EDUC 391 - Engineering Education and Online Learning, Spring 2016
Project: Teaching Teachers
During the quarter this project transformed itself from an all encompassing course on teaching teachers about backwards design to a fun game that focused on learning objectives. It was interesting to see that triggering the interest of our users - teachers, instructors, professors - was probably the hardest point in our learning task. Sounds obvious to state that learning will be diminished if there is no motivation to learn, but I found that in this case it is more about Unconscious Incompetence. In other words, many educators do not know about backwards design, thus, how can they even do it. To be fair, as educators, we are not creating courses every day and therefore backwards design is not a daily skill that one must have, but a very important one nonetheless.
With this in mind, the idea of creating a game that would be ‘memorable’ and that could dramatically show the importance of one aspect of backwards design, learning objectives, could have more impact on our learners than a full course on the subject. The game would trigger their interest in the subject matter and hopefully prompt them to dive deeper into the content, in a course such as “our own” O.P.E.N. Creating Effective Online and Blended Courses. As Ambrose describes it, learning depends solely on the student and the teacher only influences what the student does to learn (Ambrose, 2010).
“Learning results from what the student does and thinks and only from what the student does and thinks. The teacher can advance learning only by influencing what the student does to learn.” (Ambrose et al, 2010, p.1)
I was happy with the result in the sense that the game design approach to teaching allowed us to develop an interesting way of communicating a topic that would otherwise be a bit drier and out of context. The main principle I got from this process was the one of motivation. It seems like that in general educators do not give too much attention to learning objectives, and this game attempts to provide meaning to them in a lighthearted manner. This could stick in memory and have them think about using learning objectives in their practice.
The biggest challenge I faced was sequencing the content within the game and balancing the direct instruction portions, the activities, and the overarching narrative. I now see that our initial design did not use the principles that we were ourselves trying to teach. That was made evident in our user testing: our users were a little disoriented in terms of what they were supposed to do and when we transitioned from a game mode to a teaching mode. After the user testing, we moved the learning objective of the game up to the start. That proved to be an enormous guide in adjusting our narrative, sequencing the activities, and providing opportunities for learner to engage with the content.
The biggest challenge that still remains is how might we create even more interactive activities that will demonstrate the importance of learning objectives. It would be interesting to look at the relationship between student’s course evaluation or learning outcomes and how well the learning objectives are written and presented to them. The idea would be to show that there is a direct and positive correlation between courses that the curriculum designers utilized backward design principles and the learning outcomes and course satisfaction/evaluation of the course.
This class and this project gave me several tools that will guide and inform my future designs. I am already using the concept of the Core Loop in several brainstorming and design sessions as well as utilizing the questions in presented in the several lenses (Jesse, 2008). I will also utilize backwards design approaches in all projects as I now see that every UX design involves a degree of learning or onboarding. Having the tools and mindset to see that the one of the main goals of any user experience is for the user to learn how to use it appropriately. Therefore, education is everywhere and we are constantly learning from our interactions with our world.