Session Two: March 13-19, Design – Content, Student and Instructor Characteristics


1. Scenarios

To address these scenarios, identify the major characteristics or issues that would impact or influence the design of the described online class. Be sure to indicate which of the characteristics you identify would be your prime concern. Also be sure to indicate how each of the major issues you identify would influence your design of the online class.

You have been asked to lead the team that is developing a series of courses for an online University. Explain some design decisions or issues that you would have to deal with for each class given the characteristics of the content, instructors and students as presented. Note: Pick the most salient characteristics and issues and explain why the ones you have chosen are key. Don’t try to cover every possible issue in each scenario!

Course A

Content: This course will cover beginning college algebra.


Instructor(s): This course is taught by various adjunct and full time professors who are very familiar with the content who have differing degrees of tech skills and online teaching experience. The same class has to serve for all instructors.


Students: All students in this course are college freshman and sophomores with good technology skills and each has successfully taken an online orientation to online learning course.


Dr. Newberry’s podcast describes math as a convergent subject meaning the subject lends itself to one correct response.  This would simplify instructional design since problem-solving could be modeled given that students would be expected to follow the same solving steps.

Issues 1-2 are the primary concerns.

Issue 1) The first issue has to do with having a mix of part and full time faculty teaching:  first, while they all may be experts in content, they might not have the same level of experience with course or program requirements and objectives.  For this reason, a robust explicit link between “learning objectives and organizational goals” (Horton, 12) would be beneficial.

Issue 2)  The second issue has to do with technical skills and online teaching experience.  If full time faculty develop a complete course shell for every online course and provide it for each instructor teaching a section, the experience and work needed to create a shell from scratch is eliminated. As you choose media(61), consider technical skills needed and value of that media meets learning activity.  Stick standard CMS features for basic shell and allow individual teachers to personalize their own shells with added Web 2.0/3.0 features depending on experience.


No issues here- “analyze learners’ needs and abilities” (13). 


Course B

Content: The course is a philosophy of leadership class.


Instructor(s): The instructor is an experienced face-to-face instructor with good tech skills and prior online teaching experience. This instructor prefers lecture and discussion classes.


Students: Graduate students who are well motivated and with a broad range of technology skills, from average to very advanced.

The fact that this is divergent content makes it a primary concern.

Issue:  This is obviously an example of divergent content and therefore does not have one clear correct response or path to deduction.  Picking objectives for types of information (23) and setting the criteria for success (25) will be key.

Issue:  Sounds like this teacher needs to “choose how to meet objectives”(36-42) because it sounds like they may have a preference for facet-to-face and they need to consider what learning situation will best meet the course objectives.  It’s quite possible that through media choices (61-63), they might find that they are able to create lecture and discussion in an online format.

Issue:  In analyzing learners’ needs and abilities (13), the benefit is that these students are graduate level so they have a proven college success and should have competent writing and critical thinking skills to handle online classes; however, the drawback is their varied technical skills.  “Testing to identify essentials” (14) about those technical skills would prove useful. 

Course C

Content: This course is an introduction to college success. It teaches study skills, communication skills, and tries to help students learn how to fit into the college community.


Instructor(s): This course will be taught by various instructors all with good tech skills and prior online teaching experience but who have never taught this content before.


Students: Students are incoming freshman who have been identified by advisors as high risk for drop out.



1) This course content will lend itself to a mix of convergent and divergent.  The instructor will need to set learning objectives and set a criteria for success (16-25).

2) The content in these type course is often drastically different depending on sections, so faculty will want to focus on teaching “essential objectives” (31).

Issue:  The most important issue is for the faculty to “identify what to teach” (14).  It seems odd that this comes up under instructional design because at an Accredited Institution, course approval happens at least a year before a course ever gets offered.  The same is true for setting learning objectives (16).  The role of instructional designer really comes in at the point of “picking the approach to meet each objective” (35).

The primary concern is the at-risk student population.

Issue: These would be my students : )  Analyzing learners’ needs and abilities (13) will show that risk factors may vary drastically, so this will likely be a mixed abilities class.  Selecting learning activities (51) will play an important role since students do have high drop risk. 

2. Now, think about an online learning experience that you might someday create. Describe in detail the content, instructor and student characteristics. What are the design issues or features that these suggest? Explain your answers.

Course:  ESL 71 Academic English II.

Content:  Course is pre-collegiate basic skills level. Emphasis is on practice in college-level reading, critical thinking, expository essay writing, and research skills.

Instructor:  Instructor is full time and very experienced with content and in teaching this class in a traditional class; however, teacher has never taught online although is very familiar with CMS and has fair technical skills.

Student:  This is the third (and most advanced) in a series of three Reading and Writing courses to help non-native English students develop and improve academic reading and writing skills.  Students will have varied technical abilities and most will not have taken an online course before.

Issue:  This is divergent content.  Although think alouds can be done to model reading and critical thinking and modeling of student essays can be shown, the reality is that there are multiple ways to reach a variety of acceptable responses.  Ultimately, students must be given tools to choose from and they must learn how to utilize those reading thinking, and writing tools.

Issue:  As a new online instructor, teacher will need to focus on “picking the approach to meet each objective” (35) and media choices (61-63).

The primary issue is that these are basic skills level students with limited English proficiency and no previous online experience.

Issue:  Need to “analyze learners’ needs and abilities” (13). 

 3. List the 11 instructional design steps presented in chapter 1 of the text (Design Quickly and Reliably).

1.     Identify your underlying goals

2.     Analyze learners’ needs and abilities

3.     Identify what to teach

4.     Set learning objectives

5.     Identify prerequisites

6.     Pick the approach to meet each objective

7.     Decide the teaching sequence of your objective

8.     Create objects to accomplish objectives

9.     Create tests

10. Select learning activities

11. Choose Media

12. *  Then redesign again and again


8 thoughts on “Session Two: March 13-19, Design – Content, Student and Instructor Characteristics

  1. Hi Christen,
    Nice meeting you again! Hope you enjoyed your break. I like the way you have compared your issues using the table. You covered the most important ones which need to be addressed while designing the course.
    I have a question, you mentioned the high risk for drop out students “would be my students,” which learning activities would work for such a case or you have used before?



    • Hi Carolyn, Good to see you again; I always love reading your well thought-out and cited posts!

      Yes, high risk students are my students. I don’t think there is any magic formula but here are a few strategies that I have found to be helpful:
      1) Get to know students on a personal level and find out what there goals and obstacles are.
      2) Immediately, get students connected in with the right combination of student services to help them overcome their obstacles (tutoring center, DSPS, access to labs, instructor office hours, financial aid, counseling, etc.). Stay on them weekly to keep checking in to see if they are utilizing services.
      3) Try to relate feedback to students goals to try and keep them focused on their end goal for being in school.
      4) Ask students to meet weekly with me to ask questions and get feedback on progress of assignments, etc. This commitment of meeting even 10 minutes a week has made the biggest impact on helping keep students on track. I also encourage them to do this with all of their teachers.
      5) If a student is absent for a whole week, email and or call to see what’s going on and try to get them back on track.
      6) Likely more important than the student-instructor interaction is the student-student connection. I create student success groups of 4-5 members on BB. Students meet f2f but they have BB as a place to interact and share work. I keep students in these groups for in-class work too. I encourage students to exchange phone numbers and social media. If students are connected and see school as a social opportunity, they are more likely to attend class. If a student seems isolated in class, I work hard to help them connect with at least one classmate.

      Like I said, no real magic, but these are some things that I think help with retention.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. lgersitz

    Another model post! Your table format was easy to read and your comments were well expressed and documented. I like the fact that you always relate the assignments to your students. They are lucky to have such a caring instructor.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s