Session 2 Response to Prompts

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!


Content Description: This course will cover beginning college algebra.
Design Issues or Features Suggested:
  • RECALL(50%)

My primary concern would be that the content provide the learner with the opportunity to apply the mathematical concepts in the form of exercises.

Khan Academy has a very successful approach using videos and quizzes between lessons that each build upon one another to cover more and more advanced concepts.  This approach allows the content to be delivered asynchronously, and students can repeat the information as much as they wish.

In my design of the course, I think I’d encourage the instructors to take this approach, and I would ask for exercises that I could build into the course in the form of fill-in-the-blank questions, or possibly multiple choice (depending on the concept being reviewed or tested).  Of course, I wouldn’t discourage synchronous meetings.  However, I would make sure to record them so that students could peruse them at their leisure.

Instructor Description: 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.
Design Issues or Features Suggested:

The primary concern for me here would be that all professors be able to easily create course content.

Facilitating interaction between the students and the professors would be  something I would try to incorporate as well in order to cut down on personal email messages.  This would allow the professor to easily orient him or herself to the exercise or concept in question.  If the instructor logged into the site, they would immediately be able to see what questions needed answering, with links to the appropriate lesson materials.

Of course, with the range of technical comfort, all professors would need to have some instruction themselves on the interface.  I would create small instructional videos on how to create course content using something like Screenr or Articulate Storyline.

Student Description: 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.
Design Issues or Features Suggested:

My primary concern here would be to make sure that the system implemented for the course was “complaint-proof”.  These students will be very familiar with Twitter, Facebook, and other sites and apps that have a high level of interaction, so they will immediately recognize a poorly designed or poorly performing site.

I would focus my efforts on the design to provide familiar user-interface elements, make sure the system was fast, and that it incorporated responsive design elements so that the course materials could be viewed on multiple devices.

That would mean that I would stay away from Flash, and make sure that all interactions, videos and quizzes were HTML 5.

The students are college students, which typically means that motivation may not be the most important factor that needs to be addressed.  However, a poorly designed or poorly performing course could make the experience very negative, and the “learner to system” interaction could easily have a negative impact on their otherwise unblemished motivation.  I think this potential consequence reinforces the need for a careful design.


Content Description: The course is a philosophy of leadership class.
Design Issues or Features Suggested:
  • RECALL(10%)

My primary concern would be to facilitate the divergent nature of the content.  While there will surely be some terminology that could be used as convergent content for tests, the majority of the content and evaluations will have multiple paths.

Creating a structure for the course that would allow the students to easily interact with the professor, and with one another, would be my main focus.

Within that focus, I’d also concentrate on a design that would allow the students to easily “map” how they got from one concept or resource to another.  That way, the paths and procedures that each student had developed could be represented visually and reproduced by others, allowing for more exploration.

For instance, instead of referencing the talk “What we don’t understand about trust” on, the student could show the path that led there:

(Google “philosphy of leadership” -> Malone University -> keyword “trust” -> TED Talks “trust” -> Onora O’Neill)

That would allow another student to diverge at the “Malone University” step and key off of “honesty”, taking him or her on a new path of discovery.

Instructor Description: 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.
Design Issues or Features Suggested:

The primary concern for me here would be to make sure the professor has all the required structure and tools to record the lectures or perform them live and use interactive real-time virtual spaces that would encourage discussion among the students, as well as interaction with the professor.

If the professor preferred to not be interrupted during his or her lectures, I might suggest recording them so that they might be used in the future.  If the professor preferred discussion during the lectures, then I would design the course to be heavily populated with synchronous sessions.

Student Description: Graduate students who are well motivated and with a broad range of technology skills, from average to very advanced.
Design Issues or Features Suggested:

My primary concerns here would be to address the ability for the students to fluidly interact with the professor (mentioned previously), and to make sure the course materials and interface are easy to use.

As some of the students have only average skills, the design must ensure that the system does not present a barrier to learning for the less technically-inclined students.

Since they are graduate students, they already have a great deal of background knowledge, so I would be less inclined to emphasize the ease with which background content could be obtained.


Content Description: 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.
Design Issues or Features Suggested:
  • APPLICATION (100%)

My primary concern would be to design a course that has an extreme emphasis on a real-world application of the divergent material.

I think interactive branching scenarios could be really helpful here – self-contained interactions that allow students to make decisions and see the consequences of them in a simulation.

“Hey – there’s a great party tonight!  Our professor always uses the same test every 5 years, and my brother gave me all of his old tests!  I have the test we’ll be taking tomorrow, so don’t worry about studying.  Let’s party!”

  1. “You’re on!”
  2. “Don’t miss it on my account.  I’m not feeling well.”
  3. “You’re an idiot.  That’s not learning, that’s cheating.  If you use that test, I’m going to report you.”
  4. “I’d love to go, but I’ve got to study.  Thanks for the offer, though!”

The question wouldn’t stop there, but would have a series of steps that play out the scenario and demonstrate some of the potential consequences of each answer.

Given that some of the most at-risk students are those who work a full-time job or are part-time students or who have dependents, I would design this course to be mostly (if not completely) asynchronous.  I would also try to make the work load very light to avoid exacerbating the risk factor of “not enough time”.

Instructor Description: 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.
Design Issues or Features Suggested:

The primary concern for me here would be to design the course with enough flexibility that multiple technologies could be used, allowing the various instructors to bring in tools with which they are comfortable (since they are unfamiliar with the content).  Their high level of comfort with technology would allow me to do this, I think, and I would design ways for learner to instructor interaction to occur fluidly, as well.

Student Description: Students are incoming freshman who have been identified by advisors as high risk for drop out.
Design Issues or Features Suggested:

My primary concern here would be to make the course engaging.  I think branching scenarios could help with that.  Hey – if they aren’t engaged, I don’t think they’ll even bother to interact with the professor or with each other.

I think this course would need to feature interactive multi-media and learning games, interspersed with some passive media (such as video).

According to one resource, students who are most likely to drop out are:
  • Students who are not committed to the goal of a college degree
  • Students with lower high school GPA’s
  • Low income students, particularly those living independently and having dependents themselves
  • Students who work full time
  • Part-time students

While this course may not be able to affect the financial pressures of some of these at-risk students, it can certainly aim to educate them on financial assistance, dependent care programs, and resources that can help mitigate some of these factors.

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.

Content Description: This course will cover the rigging concepts that appear on the Crosby User’s Guide for Lifting, a laminated 18 panel reference card.Of the 18 panels, 1 is blank (for a distributor to place his or her label on it).  The other 17 panels all contain valuable information on slings, rigging hardware, inspection, and Crosby products.  Some of these panels are related, so the 17 panels break down into 15 different lessons.

User's Guide for Lifting

User’s Guide for Lifting

The course will be designed to be a self-contained web-based application.  Learners will take assessments after each of the 15 lessons, tied to an LMS.  If the user passes all 15 lessons, they can request a certificate of completion that they can proudly display at their place of business.

Design Issues or Features Suggested:
  • RECALL(20%)

The lack of interaction with an instructor suggests that convergent content will be appropriate for this course, where the learners can arrive at “correct” answers.

As no CEU’s are provided for taking this course, I will have some freedom in how the content is presented, and will not be bound by the usual and customary practices by which I might otherwise be constrained were I developing a course for the  higher education sector.

However, with regard to the categories covered by the Session 2 podcast, the content will be procedural (as opposed to holistic), with an emphasis on using the rigging card’s various formulae in simulated application of the material, with some content devoted to recall of the material (definitions of important safety procedures and rigging terminology).

Instructor Description: The course is designed very similarly to that of a traditional distance education course, as the learner interacts with the content only.The learner will listen to a narrator explaining concepts, while watching multiple visual stimuli: various visual representations of the rigging card being highlighted,  photographs, drawings, diagrams, and more.Intermittently, the user will have interactive activities (drag and drop, fill-in-the blank, multiple choice questions) that are not designed to assess what learning has taken place, but rather to provide the learner with a way to engage with the material, recall, and apply (in a simulated way) the knowledge the learner has gained.The learner will then take assessment quizzes (or tests) at the end of each lesson.
Design Issues or Features Suggested:

As I will be developing the course, I won’t be working with an instructor per se, however, I do need to be able to interact with the Subject Matter Expert to obtain answers to questions that I run into as I am developing the material.

The lion’s share of this work has already been done.  Our director of training has provided me with multiple Microsoft Word documents that contain the information he would like to see covered in the course, and I have a DVD version of the material that was created in 2007 (whose information is now out of date) which I can use for reference.

I have a high risk tolerance, so I am willing to create interactions that are not necessarily “tried and true”.  I want this course to be of extremely high quality and nowhere close to boring.

There will be no student to instructor interaction.

Student Description: The learners typically will fall into one of two categories:

  1. Riggers (who actually rig the load to the crane’s hook, or perform other rigging operations fastening and securing loads to a truck, for instance)
  2. Rigging Planners (who plan what rigging is to be used during which portion of the lift)
Design Issues or Features Suggested:

I expect the learners to be motivated, as the course is strictly optional, and a learner could quit at any time with no repercussion.

I feel obligated to design the course so that no prior experience is required with online classes.  That means my design must be simple, clear, and provide lots of explanation on how the user-interface works, and how the learner can take the quizzes to receive their certificate of completion.

In our industry, riggers have traditionally been less tech savvy than rigging planners, as rigging planners often use software programs in the course of their job, designing lifts and creating lift plans.  However,  with the recent popularity of iPhones and Android phones, the general level of comfort with technology has risen in recent years.  Still, these concepts must be able to reach those with the lowest technical skills, so the design must not disenfranchise those without regular access to a smart phone or a home computer.  Just having access to a computer at work must be sufficient.

It’s hard to gauge how much interaction the target audience will require, however, the course itself will not offer any technologies or even opportunities for interacting with the instructor or other learners.  Our organization does not utilize social networking sites, and for this type of course, I can see the potential pitfall of having a shared space created for learning suddenly turn into a “gripe zone.”

Regarding past experience, our learners are already in the rigging and lifting industry, and are already familiar with many of the rigging terms and practices that I will cover.  However, this course will aim to correct any misunderstandings of those definitions, and clarify how to safely lift loads (in general, and  with our products), and correctly inspect slings and rigging hardware.

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

Design Quickly and Reliably

Design Quickly and Reliably

Then redesign again and again!

Posted in Assignments
21 comments on “Session 2 Response to Prompts
  1. Chun Yi Huang says:

    Hi Matthew,
    Excellent post. I like the way you use the analysis and comparison tables in this assignment.
    I learned a lot from your post. That’s very clearly and organization to help people to understand. Thanks for sharing.

    Chun Yi Huang

    • Thanks, Chun! I had to do some custom CSS to get the table cells to format in gray. Otherwise, it just looked like a sea of text! I suggest you check out Michelle Romanek’s blog. I thought her technique of ranking the different characteristics made her analysis clearer than mine!

      • Michelle says:


        Thanks for the nod; I don’t know that it’s any clearer than your post, just differently formatted. I liked yours a great deal,too; I just lack the go to skills and patience (to re-look up) the formatting components you included. I think my brain just goes to numerical rankings for comparisons as I teach math; I’m programmed that way! 😀

        Looking forward to your week 3 post!


      • The nod was well-deserved! That’s the beauty of the human brain – infinite in its variety. The formatting component is simply this:

          style=”background-color: #d0d0d0 !important;”

        Place that right after the <td tag opens and you’ll turn the cell gray.

  2. Limin Yan says:

    Wonderful post! Very specific and clearly! Many useful imformation I got! ThanksO(∩_∩)O

  3. newberryBrian says:

    Very nice structure, but more than that, you did a great job externalizing your thinking about each scenario!

    • Thanks, Dr. Newberry. I was hoping that I wasn’t missing the point of the exercise. When I saw how clearly Michelle Romanek identified and ranked the most important characteristics, I feared the verbosity of my post might be interpreted as circumlocution. I’m looking forward to acquiring the knowledge I need to make good design decisions, and the wisdom necessary to communicate them effectively!

  4. mikkocsusb says:

    Hi Matthew,

    Very good work, I like the way how you structure the assignment (companionable analysis), very easy to understand. Thank you for sharing all your perception wit us.

    Tks/from Mikko

    • Thanks, Mikko. I approached the assignment by answering the 2nd question, first. I didn’t feel equipped to answer the first question right away. So, I developed the answer format for the 2nd question, tweaked it, and once I was happy with it, I moved on to the three scenarios of question #1. The format seemed to work for those scenarios as well, so I stuck with it. I’m glad it was easy to understand!

  5. pledgerbrb says:

    Wow, this is incredibly thorough. I didn’t consider courses that did not involve an instructor at all. Given the amount of detail, I’m assuming the course you designed is a project you made with for your company. Anyway, nice job on the formatting and content! It’s a standard I will aspire to!

    • Thanks, Andrew. Funny – when I started these courses a few weeks ago, I hadn’t considered courses that DID involve an instructor! My horizons continue to expand! And yes – the project is one that I am responsible for creating this year for work – one of 5! Regarding the formatting, I created the post initially in Microsoft Word (using tables) and then copy and pasted into WordPress.

  6. bruceosburn says:


    Terrific post! Way to set the bar for the rest of us. Seriously, your post demonstrates the possibilities that exist to make online content pleasing to the eye and organized in a way that leads a student through the content. It brings in elements of professionalism that some of the learning management systems could take some guidance from. Nice job.


  7. adetrajones says:

    Hi Mathew,
    Nice report, I really like the way you used the table it was a nice touch in getting your points across. Also like your detail information for each scenario. Well done!

  8. Jenny says:

    Hi Mattew,
    do you know if there is a way to upload a document to Blogger in order to post it on my blog as a PDF document?

    • Hi Jenny!
      I don’t know the capabilities of Blogger, but I do think I have a solution for you. You can get a DropBox account for free (, and it comes with some space immediately. You could upload your PDF file to the “Public” folder of your DropBox, and then post the link to the shared file on your Blogger site. If you’d like help doing this, shoot me an email and we can set up a screen-sharing session using and I can walk you through it step by step.


  9. Jenny says:

    I am sorry, misspelled your name…. Mathew…

  10. smlsalas says:

    This post is very appealing to the eye. I don’t understand if you said you altered the code or copied and pasted this from Word. However, what I enjoyed most was the series of questions you came up with for the college freshman course. Great post.

    • Thanks! I did paste the tables in from Word, and then used the following HTML to begin each cell that I wanted to turn gray:

        <td style="background-color: #d0d0d0 !important;"

      I had fun coming up with that example! Glad you liked it!

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