When you are taking a live workshop and putting it online, you do not have the pressure of designing a sixteen-week curriculum like K-16 educators — All you have to do is cover the equivalent of four to six hours of instruction.

The challenge is the intangibles of face to face — the social behavior like bonding and talking. In Part I, Deb Adair’s comment stressed the importance of building social presence to replace live interaction. As online learning developers, we must build learning experiences with more content and more opportunity for learners to discuss topics of their interests with peers. This blog post will outline the second most important concept in delivering an online course: Consistent design of learning activities and use of Bloom’s taxonomy to encourage learner engagement in higher level learning.

I trust you can Google “Bloom’s Taxonomy,” so for the sake of brevity, let’s just use William Horton’s abbreviated version: Absorb, Do, Connect. These learner actions follow a 1, 2, 3 up the scale of increasing connection and application, up until the final stage when the light bulb goes off for the individual. Adult learning theory screams: They won’t learn if they are not interested! They won’t get it if it does not connect to something the learner can apply to his/ her life!

Enough about learning theory; more about design. Online course designer and instructor Bill Winfield suggests organizing learning activities by laying them out in a pattern of consistency, then scaffolding up to the “doing and the connecting” activities. Bravo, Bill. Too often we simply want our learners to watch a webcast and absorb the knowledge (which can be okay). We forget that unless we instruct our learners to do something (Bill likes web quests where students find meaningful examples to share with other students) they do not make the connection to what is important to themselves. Winfield calls this a “repeatable learning cycle.”

Let’s look at a sample lesson that is repeated four times in a Magna Publications Campus Safety 101 course:

  1. Learner watches video of expert with corresponding PowerPoint slides.
  2. Learner is asked to check their knowledge absorption with multiple quiz questions or an activity that requires action on the part of the learner.
  3. Learner is asked to read a case study and connect it to their job setting. This requires thinking about what was absorbed. The learner reflects on why it is relevant.

Both Deb Adair from Quality Matters and Bill Winfield stress the importance of learning objectives, which should drive everything you do in the course regardless of modality.

Part III will explore how to use the Quality Matters rubric to be a Google map for design considerations.

Material from this post came from the following sources: First I conducted an interview with Bill Winfield, an instructor with the UW eLearning Certificate Program, who teaches a four-week online course. I also use an example from Magna Publications, a publisher that developed and markets a completely asynchronous three-hour workshop on campus safety for administrators and professors (Campus Safety 101). Both Winfield and Magna utilize Moodle as their learning platform. I have also been communicating via email with Quality Matters Director, Deb Adair.