Prototyping in e-Learning Design

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Overcoming Barriers to Nutrition Education

The SNAP-Ed program is very aware of the logistical barriers that prevent low-income community members from attending a weekly course. Work schedules, childcare, transportation, and balancing a number of other expected and unexpected daily responsibilities makes regular attendance at classes more than challenging. Yet, there is valuable curriculum that has proven to be successful. So the SNAP-Ed program is ready to begin sharing the curriculum online to improve access and flexibility.

The look and feel of the course will be critical to learner engagement, so early in the project I made sure to observe an in-person course. From that experience it was evident learner interaction with peers and the instructor is the heart of the program and would need to factor heavily into the course design.

Rapid Prototyping in Instructional Design

In order to get the look and feel of the course "right," we have been utilizing a "rapid prototyping" approach to instructional design. That means the design, development, and evaluation phases aren't linear. We're starting with a scaled-down representation of the course by working with one hypothetical lesson modeled after the one I observed in person. Before we create any of our own media content, we simply utilize existing videos and images as place holders. Each prototype invites new conversation to get at a deeper understanding of the "right" fit approach.

We started with a mock up in Ning. Ning is a platform that focuses on social interaction, and would afford us the opportunity to have groups of students learn together over a specific amount of time.


This iteration of the model allowed us to continue the conversation about how learners would move through the content, and we determined that "grouping" was not necessary and might put up barriers and/or create logistical concerns that are unnecessary. This ah-ha moment opened the door to try Google Sites (with FlipGrid for interaction) and Blogger (using comments for interaction) as potential platforms.

Google Sites



Blogger


The process of prototyping opens up the "black box" we each have in our minds, making coming to a shared vision much easier, preventing major back-tracking later in the project. We hope to bring one or more of our prototypes to a couple of focus group audiences later this spring to increase the likelihood of success even more by letting potential audiences in on the development process.

Are there any projects or growth opportunities for your program you've been thinking about that could benefit from a rapid prototyping approach to e-learning design?

Bonus

During the University's Learning Management System (LMS) evaluation, we also had the opportunity to play with the Moodle Rooms "Snap" theme.


4 comments:

  1. Alison, thanks for this post! Do you have a favorite, go-to tool that you recommend for asynchronous online commenting on prototypes?

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    1. Oh, good question Ann! In this case we discussed them in person. I wonder about using something like Qualtrics with images embedded, but then it would just be 1-way feedback gathering. A Google+ or similar community post might facilitate conversation. Do you have other thoughts?

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  2. Great article - I appreciate you demonstrating the current ways we can teach in distance learning environments - and - how we can translate F2F into an interactive, engaging online experience.

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