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AI, ChatGPT, instructional design, and prompt crafting

David Wiley wrote a thoughtful post on the ways in which AI and Large Language Models (LLMs) can “provide instructional designers with first drafts of some of the work they do.” He says “imagine you’re an instructional designer who’s been paired with a faculty member to create a course in microeconomics. These tools might help you quickly create first drafts of” learning outcomes, discussion prompts, rubrics, and formative assessment items.  The point is that LLMs can quickly generate rough drafts that are mostly accurate drafts, that humans can then “review, augment, and polish,” potentially shifting the work of instructional designers from authors to editors. The post is well worth your time.

The question that I’d like to spend some time thinking about is the following: What new knowledge, capacities, and skills do  instructional designers need in their role as editors and users of LLMs?

To focus on a single item here, much has been written about prompt engineering or crafting, which is the way in which user text is entered to guide LLMs like ChatGPT to generate desired responses. For example, a certain level of specificity and nuance is necessary to guide the model towards particular values and ideals, and users should not assume that their values are aligned with the first response they might receive from a prompt. Below is an example to illustrate how assessment items vary, as the desired assessment changes from good, to efficient, to equitable. My prompt is in bold and ChatGPT output follows.


assume that a learning outcome of a course is “understand opportunity cost.” What is a good assessment item for this learning outcome?

A good assessment item for the learning outcome of “understand opportunity cost” would be a case study or scenario-based question that requires the student to analyze and apply their understanding of opportunity cost to make a decision.

For example:

Scenario: A small business owner is trying to decide whether to invest in new equipment or to expand the business by opening a second location. The owner has $100,000 to spend and estimates that the equipment will cost $50,000 and the second location will cost $80,000.

Question: What is the opportunity cost for the business owner in each case and which option would you recommend and why?

This question requires the student to understand the concept of opportunity cost, which is the cost of the next best alternative, in order to make an informed decision about which option would be the best investment for the business. It also allows the student to demonstrate their understanding of the concept by applying it to a real-world scenario.

assume that a learning outcome of a course is “understand opportunity cost.” What is an efficient assessment item for this learning outcome?

An efficient assessment item for the learning outcome of “understand opportunity cost” would be a multiple-choice question that allows the student to quickly and easily demonstrate their understanding of the concept.

For example:

Question: Which of the following is the correct definition of opportunity cost? A) The cost of a good or service B) The cost of the next best alternative C) The total cost of production D) The profit made from a good or service

The correct answer is B) The cost of the next best alternative. This multiple-choice question is efficient as it allows students to quickly demonstrate their understanding of the concept, and it is easy to grade, as there is only one correct answer. This multiple-choice question could be used as a formative assessment to check student’s understanding, and it could be also used as a summative assessment to evaluate their final understanding of the course’s outcome.

assume that a learning outcome of a course is “understand opportunity cost.” What is an equitable assessment item for this learning outcome?

An equitable assessment item for the learning outcome of “understand opportunity cost” would be a problem-solving or open-ended question that allows students to demonstrate their understanding of the concept in a way that is not limited by their background or language abilities.

For example:

Question: Suppose you have $1000 to spend and you want to buy a new computer and a new phone. A computer costs $800 and a phone costs $200. Provide a written explanation of how you would make your choice and what the opportunity cost of your choice is.

This open-ended question allows students to demonstrate their understanding of opportunity cost in their own words and allows them to apply their understanding to a real-world scenario. It also allows for different students to approach the problem differently and does not rely on language or background knowledge. It also allows for the teacher to evaluate student’s understanding of the concept in a more holistic way, and not just based on a single correct answer.

This type of assessment is equitable because it allows all students to demonstrate their understanding of the concept and does not disadvantage students who may struggle with multiple-choice questions or who may have a different background or language abilities.

NIDL’s Top 10 Good Reads from 2022

For the past seven years the good folks from the National Institute of Digital Learning have been selecting 10 open access journal articles to share as their “good reads” of the year. It’s quite a feat to find, read, and reflect on more than 100 articles to come up with any list, let alone a list that goes beyond typical metrics like citation counts, and takes into account issues like diversity and representation. I am grateful to see one of our papers on the list, but I am more excited to see a few paper that I haven’t read yet! I am listing the papers below, but please read the original post as our colleagues’ reflection on the process is part of what makes this project great!

Fawns, T. (2022). An entangled pedagogy: Looking beyond the pedagogy—technology dichotomy. Postdigital Science and Education,

Johnson, N., Seaman, J., & Poulin, R. (2022). Defining different modes of learning: Resolving confusion and contention through consensus. Online Learning Journal, 26(3), 91-110. DOI:

Passey, D. (2022). Theories, theoretical and conceptual frameworks, models and constructs: Limiting research outcomes through misconceptions and misunderstanding. Studies in Technology Enhanced Learning, 1(1), 95-114. 10.21428/8c225f6e.56810a1a

Atenas, J., Beetham, H., Bell, F., Cronin, C., Vu Henry, J., & Walji, S. (2022). Feminisms, technologies and learning: Continuities and contestations. Learning, Media and Technology, 47(1), 1-10, DOI: 10.1080/17439884.2022.2041830

Downes, S. (2022). Connectivism. Asian Journal of Distance Education, 17(1), 58-87.

Saçak, B., Bozkurt, A., & Wagner, E. (2022). Learning design versus instructional design: A bibliometric study through data visualization approaches. Education Sciences, 12, 752, 1-14.

Houlden, S., & Veletsianos, G. (2022). Impossible dreaming: On speculative education fiction and hopeful learning futures. Postdigital Science and Education.

Holmes, W., & Tuomi, I. (2022). State of the art and practice in AI in education, European Journal of Education, 57(4),542–570.

Celik, I., Dindar, M., Muukkonen, H., & Järvelä, S. (2022). The promises and challenges of artificial intelligence for teachers: A systematic review of research. TechTrends, 66, 616–630.

Tlili, A., et al. (2022). Is Metaverse in education a blessing or a curse: a combined content and bibliometric analysis. Smart Learning Environments, 9(24),

Speculative fiction articles in Post-digital science and education

Post-digital science and education has recently been publishing short education fiction focused on education futures. There’s a wide diversity of articles there, with plenty of topics to explore, and lots of food for thought. The collection includes an article from my colleague Shandell Houlden, focused on coming together and finding community.

And together, the human listeners and the flesh-tech wanderers, these were the people who became the teachers, after the collapse. And with prayers in their hearts, they went out together into the storms, so that we could all find each other and listen and sing together again.

Thoughts: Canadian Campus Wellbeing Survey

Deploying the same survey at multiple institutions takes a lot of time and effort. It was therefore very valuable to see the resources that the folks at the Canadian Campus Wellbeing Survey share to support participation in their survey (source).

Thoughts on: Teachers’ Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic

A new study in Educational Researcher examines US Teachers’ Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Using a large national data set, the current study compares mental health outcomes during the pandemic between pre-K–12 teachers and professionals in other occupations. Further, we compare the prevalence of mental health outcomes between in-person and remote teachers (N = 134,693). Findings indicate that teachers reported a greater prevalence of anxiety symptoms than did those in other professions and that remote teachers reported significantly higher levels of distress than did those teaching in person

A few thoughts

  • It’s great to see more data in this area, on a topic that is of nterest and importance to many
  • The data source is interesting: a daily survey of a random sample of Facebook users.
  • The data were  repurposed to study the topic, which is a wonderful example of how large-scale surveys can fulfill multiple needs, but points to salient issues around definitions that may muddy our understanding of the results. e.g.,  “The distinction between in-person and remote modality is made by using each respondent’s answer to the survey question of whether they had worked outside their home during that same period”
  • This is an important finding to delve more into: “relative to teachers, healthcare workers (odds ratio [OR] = 0.70, d = −0.20)…were significantly less likely to report anxiety symptoms..[and] less likely to report depression symptoms (OR = 0.95, d = −0.03) and feelings of isolation (OR = 0.96, d = −0.02), although we note that the effect sizes may be considered “small.” “
  • Always worth emphasizing: “Notably, the cross-sectional nature of the data precludes any comparison of baseline measures of pre-pandemic mental health outcomes to current measures”
  • The study does not state or suggest a causal relationship between remote education and teacher mental health, but this is the kind of study that those who believe that such a relationship exists may refer to make that claim. TBD.


New paper: a longitudinal analysis of faculty perceptions of online education and technology use from 2013 to 2019

Research on faculty use of technology and online education tends to be cross-sectional, focusing on a snapshot in time. Through a secondary analysis of the annual Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology conducted by Inside Higher Ed each year from 2013 through 2019, my colleagues* and I investigated changes in faculty attitudes toward technology and online education over time.

Specifically, the study examined and synthesized the findings from surveys related to attitudes toward online education, faculty experiences with online learning, institutional support of faculty in online learning, and faculty use of technology. Results showed a low magnitude of change over time in some areas (e.g., proportion of faculty integrating active learning strategies when converting an in-person course to a hybrid/blended course) and a large magnitude of change in other areas (e.g., proportion of faculty who believe that online courses can achieve the same learning outcomes as in-person courses). These results reveal that, prior to the widespread shift to remote and online learning that occurred in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, faculty perceptions of technology and online learning were static in some areas and dynamic in others. This research contextualizes perceptions towards online learning prior to the pandemic and highlights a need for longitudinal studies on faculty attitudes toward technology use going forward to identify factors influencing change and sources of ongoing tension.

Johnson, N., Veletsianos, G., Reitzik, O., & VanLeeuwen, C. (2022). Faculty Perceptions of Online Education and Technology Use Over Time: A Secondary Analysis of the Annual Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology from 2013 to 2019. Online Learning, 26(3).

*Research assistants, post docs, and students working within our research labs/groups/teams are colleagues, and I wish we would all normalize this language.

CFP: Women and Leadership in Distance Education in Canada

Call for chapter proposals: Women and Leadership in Distance Education in Canada

Edited by Cindy Ives, Pamela Walsh, and Rebecca E. Heiser (Athabasca University)


This book invites chapter contributions from women who are or have been educators in Canadian universities and who have served as leaders (at any level) in distance or online education. Leadership roles may be formal or informal, independent of positional authority, and emerge from the experiences of students, administrators, instructors, and other professionals (e.g., learning designers, educational developers). As leaders in distance education ourselves, we are committed to a deep and broad representation of leadership experiences of Canadian women faculty, students, professionals, and administrators whose stories and research may inform more balanced leadership practices in higher education.

  • In Canada and globally, participation in higher education has steadily increased in recent decades. World-wide enrolment in online learning has also increased, especially in response to the global pandemic. Women students continue to take advantage of the affordances of distance and online
  • While women have played significant roles as leaders in the advancement and development of distance education around the world, they have historically been underrepresented in formal academic and administrative leadership
  • Canadian universities have been among the earliest providers and leaders of distance education and online

Objective and Purpose

This book aims to incorporate narrative accounts of perspectives and insights of women relevant to their experiences with leadership in distance education in Canadian universities. Contributions that include documentation of women’s work, research reports, personal experiences and reflective accounts, or case studies of particular leadership contexts are welcome. Authors will offer their practical recommendations for current and future leaders in the field of distance education.

Areas of Focus

Chapter topics could include (but are not limited to):

  • Executive leadership for distance education and online learning in the 21st century
  • Enabling and supporting student leadership
  • Leadership development in graduate programs
  • Enabling and supporting instructor leadership
  • Supporting leadership of professional staff
  • Leadership development through reflective practice
  • Leadership challenges and opportunities for women
  • Leadership support for women and research in distance education
  • Social mobility of women in distance education as a pathway to professional recognition and promotion

Target Audience

The target audience of this openly published book is expected to be global, including academics, executive and department leaders, managers, and others in influential positions such as students, instructional designers, educational developers, student support specialists, and emerging scholars in distance and higher education. Readers will learn from the personal and professional experiences and research findings elaborated in the book’s chapters.

Submission Procedure and Guidelines

The editors are exploring opportunities with open publishers in summer 2022. We invite submissions in multiple formats from a variety of perspectives. Chapters can be theory or practice-based, reflective, conceptual, or other, and can be authored by one or more women.

Interested authors who are or have been leaders, practitioners, students or scholars in distance education should email a chapter proposal (approximately 500 words) for review by the editorial team, c/o Dr. Cindy Ives ( before October 1, 2022.

The proposal must include a 250-word abstract that:

  • Describes the context of the experience or research being described
  • Provides an overview of the proposed chapter, highlighting how it relates to the themes and purpose of the

An accompanying 250-word author biography should include relevant publications and a few author details that situate the distance education context.

Full chapter drafts are not necessary in the first stage of the submission process. After the proposal review process, authors will be invited by October 31, 2022, to contribute full chapter manuscripts of up to 5000 words, with a planned submission deadline of January 10, 2023. Full manuscripts will be subject to a blinded peer review process to evaluate them for inclusion in the volume. Manuscript details will be provided to those whose proposals are accepted.

Tentative Schedule for Publication

Proposal and Abstract Submission: October 1, 2022

Notification of Invite to Submit Chapter: October 31, 2022

Submission of Book Chapter: January 10, 2023

Peer Review Evaluation Sent from Editors to Authors: January 31, 2023

Author Revisions due February 28, 2023

Final editing: March 31, 2023

Final Book Submitted to Publisher: April 1, 2023

Anticipated Publication: This will depend on the publisher’s schedule – to be determined

Inquiries can be forwarded to

Dr. Cindy Ives,

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