Flash: March 2008 Archives

Does Course Content Matter for Instructional Design?

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I used to be involved in a project which created Flash animations and graphics for different courses. One question I was asked was how applicable it was across disciplines.

For instance, do I really expect a philosophy instructor be interested in an animation of supercritical fluids? Actually I don't...But would a philosophy course focusing on Greco-Roman schools of philosophies be interested in a set of historical maps, like the one we did for a Jewish history course? Maybe they would.

This leads to the larger question of whether academic discipline matters when considering tools. On the one hand, it doesn't matter. All courses have target learning outcomes (changes in skills/attitudes you want to see in your students), and the process for mapping objectives and tools should be the same no matter which course you are designing.

But here's a caveat - courses vary widely in their objectives. Even in the philosophy department, a course that focuses on ancient philosophy may share objectives with a history course as well as a course in modern policy, while a formal logic course may have goals similar to an algebra course.

I think that to expect the same courses to use tools in the same ways is doing them a disservice. So instructors naturally benchmark themselves with similar to theirs (i.e. a logic instructor is probably interested inother logic courses).

There are many tools like blogs, images and audio that can be applied in many disciplines, but the uses may have different nuances. Podcasting is a great way for students to create their own interviews (journalism), but is also a great way to capture the sounds of a natural environment (biology) or compare dialect samples (linguistics).

I can truly see three different courses in which students are creating audio, but it's not the same audio. I can also see courses where students aren't necessarily creating audio (maybe blogging is better because you need to learn the craft of writing concrete poetry, include phonetic symbols or explain still photos).

As an instructional designer, I like to look at examples from different disciplines because I do learn more about the capabilities and possibilities of a new tool. And maybe I will find that a technique from math can also work in a philosophy course like logic.