Design and Development

These two projects showcase my ability to demonstrate desired performance outcomes and to generate an instructional product in different delivery formats with other specialists.

Performance Perspectives on Public Speaking

EDIT 6170e - Introduction to Instructional Systems Design, Fall 2021, Dr. Stefaniak

A print-based program that provides all the necessary materials to guide a facilitator through the two-hour training session focused on developing public speaking and speech-writing skills in the learners. This program was created for the Intro to ID course and followed the a major chunk of the design process from analysis and research to designing evaluations for the success of the program.

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The Development Process

The goal of this project was to design a print-based, in-person training program that could be packaged and given to any facilitator to run effectively. This meant that the format of the final product was established early on, but significant design influenced the content of the guides and workshop materials. An analysis of the potential learners and the intended learning context was conducted first. This helped me to narrow in on the specific audience and the problem that needs to be addressed. Knowing that I wanted to help learners become more effective at writing speeches, I next conducted a task analysis of the speechwriting and delivery process. The analysis forced me to approach the task in a very granular way and illuminated some very specific steps that were likely to be difficult for my learners. This gave specific direction to the content that should be included in the program. Then, I completed a design document to detail the specific outcomes and learning objectives for the training session. By establishing clear learning objectives before beginning the design process, I was able to create all the learner assessments and evaluation tools to ensure that they aligned directly with the intended outcomes. Knowing what the students should learn during the training and how they would be evaluated afterward made it very clear what content should be included. This directed me toward a “2 session” approach where the entire program is split into two segments focusing on specific objectives and content areas.

I frequently proctor the SAT and ACT at local schools, so I have experience with the kinds of "breadcrumbs" and visual cues that help a facilitator run a session they may not necessarily understand or have full knowledge of. With that in mind, I created the entire slide deck and all of the content first, then made the participant guide and activities to reference the slides. The final step was to create the facilitator guide so that I could provide visual cues, page and slide numbers, and images from the other resources in the facilitator's guide. This ensured a final product that was able to self-reference accurately for all users.

Designing and Organizing Interventions

The complete "Design Document" and "Planning Instructional Activities" document, both available below, detail my learner and contextual analyses that were used as a starting point to design the instructional interventions. As discussed in those documents, I chose to structure each of the two sessions around Gagne's Nine Events of Instruction, though rather loosely. I felt that this provided a very straightforward, if somewhat predictable, lesson format that would comfortable for any typical learner or facilitator. The two-hour time limit required strategic planning of the duration for each instructional event, which the "Planning Instructional Activities" document details. Once the instructional events were outlined and planned, I began developing the materials. The "Design Document" contains low-fidelity versions of these activities and assessments which are fully rendered in the final print deliverables.

Don't Re-invent the Wheel

Creating two hours of instructional content from scratch is certainly possible, but isn't always a necessity. Especially when working in a subject area that is not one's "strong suit", seeking out resources created by experts like SMEs and professional organizations can help an instructional designer ensure quality of the final product while also saving development time. I am very confident in my public speaking and communication skills, but I do not have a professional or academic background in linguistics or communication. I wanted to ensure that the instruction aligned with the best practices of the discipline, so I turned to the literature to find resources that I could rely on. Content from the session 1 section on "organization" comes entirely from the field of communication, especially the common organizational structures for informative and persuasive speaking. I noticed that research into teaching public speaking skills to learners frequently encourages observation of expert models. It was important for me to design this product around best practices, so I needed to find a way to include examples. This is how I found the Toastmasters International organization. While the speeches showcased focus more on motivational/entertaining speaking, they still serve as excellent models for the use of vocal inflection and body language. This was a great resource to repurpose for my lesson.

Consistent Design

Appropriate and informed design of the lesson content is critical, but I also wanted the final product to look professional and polished. This meant establishing specifications and design elements for all of the deliverables: the slide deck, the participant guide, and the facilitator guide. I started by looking to corporate brand guides to find inspiration regarding color schemes and font pairings. I was drawn to the clean look of Lufthansa Airline's brand guidelines. To save on development time, I found a free template for PowerPoint slides that I used for the slide deck and then modified to fit the portrait aspect ratio of the print guides. Both guides were created from that same modified template, where I selected a handful of layouts that were most suitable to the needs of the guide: title page, section page, large heading page, and small heading page. By setting text box sizes and typography settings at the master-level of the template, I was able to ensure that content throughout each guide and across all deliverables would be visually consistent.

Creating Assessments

The "Planning Instructional Activities" document shows how careful attention was given to ensure that the selected learning objectives were well-crafted and directly map to assessments that can measure student progress toward that objective. Each learning objective was written to ensure that it was not only a measurable one, but would be measurable in the context of this specific training situation. Two hours of training time is substantial, but is not enough to have learners effectively write, practice, and deliver a speech of real quality. Further, the program can not rely on the instructor being a public speaking expert who has the knowledge and skills to assess individual performances and all the nuance that comes with public speaking. These limitations significantly impacted the design of the learning outcomes and the evaluative instruments. Assessments focus on checking a student's retention and recall of basic declarative knowledge, their ability to explain procedural tasks, and providing opportunities for the student to engage in written reflection of their learning.

Lessons Learned

First and foremost, I learned just how powerful PowerPoint can be as a rapid-prototype and visual editing tool. This was also a good experience to show that it's not always necessary, or even appropriate, to jump straight to a "professional" software solution. I'm familiar with Adobe InDesign, but PowerPoint offered just the right amount of control and had exactly the solutions needed for this project without resorting to more cumbersome software options. I also learned to rethink how the design process should be started. Even once the planning was finished and I was ready to begin actual development of the deliverables, I was drawn to start with the facilitator guide first and then create the other resources next. I kept running into issues with that sequence so I took a step back and approached the entire project from the perspective of the user, thinking about what they are going to focus on and experience. I realized the most important part of the program was the instructional content itself (the slide deck and activities), not the guide that the facilitator was using. While I wanted to be sure my final product served the facilitator too, I realized I was prioritizing the facilitator's experience over the learner's and needed to shift my focus toward creating an excellent learning experience first. Only with that in place could I create the guide to best support the facilitator through their job.

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Music History eLearning Lesson

EDIT 6190e - Design Thinking and Development Tools, Fall 2021, Dr. Choi

A 30-minute Storyline 360 lesson about Romanticism in music history, designed for use as a “sub plan” for high school music educators. This module was created using Articulate Storyline to result in a fully-digital, entirely online product that makes heavy use of message design and multimedia design principles to present content and assess the learner.

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Design Thinking

A focus for the course is to introduce and expose instructional designers to the design thinking process that is more common in product design circles. We were challenged to apply and engage in human-centered design and design thinking paradigms for the duration of this project.

I started with the empathize and define stages. I chose to tackle a problem that many public school teachers face: the issue of leaving "sub plans" behind when they have to be absent. To define the problem very specifically, I chose to focus on creating a solution for music teachers. Music teachers, especially at middle and high school levels, have very large class sizes and it can be difficult to find work for those students to do that is meaningful, productive, and relevant when the teacher has to be absent. I planned to create an eLearning module that a teacher could plan to use in their absence to guide the students through music content, but which doesn't require the input of an instructor. These first stages were easy to approach because this is a problem I have seen and experienced myself as a former high school band director.

Next comes ideation. I brainstormed some possible solutions to this problem, and came up with a number of potential options or avenues. You can see these early sketches in the documents below. Music history time periods were an obvious choice that I did ultimately choose to pursue, but there were also options for composer biographies and profiles, and lessons on common musical forms and structures. I ultimately chose to focus on music history time periods because I felt that the content would be most conducive to the asynchronous format, would be manageable to develop, and as a final product could be serialized easily with other music history eras (like the Baroque, Classical, 20th Century) to create a "package" to offer to teachers.

Prototyping is the next stage, where I used worked to transform my sketches into static frames in Storyline, and then planned the basic user flow and micro-interactions. Once I was satisfied with the static layouts and the user flow, I began to fully develop the project into an interactive and functional module. This constituted the bulk of the work as I had to learn about using Storyline's layers, interactions and animation programming, variable tracking, and more. User testing was the "final" linear stage of the design thinking process where I had some test users experience the completed module to provide feedback on animation, navigations, interaction, pacing, and more. This user testing helped me to further refine my design to improve the user experience of the final product.

Designing for the Digital Format

I created a lesson plan, viewable in the documents below, to outline the general user flow through the module. I loosely based this lesson on Gagne's Nine Events of Instruction because I liked the linear, self-contained approach of the framework and felt that it would serve as an excellent skeleton for an eLearning module. My intent was that this lesson should take a user 30-45 minutes to complete if they take their time with the listening examples and read the text for understanding. This did present some challenges because the amount of content was significant, especially for a digital product. Mayer's 12 Principles of Multimedia Learning provided excellent guidance for the design of the content. Taking a cognitivist approach, I worked to ensure that each slide presented manageable chunks of information at a time. I also wanted the user to have control of the pacing of information to prevent them from being overloaded. You can see examples of this throughout the module where the user can have smaller cards of content slide on and off screen to read, and where the user can select different chunks of information to read more about, before advancing to subsequent topics and activities. I even went to the trouble to create and program multimedia controls for the audio examples so that learners could play and pause the examples as needed. The redundancy principle informed the writing of the recorded dialogue to provide instructions and guidance rather than re-reading content on screen.

Establishing a Design Language

Articulate Storyline can be used quickly, and carelessly, to produce a final product that looks little more than a PowerPoint with a navigation bar on the side. It was my goal from the beginning to create a final product that justified the use of the tool in the first place. This meant I had to start from the ground up to create a design language that would give the resulting module a consistent look and feel, and which would take full advantage of the Storyline functionality. I first worked to establish the basics. Font pairings and sizes, theme colors and accents, background images, and basic UI elements first. In my ideation phase, I had planned to make use of a technique that is common in web design: card-based interactions. This layered look provides a sense of visual hierarchy to the final screen, allows for users to control the flow of information, and helps to segment material into manageable chunks. In creating my design language for the final product, I had to determine how cards would look, how text and UI elements would be presented on the cards, and how they would animate on and off screen. This was a process that was ongoing throughout the development and after user testing as I worked to refine the product toward a pleasing, usable, and efficient design.

Aural Skills Assessments

Assessment proved to be tricky for this module. The goal was to have an instructional product that could be left behind when the instructor can't be present in the classroom, so the entire assessment would have to be completed by the module itself. It was also critical to have an assessment so that the instructor could justify their use of the module as a legitimate learning tool. I took inspiration from the types of aural skills tests that music students take in their studies. In our collegiate music history classes we regularly take "listening tests" where an excerpt from a piece will be played and we will be required to either name the composer, or the title, or the time period, or otherwise pick out and explain some detail that we noticed only by listening to it. This is a higher-level assessment than just recalling the dates of a time period or listing the names of composers who were active at the time. It's a higher DOK task that requires the learner to apply their knowledge of the period's characteristics and identify them in a new context. I specifically chose to use three questions: one about piano sonatas, one about symphonies, and one about opera. This allowed me to span some of the most popular genres of music from the time period which were specifically mentioned in the module. I was restricted to using recordings that were in the public domain, so I spent a lot of time finding example pieces that would very clearly highlight the characteristics discussed in the lesson. The UI design of the assessment was also very particularly created, so as to make it clear which example a learner is listening to, giving them the ability to listen to them in any order, allowing the learner to control playback, and to make it obvious which choice they have selected before submitting.

Lessons Learned

Working in Storyline requires the instructional designer to translate their mental images and sketches into a very technical, and very architectural, format. I learned a lot about using layers and triggers to control elements and slides, setting and storing variables to control interactions, and I gained a new appreciation for the amount of detail that is required to create even very simple uesr interfaces and controls. These skills have translated directly into the designs of other projects and tasks, especially into web design areas, where the very logical and structural layout of content matters a great deal.

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