Instructional Design in Online Learning

Week 5

This is my final week in EDLD 5318, Instructional Design in Online Learning.  This course has been about online course design, and has helped me clarify the outcome and learning goals I hope my students will achieve.  I have had to consider how my young learners will process information independently, access resources/tutorials, and understand assessment activities.  Without direct daily contact, I have to predict challenges and design explicit instructions in case my students have questions. I plan to be available in a variety of communication channels including video conferences, email, and at certain scheduled times of the day, text messaging.  I believe the impact we hope to make in our lives depends on how available we plan to be. There are certainly boundaries needed, but if there are a variety of communication channels and times set aside for students to get in contact, students will feel connected and more confident when dealing with challenges that come when taking an online course.  As I reflected on the previous five weeks, here are some of my conclusions about online course development:


There are a variety of instructional design theories that have helped cultivate the development of online courses.  Bates (2015) references the ADDIE model of instructional design, with the five steps being Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate.  This model is flexible in that it could apply not just to online courses but face-to-face instruction as well. It is still more structured however than what Bates (2015) refers to as “flexible or agile” theories of design like the VUCA model which stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.  The ADDIE model is a seasoned and predictable method due to its simple to follow goals when it comes to effective course design. Good course design requires an analysis of course outcomes, a consideration of the class structure and how this design will be implemented, a process of development that resolves questions asked in the first two stages, implementation of the course throughout the planning, consistent evaluation throughout the course, and a final summative reflection of the course’ success.  The ADDIE model would be a successful model to follow for any course design. Unlike a traditional scope & sequence, it would be beneficial to encourage teachers to evaluate the effectiveness of their units or lessons by following a more conscious and thoughtful course design path. Pappas (2017) suggested another instructional design theory that could be effective. It is known as the Situated Cognition Theory. This theory argues that learning and doing cannot be separated. It is vital that learners are given opportunities to apply what they know within a clear context that is relevant to their own lives.  This model suggests that learning must take place in a relevant context with relevant questions. The situated cognition theory supports the idea that learning that takes place in social environments strengthens cognition and helps learners deepen their understanding based on the interactions with others. The social environment could include discussion forums and group problem-solving. This design theory harmonizes well with modern day e-learning because it encourages learners to discover relevant problems in genuine ways while learners discuss and clarify objectives with their peers. The ADDIE model along with the Situated Cognition Theory seem to fit well together because courses should encompass both thorough planning and evaluation and the opportunity for collaboration within a relevant context to deepen learning.  In my own online course design, I was inspired most by the ADDIE model because of its simplicity when understanding “next steps” in the process, but I do believe the situated cognition theory has been a source of inspiration due to my heavy influence of social-emotional learning embedded in the course design. My entire course was designed so that students could gain social-emotional life skills while deepening their understanding of literary concepts. These literary concepts aren’t merely understanding character development for instance, but dive deeper into learners connecting with the intricacies of their own failure and growth. Learners are given opportunities to discuss and collaborate with peers and apply understanding within a relevant context. 


The course I designed for this class had its foundation in UbD (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005, p. 22) principles.  I used a course I had already created for a blended learning environment and transformed it to fit completely online in the Schoology platform.  The UbD design template helped not only develop module activities and assignments, but also process and clarify learning goals and outcomes. The template helps consider what students should understand, why it was important and common misconceptions that come with understanding, and what to do with their knowledge.  The UbD template helped clarify what acceptable evidence of learning would look like as I developed assessments, and how to help learners recognize their own evidence of learning in the process. Finally, the UbD template helped me understand the intricacies that go into developing learning standards and objectives, relevant activities that will guide my students to understanding while applying their understanding in a real-world context.  The UbD model was valuable as I processed the design of my online course Developing a Growth Mindset Through Literacy.

Online Learning

Online learning is surprisingly not a new trend, and has been around since approximately the 1970s (Bates, 2015, p. 138).  Thanks to advancing technology and 24/7 internet access in most locations, the online community has grown exponentially and will likely transform learning collectives into an online context.  Digital learning is a path to bringing the classroom home to encourage learning as a lifelong journey rather than a “to-do” list students must check off at school to enter the “real world.” It takes the learning and makes it more relevant in their own lives.  Online learning can be used in conjunction with face-to-face class time, professional learning, and community outreach so students can apply learning objectives in real life scenarios. It helps connect students beyond their communities, and build empathy and social awareness for others in similar settings across the world.  Online learning also brings flexibility to the learning environment due to the student’s control of connecting limitless information to fit their needs and goals. Online tasks may be completed within the time-frame of the student, and allows for more ownership of the information in conjunction with showcasing their knowledge creatively to a real-world audience.  It develops students’ self-efficacy and encourages a personal pursuit toward their own learning goals. Student choice, ownership, and voice are highlighted and developed through online learning. Blended, hybrid, and e-learning environments will guide institutions to progress beyond the industrial model of education and meet the unique needs of each learner.


Online learning demands a shift from teacher-centered to learner-centered in which learners take ownership of their learning and the teacher takes more of a mentor’s role.  The teacher sets the environment for authentic learning to take place, and the learner controls their progress in connection with their goals. When considering the challenges of an online learning context, without the physical proximity of the teacher and student, misconceptions regarding course goals, instructions, activities, and assessments may arise.  These aspects of learning must be explicitly and clearly stated. The teacher is ultimately responsible for creating an online space conducive for learning including collaboration and questions. The students are responsible for participating in this learning space at their own pace. This grants the learner more responsibility to take control and ownership over their learning.  This shift in pedagogy is not limited to an online environment, but must also take place in face-to-face courses. Learning is always the goal, and to do so, we must not put so much emphasis on standardized tests as these measures of learning do very little in determining the overall skill and aptitude of a student. When learners are given opportunities to apply their understanding within a meaningful, relevant context, their learning becomes more tangible and visible.  Technology allows for more flexibility in what and how students learn, but this method can also translate the online model of learning into a traditional setting through blended learning. Both methods encourage learner-control and mastery of skills, therefore effective course design must reflect learner-centered pedagogy.

Throughout this course, I have discovered several online platforms thanks to my cohort and personal research that I believe will help in future online course design as well as the blended learning environment I hope to establish at my school.

  1. Schoology – This platform has an open design which allows for creative development and implementation of online courses.  Although it is limited in design templates with the free version, it is a great starting point for novice learners.
  2. Google Classroom – We are a G-Suite district, so Google Classroom would be the easiest way to implement online/blended learning in our school, although I must say I have not used it as much as I would like.  I have been apprehensive about using Google Classroom simply due to the young age of my students (their computer skills are minimum) and the push back I have received from some parents who equate online tools as “more screen time.”  I hope that with time I will be able to help put these beliefs and fears to rest no later than the beginning of next school year. 
  3. Engage2Learn – This is a project-based learning system and allows for customization of learning activities, assessments, and resource management. I came across this as I searched for project-based and blended learning resources.  Like with most anything, there is a learning curve for teachers and students, but once it is learned, it is a powerful online platform for collaboration.
  4. Coursera – This MOOC platform is a great way to bring quality learning wherever you are. I like the idea of MOOCs and hope they can develop into a more consistent way to learn.
  5. Mystery Science – This has to be one of my favorite online platforms to teach science to elementary students in a fun, interactive, and relevant way.  The lessons are interesting, there is very little prep for the teacher unless it involves several manipulatives, but the videos are highly engaging while the practices allow students to collaborate or work independently.  I often pair this platform with Brain Pop or Brain Pop Jr. so students can hear and visualize information from a variety of perspectives.
  6. GoNoodle – Go Noodle is an interactive online platform that educates students through dancing, cheering, comedy, and mindfulness practices.  The songs are relevant to students aged elementary through middle school, but could be beneficial in some circumstances with high-school aged students.  We use GoNoodle at our school daily, which provides much needed brain breaks without halting the stream of learning.


Bates, A. W. (2015). Teaching in a digital age: Guidelines for designing teaching and learning. Vancouver, BC: Tony Bates Associates LTD.

Pappas, C. (2017, September 2). Top 7 instructional design theories & models for your next elearning course. Retrieved from:

Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.