My previous post acknowledged that a number of UK universities that primarily teach in a face-to-face mode develop distance learning as a cottage industry. It is often the case that distance learning is developed in a manner that adheres to traditional teaching models, in which the educator researches the area, develops the curriculum, delivers the learning and performs the assessment. This practice is expensive, inefficient, time consuming for academics who are increasingly time poor and does not always result in the best learning product.
David Sewart (2010) suggested that the development of distance learning should be more akin to an industrialised process. Let’s consider distance learning development as similar to a car going through a manufacturing process. The car chassis is placed on a conveyor that then moves from area to area in order for different components to be added until there is a final product for testing and delivery. Each person who works a particular area is an expert in their area and is consequently quick and good at what they do. The development of distance learning is done effectively in a similar way in many institutions around the world. The educator provides the content for the distance learning course, this is then handed over to a learning design specialist who plans the sequencing and presentation of the content and the communication, assessment and feedback opportunities. Once this is agreed, learning technologists (assuming the course will be delivered online) then implement the technical build of the course until it is ready for developmental testing and, finally, delivery. Quality assurance processes should be built in at every opportunity and ultimately the educator should have the final ‘sign off’ of the course. This way of working has numerous benefits, including:
- the distribution of workloads
- rigorous education that has been peer reviewed
- improved cost efficiency
- ultimately a better final product.
However, this kind of working quite often involves a big shift in thinking, and a big part of this involves educating people about the roles of learning design specialists and learning technologists. An article by Clifford Omodele Fyle et al. from the Sultan Qaboos University in Oman and the University of Leicester, entitled ‘Troubles Times: The role of instructional design in a modern dual-mode university’, published in Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning in January 2012 (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02680513.2012.640784 [accessed 4 May 2012]), goes a long way to explaining the role of learning design and uses case studies with and without learning design to demonstrate the importance of the role in developing distance learning.
I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this article and the role of learning design specialists. What do you perceive to be the benefits to this kind of working? What obstacles do you think might need to be overcome in universities primarily delivering face-to-face learning?