When designing a course or a training, I really try my hardest to put myself into learners’ shoes and think about experiences they might have. I truly strive to not just design a course or a training that learners would take and forget but rather facilitate learning experiences that are valuable and meaningful for them. For instance, one of the ways to make a learning experience meaningful to learners is to help them connect their learning with real life experiences, professional and lived experiences, through authentic learning. Such authentic learning experiences are immersive and grounded in real-life problems, rather than being artificially constructed for the purpose of instruction.
Further, this short video summarizes my key principles of my instructional design philosophy. Through thoughtful and meticulous design, I always strive to provide learners with positive and meaningful learning experiences. These are the four core principles of my design philosophy:
Meaningfulness: Well-thought-out instructional design should manifest itself in activities and projects that help students relate things to real life. That is, courses should not be taken solely for earning a grade but rather seen as a way to gain knowledge and skills useful for a future career. This design principle also implies that courses should be designed with a specific purpose (i.e., learning outcomes) for a given audience. The principle is grounded in the theory about authentic learning, specifically Shaffer and Resnick’s (1999) four meanings of authentic learning. They assert that authentic learning can be considered as: (1) learning that is personally meaningful; (2) learning that is connected to the outside world; (3) learning that mimics or models disciplinary practices; or (4) learning in which assessment is aligned with learning tasks. Also, these two principles are connected to the idea that context and learning are inseparable, thus, authentic learning helps situate newly acquired knowledge in the context of future use (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989; Choi & Hannifin, 1995; Herrington, Reeves, & Oliver, 2014).
This design principle is manifested in my teaching, as recognized by my students in their feedback:
“Victoria was very accommodating and flexible. She works with us to make sure we know what we should be doing, and to help tailor the work we do to our field and our interests. She was always available to answer questions and assist us, and she treated us respectfully and with kindness. I have also used some of the knowledge I have acquired here, in life. I will be using some of the skills to help my local high school develop and manage a digital newspaper, and I have been using QR codes to make communication between the residents in my hall easier.” (W200, Fall 2017)
“You can definitely tell that Victoria cares about each of us individually understanding and benefiting from the class. I was one of only three secondary ed majors in my section, but I still felt like Victoria tried to make all of the activities as relevant to my content area as possible and provide me with specific resources. She made sure to give everybody individual attention during work days to answer questions and concerns. She was an engaging instructor and tried to make the course as relevant as possible. When we gave her feedback on the midterm evalution that we thought that her instructions were sometimes unclear, she made a definite effort to address that criticism.” (W200 - Computers in Education, Spring 2018)
“The things I learned in this course are very relevant and useful for what I will be doing in the future. I learned a lot about how to integrate technology in the classroom. Victoria was an amazing instructor and I could tell she really cared that each of us in the class did well. She was probably my favorite professor this year!” (W200 - Computers in Education, Spring 2018)
“I really liked the ability that was given to us to truly make our projects our own. They were very open ended, and that really imitated the lesson planning process that I will experience in my future career. I really appreciated the creativity aspect as well. My instructor was outstanding, and always made herself available to help.” (W200 - Computers in Education, Fall 2019)
“The instructor made the projects fun! She made us see them as more than just school projects but real world applications. Valuable skills are taught in the class, and I’m glad I had Victoria there to teach and guide me through it!” (R341 - Multimedia in Instructional Technology, Fall 2018)
“Victoria was extremely personable and made a point to get to know everyone in the class by name and had a personal relationship with them. I felt like she truly cared about my life and my success in the course. The assignments in this class were extremely helpful for the real world!! I learned how to do so many things and utilize all of my online resources and I know I will use them in my career field. I tell all of my friends and family about this course. I liked that there was a lot of time to work on our projects in the classroom because I liked having Victoria there to help me. Victoria was a great resource and genuinely cared when a student was having an issue with the internet or system they were using. I liked that she utilized powerpoints and and gave us mnemonics for things she wanted us to remember. I liked that we utilized class discussions because it really helped a community develop in the class, and I liked getting to know the other people in this course. I know that in the future, I will still utilize a lot of a lot of the projects that I completed, as well as the material that's on canvas and the websites and systems that were introduced to me.” (R341 - Multimedia in Instructional Technology, Spring 2019)
“Professor Abramenka is a wonderful teacher. She works very hard to provide meaningful content and to keep her students engaged. She is very kind, and is great at providing feedback so that we can do our best work possible. Her feedback is always constructive and never delivered in an unkind or judgmental way. I wish that more teachers but as much effort into their course and their students. It was an absolute pleasure having her as a professor, especially in a class that I was worried about taking. Historically, I am not great at working with technology, but Professor Abramenka made it easy for me to learn and excel at something that I normally am not great at. I am now a more knowledgeable and competitive job candidate in the field of Public Health because of her.” (R341 - Multimedia in Instructional Technology, Spring 2019)
Consistency: Good instructional design embodies harmony and consistency, creating an “organic unity” (Nozick, 1990). This principle manifests itself in instructional design through alignment, such as the alignment of assessment with learning outcomes, alignment of the use of technology with learning objectives and outcomes, alignment of instructional material with learning outcomes. In teaching, this principle is manifested in a logical flow of instruction, transitions from one topic to another, and thoughtful feedback related to the requirements of a particular course assignment.
This design principle is manifested in my teaching, as noted by my students in their feedback:
“I liked every assignment we have had! I think the course was very well structured and I learned a lot this semester. Also, Victoria is one of the best instructors I have had.” (W200 - Computers in Education, Spring 2018)
“I enjoyed how the classwork was well organized and the due dates were very clear even from the beginning of the semester!” (W200 - Computers in Education, Spring 2018)
“She was one of the nicest professors I have had at IU, and always made sure we were turning in our best work. Whether that meant making suggestions for change or helping us in class she really wanted us to learn.” (R341, Spring 2019)
Appeal: Last, instructional and learning materials should be well organized and visually appealing. Adequate representations of content facilitate learning by helping students organize knowledge and material in coherent mental structures (Mayer, 2014). While designing instructional material, I make sure to highlight key concepts and organize the material in a way that students can easily grasp and engage with it. Particularly, when designing my instructional and learning materials, I follow design principles and practices in terms of layout design (e.g., CARP), text placement, and use of visuals (Duarte, 2013; Fenton & Watkins, 2013).
This design principle is manifested in my teaching, as noted by my students in their feedback:
“She was very available and willing to help. She was thorough in her answers and was clear about each weeks agenda. She put a lot of effort into lectures and keeping each student on track solely for their benefit. Her course is extremely relevant and useful for the real world and above all she was very easy to work with and problem solve.” (R341 - Multimedia in Instructional Technology, Fall 2018)
“I liked having relatively brief but informative presentations at the beginning of most classes and the use of nearpod to keep everyone engaged was cool.” (R341 - Multimedia in Instructional Technology, Spring 2019)
“She was very organized and clear and gave great feedback” (W200 - Computers in Education, Fall 2019)