By Morgan McAfee
Designing effective learning experiences is a passion of mine. I will always be a student at heart and I am constantly considering how learning experiences can be improved. One thing that really stuck with me from my instructional design coursework is to always begin with the end in mind. This focus on backward design ensures every piece of the instructional content is clearly tied to a meaningful course objective and, subsequently, decomposed into module and/or lesson level objectives.
Homing in on what we want learners to accomplish with each piece of course content keeps the design effort focused. I find this approach to be effective in both my efforts as an instructional designer consulting on learning experiences, as well as in my own work as graduate-level faculty.
Another important approach underlying my design process is regular, clear, and detailed communication. Whether working as a designer or as a SME, communication is paramount. Ensuring all stakeholders are level set with one another, and with the overall expectations at each step of the process, is something that cannot be overlooked. In this virtual-first world, communication becomes even more important because underlying messages through inflection, body language, and the like are not as evident as they would be in-person. Therefore, including more detail than one might assume is needed is another important activity throughout my design process. I like to follow up each of my meetings with detailed notes, clearly outlined action items and assignees, and any decisions resulting from the meeting so if something in the design is questioned in the future, there is a clear reference to why the decision was made.
I also think it’s worth mentioning that there will always be mistakes – and that’s okay! Although I tend to be a perfectionist, the iterative learning design process inherently over-familiarizes our eyes with the material and minor things can easily be overlooked. Having a neutral, unfamiliar third party review the material before publication is invaluable and the time for doing so should certainly be taken into consideration at the outset while planning the learning design project.
Among her many talents and projects, Morgan McAfee is an instructional designer for The Babb Group.
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