As a final class project, students were assigned to create a digital video that was instructional or informative in nature. Students were allowed to utilize the video authoring tool of their choice. I chose to create and edit my content tools included within the Adobe Creative Suite; more specifically I used Adobe Premiere Pro for video editing, Adobe Audition for audio editing, and Adobe Photoshop for image cropping and manipulation. The Adobe Creative Suite allows for tight integration between these tools, and thus a more streamlined and efficient workflow.
My intent was to create an informative video that could be utilized by the university in some capacity. Inquiries led me to discussions with Steve Catlett, the Associate Vice Chancellor for Alumni Affairs. The university's Office of Alumni Affairs is always looking for manners in which to promote their services to UTK alumni, and he was grateful to assist me in the creation of a marketing video for their usage.
Media print materials and background audio were compiled into a project storyboard, and the final video was rendered in HTML5 cross-browser supported codecs.×
This course introduced students to basic website development concepts, including basic HTML code elements necessary to build content within a website. An emphasis was placed on a "code first" concept - students were encouraged to write HTML code without the assistance of many popular WYSIWYG (What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get) web-authoring tools. This was a solid approach to teaching HTML, given that many of the popular WYSIWYG editors can re-manipulate code in a non-complaint fashion. Furthermore, this approach ensured that students learned basic rudimentary coding practices.
Coursework also included discussions surrounding copyright issues and website accessability initiatives.
The final course capstone project consisted of a completed (basic) website that emphasised key points learned during the semester. I created mine with the intent of presenting information within a very minimalistic manner. I also included within my website an example of the type of learing activities that can be created by instructional designers utilizing the free/open-source Hot Potatoes web-enabled learning module capabilities.×
The creation and online hosting of a CMS (Content Management System) database driven website. For the sake of effficiency, this would most likely mean Drupal, Wordpress, or Joomla!. All of these solutions are open-source, and all of them can be hosted for free, or for a very minimal monthly $ amount. This was a necessary, not only for the learning experience itself, but to afford students with a manner in which to post their accomplishments and twitter feed uddates.
I utlized Drupal; based on research I conducted online, it appeared to be the most feature rich, and offered (in my opinion) the highest degree of free online community support.
There are many manners in which one can elect to host a Drupal website. However, I wanted to explore the free (for limited feature sets) offering provided by drupal gardens.×
Much of the semester was spent on the understanding of how to create and incorporate flash-based interactive media for use within learning environments. Students learned basic and intermediate usage of the Adobe Flash Professional software application. There are other flash-authoring tool-sets available, but given that the flash-platform was created by and is maintained by Adobe, Adobe Flash Professional is the industry leading solution for creating flash-based offerings. Furthermore, I also utilized Adobe's Flash Catalyst as a starting point for the project. Flash Catalyst offers "wire-framing" (where to place stuff) settings that are easier to utilize than those offered by Flash Professional.
I chose to create a relatively simple learning application that would highlight the life of the United States President Ronald Reagan. The application incorporates a navigational menu (with a "help section" and "credits"), photos, videos, and text. Finally, I also included a rudimentary "Assessment" section wherein a learner could ascertain their knowledge of the subject manner. I utilized research proven learning theories and methodologies endorsed by industry leading experts Richard E. Mayer and Ruth Colvin Clark, amongst others. Much of this can be referenced in the E-Learning and the Science of Instruction textbook - which I highly recommend!
A final note - Flash is dying. It isn't quite dead yet, but it is walking a quick path towards the cemetery. In fact, Adobe has announced their plans to end their support of flash for mobile devices altogether. Furthermore, Adobe has several offerings (some are "beta" - Adobe Edge Animate, and Adobe Wallaby) that will allow for the creation of HTML5/CSS3 rich-content, and/or for the conversion of flash-based media to the HTML5/CSS3 format, which is more universally accessible via Apple/PC/Linux platforms, particularly for mobile devices. HTML5 and CSS3 are now quickly becoming the universal developing and delivery medium of choice within the developer community - a point instructional designers need to be keenly aware of.
Content Management System (CMS) websites are database dependent, in that they utilize databases to store their content. Every item on the website represents a piece of content, and the content can be parsed in variety of formats - allowing for the display of information that can be tailored to a specific person, or to a specific group - unlike typical websites designed using standard HTML/CSS "markup-only" code. It is for this reason that the most powerful websites are built in this manner.
Coursework consisted of analyzing different CMS offerings typically employed by Fortune 500 companies and leading learning institutions alike. Drupal, WordPress, and Joomla! are industry recognized leading candidates. Students spent time installing and hosting each solution, and in turn we discussed the strengths and weaknesses that could be attributed to each of them. It was widely felt that Drupal offered the richest combination of features, ease-of-install, and "online community support".
As Drupal has grown in popularity, so to have the offerings available for hosting a Drupal designed website. One of the most popular solutions is drupal gardens (provided by Acquia, a company specialized in offering specific Drupal-based-solutions). In fact, Drupal Gardens offers a free solution that, although somewhat limited in storage parameters (50MB), is sufficient for most individual user-based accounts. Drupal Gardens also has very affordable offerings for larger institutions of all sizes.
With power and choices comes complexity, and Drupal has a somewhat significant learning curve. However, there are a variety of support forums available on the internet - all offering free advice and examples. Most cities (including Knoxville and nearby Nashville) have local Drupal clubs that are free to join.
I possess a background in website design - thus I was already familiar with much of the design-logic pertaining to a Drupal installation. However, many of the modules presented challenges in terms of their usage. The "Views Module" in particular is very daunting. I used a variety of online sources to master this module, my favorite of which are the videos provided on the NodeOne website (a brilliant little company Scandinavia). The views module is used throughout the website you are currently viewing (in case you hadn't noticed, you are on a Drupal Gardens hosted site). I designed it with easy navigational features in mind, with certain pertinent information displayed (some with sortable criteria and filters) for ease of use.×
Students were tasked with the creation of a real website that would be utilized for "safe food transportation and handling procedures" for volunteers of the Harvest Support Network Inc. (a subsidiary of Food Donation Connection, a national company headquartered in Knoxville, TN.).
Each student participated in the early phases of the ADDIE development framework for the project - the learning audience was identified and characterized, and earning objectives, along with measurable learning outcomes, were also formulated.
The development phase of the project was particularly challenging, in that the client desired the training to be delivered via a website accessible from any device, from any location. The training was geared towards a nationwide audience of volunteers, many of were identified as having a desire to utilize the training via handheld (tablet and smartphone) devices. Furthermore, the variousness of the learning audience stipulated that the website be designed with accessibility features in mind. Timely communication with several client stakeholders was necessary to guarantee that the project would be completed within the proposed timeframe, and that it would meet the quality specifications identified by the client.
The creation of a website capable of being successfully viewed on multiple devices necessitated that the website be designed using newer HTML5 standards. Only two of the students taking the course - another student and myself - had any website authoring experience. The website was initially wireframed, then created and tested using the Adobe Dreamweaver web-authoring application. Other authoring tools were examined, but given that both of the students designing the site owned Dreamweaver, it a was a viable candidate. Furthermore, it was determined that Dreamweaver's mobile development "add-ons" would prove to be of great assistance when developing the mobile friendly viewable portion of the website - the Adobe Device Central application in particular.
Other team-members were assigned with the creation of PDF job-aids, and the accompanying text and graphics/images for the job-aids. A video was also created (which the client chose to host on YouTube) that is accessible from within the training website as well. The website was designed for inclusion of these items, and was also designed in a manner that would allow for "minimal download" streaming to mobile devices - which is important, given the limited bandwidth capabilities inherent with such devices. Close collaboration with other classmates coupled with well defined project management workflows were necessary to assure that each classmate was completing their contributions to the project within defined timelines and per identified specifications. As is always the case with such a project, the everything was tested, evaluated, and re-purposed per the needs of the client throughout the development process.
Ultimately, the results were tested and evaluated by the client. Minimal adjustments were necessary, but were relatively easy to perform. Finally, the client was able to host the solution within their own environment, and they have been extremely pleased with the results.×
As an instructional designer, I am particularly interested in cognitive load theory, and the mannerisms in which the human brain assimilates information. Research-bases studies stipulate that it is far to easy to "overload" a learner with information presented in such a manner that it is not easily processed, digested, and understood for later implementation. I created and submitted a Cognitive Learning Theory website-based learning activity that explains the importance of segmenting and pre-training for an adult learning audience.×
Scholars conducting academic research studies are expected to have been certified by the NIH (National Institutes of Health) in an effort to understand and protect the rights of the research participants. Class participants were accordingly required to gain NIH certification.×
Conducting a thorough and effective literature review can be daunting, confusing and time consuming. It is therefore the most neglected aspect of conscripting a solid academic research proposal. Therefore, as a research project submitted as the capstone course project, I proposed an eLearning / multimedia simulated learning environment that would teach students the different strategies and methodologies that should be utilized to perform a rich literature review for their own research projects. I received high marks for my proposal, which included a post-test survey instrument to ascertain the effectiveness of the eLearning simulation.×