eLearning Defined

Posted by on Oct 3, 2008 in Education | 0 comments

eLearning Defined

The world of education and instructional design is changing.  What we have today is a vast landscape of varying delivery methods, advancing technology and global culture.  As a result, a plethora of online courseware has flooded the market and instructional designers are scurrying to stay up to speed with the influx of demand for web-based curriculum.  In response, many instructional designers have difficulty knowing where to begin, to develop web-based courseware offerings.  The following is an overview of web-based curriculum design created with the instructional designer in mind and describing the people and steps involved in the process of creating successful web-based courses.


Instructional design for web-based courses requires more than just an individual creating a lesson plan.  Instead, a team of people are required to develop and implement a web-based class.  This process generally requires the following individuals:

Instructional Designer and/or the Education Specialist

The instructional designer or education specialist is responsible for the educational aspects of the courseware design.  (This is not the only function of an instructional designer; however, this would be the case in our specified area of web-based courseware development.) They decide whether or not the lessons themselves are educationally sound and whether or not learning will take place in the environment created.  They also ensure if the assessment included will accurately reflect learning, as well as setting up appropriate means of feedback in order to ascertain the success of the web-based program.


The programmer is responsible for the nuts and bolts, as well as the functionality of the course.  The instructional designer relays to the programmer what needs to be accomplished and they make it happen.  It is vital that the programmer and designer communicate with each other, in order to develop a well-rounded, web-based course.

Subject Matter Expert (SME’s)

The SME must also have an open line of communication with the designer.  SME’s are the experts in the subject matter being taught.  Their job is to ensure that the content is correct and to ensure that topics within the course are covered thoroughly.

Graphics Designer

The graphics designer takes care of any visual elements that might be needed to implement the course.  Components such as graphs, tables, images or video may be needed to display integral information and graphics designers create these much needed materials.

Quality Assurance Engineer  (QA’s)

Many times the revision stage of courseware development ends up on the cutting room floor, thus cutting the presence of the quality assurance engineer.  However, QA’s can be worth their weight in gold.  QA engineers ensure that everything within the course content works properly.  Their importance is generally overlooked, due to the fact that they many times work in the background of the development process.


The design phase consists of the following steps: “determining needs, analyzing the audience and establishing goals.”  In other words, the groundwork for the entire class is laid down.  It is vital in this stage to properly identify the goals of the web-based course, in order for the rest of the process to run smoothly.  In addition, distance delivery requires that the course meet the needs of a varied audience, consisting of students and instructors that cover a wide geographic area.  With this in mind the instructional designer must be capable of analyzing what the company or institution needs, (This is many times accomplished by conducting a needs assessment) as well as assimilate this information into an overall solution for everyone involved.  Companies and learning institutions many times choose distance education to minimize implementation costs.   However, due to the technical aspects of designing online and/or distance courses, the design phase generally becomes more expensive than it would be for an on ground face-to-face class, with the savings occurring in the implementation phase.


There is a lot involved in the development phase of the process.  The designer must create an outline of the course, as well as ascertain what materials are going to be used.  In many instances, web-based courses are fashioned after face to face classes that have already been developed.  However, the old materials have to be modified and/or changed completely in order to lend themselves to distance delivery.  In addition, the instructional designer will work closely with other members of the design team in order to develop all of the subject matter necessary to implement the course.


The evaluation stage requires that the instructional designer come back in to “evaluate” whether or not the class has been effective.  In a web-based or distance class, this would require feedback from the students, the instructor or both.  Students and teachers in web-based classes can be surveyed via web pages or via e-mail.  Evaluation can also be accomplished by releasing a beta version of the course prior to the rollout date and prompting necessary feedback in this manner.  This allows a test group to go through and work out problems prior to the actual release of the course, in hopes of minimizing problems.


The revision stage involves making the changes that the instructional designer deems to be necessary as a result of the feedback acquired in the evaluation phase.  This can be very difficult to accomplish for a web-based course, since students and instructors are spread out over a large geographical area.  Revisions require that the design team go back and rework problem areas and the evaluation must be redone in order to ensure that the changes made alleviate the appropriate problems.


As you can see, there is a lot involved for an instructional designer working on the development of a distance or web-based course.  They are responsible for a lot more than just providing a packaged class on a particular subject.  A designer worth their salt must be able to analyze business situations, brainstorm solutions, communicate with a team of specialists, develop necessary materials, and evaluate courses currently in place to suggest appropriate revisions that will improve the overall success of the class.  These tasks require an incredible amount of communication and inference skills.

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