessment options to select from. Dr. Joan Hughes for instance allows students to complete a proportion of pre-determined set of badges in her course. This could also apply to assignment deliverables, wherein some students, for example, may produce essays while others may create videos)
  • Flexible admissions (e.g., providing multiple admission paths. For instance, at Royal Roads University students who do not hold an undergraduate degree may apply for admission under a flexible path that asks them to demonstrate how prior coursework and experience has prepared them for graduate study)
  • Flexible “attendance” (e.g., providing learners to attend class based on their emerging needs. Dr. Valerie Irvine for instance calls this multi-access learning; a situation where a face-to-face classroom is set up in a way that allows learners to choose whether they can attend in f2f or online mode, and to make that decision as needs arise/change).
  • Flexible pacing, not only with respect to activities pertaining to a course, but also with respect to program pacing (e.g., start-end dates).
  • Flexible exit pathways. While flexible admissions refers to an entry pathway, exit pathways refer to how learners choose to finalize their program (e.g., thesis vs. coursework vs. work-integrated learning project options).
  • Flexible coursework options. This is the option where students have some control about the courses they enroll in. Imagining this on a continuum, on the one end students have no option of electives and at the other end students create their own unique interdisciplinary degrees. Typically, students have electives that they select, though that option could be made more flexible through, for example, allowing learners to choose electives from institutions/organizations other than their own.
  • Flexible course duration and flexible course credits. At the typical institution, courses last for X weeks and are worth Y credits (e.g., semester-long and 3-credits, or some variation of the 3-credit system including 1-credit, 6-credits and so on). Flexibility could be applied to this form of structure as well, with course duration and credit dependent on learning needs vis-a-vis a predetermined calendar/schedule. One could imagine for example a 2-credit course, or a 1.5-credit course within a university that typically offers 3-credit courses.

While there’s benefits to flexibility, such as empowering learners through greater agency, I am not arguing for flexibility to embedded in all of these forms. There’s philosophical questions to explore. And practical concerns that need to be overcome: Student information systems for example, might prevent the creation of fractional-credit courses, as I’m certain many of of you know.

What are some other ways that institutions, courses, learning design practices, and education more broadly can be made more flexible?


Open Access Educational Technology books

I want to tell you about a new site that Royce Kimmons is launching: http://edtechbooks.org

This aims to become go-to location for open texts related to educational technology, instructional design, learning design and technology, and related fields. If you’d like to add a book to this collection, bring it to the attention of Royce!

 

AI is coming for your instructional and learning design jobs, apparently

For the most part, the early morning is my favorite time of the day. I like having a cup of coffee or tea, running, reading, writing, and just pretty much doing anything at 6am, than at 10am. This is not a productivity tip. You do what works for you.

What would have worked better for my productivity this morning was to have waited until later in the day to read Donald Clark’s predictions of AI radically transforming instructional design* jobs and replacing instructional designers (“adapt or die” he says). I don’t disagree with everything that he writes. We agree that in a largely interdisciplinary and complex endeavor as online learning designers need to make sense of AI/machine learning/etc, and developers need to make sense of how learning works. We also agree that most of online learning offerings could be amazing, but are often unexciting. And I really like some of his writing, such as his critique of the hole in the wall experiments.

 

That’s not where the problem lies. The problem is within this snippet:

 

AI is here. Few argue that is will change the very nature of employment and therefore it will change what you learn, how you learn and even why you learn. We are, at last, emerging from a 30 year paradigm of media production and multiple choice questions, in largely flat and unintelligent learning experiences, towards smart, intelligent online learning, that behaves more like a good teacher, where you are taught as an individual with a personalised experience, challenged and, rather than endlessly choosing from lists, engage in effortful learning, using dialogue, even voice. As a Learning designer, Interactive designer, project Manager, Producer, whatever, this is the most exciting thing to have happened in the last 30 years of learning. Make the leap!

The talk about AI “behav[ing] more like a good teacher” offering “typical cost reductions of 85-90%” is incompatible with the claims that AI isn’t aiming to replace teachers or designers (a claim that Clark also makes in 2016 here, even though he later notes that the time may not be 2018, but soon). If you develop software to do the job that a designer does, you are, to a degree, working toward substituting people with software. There may very well be good reasons to do that, but don’t call upon designers to “adapt or die.” The message sounds more like this: We have developed software to change the functions of your job and we want you to develop a different skill set. If you don’t, we’ll replace you.

We haven’t yet reached the point where an independent AI decided to take on the job of the instructional designer.

I work with instructional designers, and train them. Are there parts of their job that would be better automated? Yes. But here’s the issue: That sort of work is not really instructional design work. That sort of work rarely involves the conceptualization and design of empowering, equitable, engaging, and rich learning environments. If Clark’s notion of the work that the instructional designer does envisions a person who enters text into pre-determined templates, and does similar work, then we aren’t talking about the same professional

Finally, I agree with Clark that it’s prime time for instructional design to undergo a process of transformation. Not for the reason Clark sees (AI), but because instructional designers are now, more than ever, necessary to support the design and development of rich and equitable learning environments. To do so, they need to be empowered more, not relayed to conduct the work that machines could do more efficiently. The preparation of instructional designers needs re-envisioning to support this goal, and that requires not only an understanding of technical phenomena (similar to what Clark calls for), but also a truly critical engagement with what ID is and what it should do. To that end, I am increasingly turning to feminist practices, which is a topic that probably deserves it’s own post.

Now, I’m going to go back to enjoying my coffee.

* Clark calls it learning design, I call it instructional design. The nomenclature varies between the UK (where he is) and North America (where I am), even if there are more similarities than differences between what learning and instructional designers to. For the purposes of this post, the differences are insignificant.

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