Education is sometimes so complex, the learner gets lost in the shuffle. Budgets, politics, limited resources, administrative tasks (i.e. the activities an instructor needs to do, but don’t directly impact the learner), etc.
End result: the urgent overshadows the important. It’s necessary, therefore, that the reality of teaching is a focus during the design process. Understanding that numerous priorities compete for teacher/learner time, learner-focus needs to be “built-in” to courses, rather than expecting it will magically happen as a result of skilled facilitating (online or classroom).
Some traits of designing a learner-centered online course:
- Has the learner been profiled? Who? Why are they taking the course? What is their access to technology? Their technology skill base?
- Does the course contain variety (in terms of activities, presentation). Variety addresses various intelligences, learning styles, and brain-based learning principles.
- Are both formative and summative evaluations used?
- Is the course easy to navigate?
- Has the course been piloted throughout the development process?…and has feedback been incorporated?
- Is student motivation addressed? For example: using the ARCS model (Attention, relevance, confidence, satisfaction)
- Do learners have choice? (activities, technology tools)
- Are help resources clearly detailed (both technical and instructive)
- Is the environment for discussions non-threatening, collaborative, and facilitated by the instructor? When designing, too many discussions can be difficult for instructors to manage…
- Is interaction planned on various levels – course, learner, instructor, interface
- Does the course move from global overview, to small steps to achieve the global (scaffolding).
- Does the course design allow for instructors to personalize interaction with each learner? This needs to be built-in to the course…and allow instructors opportunities to practice appropriate interventions – capitalize on strengths, compensate for weaknesses, and correct misconceptions.
This short list doesn’t address all potential considerations…but it is important to make learner-centeredness part of the design process. The instruction process is often too pressured to inject a learner-centered focus that has not already been intrinsically designed into the course.