Sunday, June 22, 2008

Roles and responsibilities of a Visual Instructional designer in an academic e-learning environment

In my experience, Corporate and academic e-learning differs in many aspects. Some of them are as follows,

· Academic e learning requires a lot of concepts. They tend to focus on knowledge in the abstract: They want lots of concepts but not a huge amount of application, except to test that the learner understood the concepts. The application of the concepts tend to be abstract, such as answering questions on a test or basing new concepts on the first. The learners are not expected to immediately apply the knowledge to their lives.
The corporate clients usually want both concepts and behavior change. They want learners to be able to apply the concepts in the real world, such as determining if a cross-border financial trade they have been offered is ethical and legal.
It is because of this reason, flow and relevance becomes irrelevant at some places in case of academic background. Instructional designers from purely corporate backgrounds tend to misunderstand the same.
This is my own experience and even great instructional designer like Cathy Moore has expressed the same.
All the academic e-learning environment requires a visual instructional designer who can visualize the concepts at an ID perspective as academic e-learning material give more thrust to the visuals compared to the corporate one. Most of the corporate material will concentrate on the presentation of text and there comes the importance for the structuring of sentences more. But in an academic environment the on-screen text should be presented in such a way that it make an impact in a student’s mind, as it is a basic thing on which he should build a lot of concepts.
As corporate materials need the text animation mainly the process followed will also be different. In corporate segment visualization is mostly a simple thing compared to the content part. So presentation is done before recording the voice over. It is easy to integrate the sound afterwards. But in anycase, particularly if you are dealing with K-12 segment, you must never record the voice afterwards. It can be called a sin. The educational concepts like experiments and derivations can never be written effectively in a storyboard and very difficult to synchronize with sound. So the voice must be recorded earlier and must be synchronized effectively so that the student gets a cognitive support or re-inforcement.
Where we go wrong??
I would say that, till now we were creating assets; nothing other than that.
We all will understand that when we integrate voice for physics and chemistry files. It may not happen in mathematics. We will never be able to synchronize it effectively. Another thing is that, whoever does the animation should integrate the sound. It is a must in academic environment. Very few is smart enough to know the entire concept. Beware of that. What we were doing was to create a storyboard and throw it to the animators for animation calling for a mere visualization meeting.
Let’s analyze what happens at a visualization meeting. The ID explains the concepts???? NO... NEVER... Even though he explains there will be a huge gap in understanding those, because our content is so huge. AND YOU CAN NEVER VISUALISE DERIVATIONS AND EXPERIMENTS WITHOUT THE COMPUTER IN FRONT OF YOU i.e. YOU MUST EXPLAIN THOSE THINGS WHENEVR ANIMATORS DO IT.(Just to get an idea of this take any experiments in physics or chemistry and try running them prompting the VO).YOU CANNOT EXPECT ANY ANIMATOR DOING THIS properly..
EXPERIMENTS, DERIVATIONS, PROBLEMS ETC where there are so many highlighting and step by step procedures, which are too technical a person should be there with the animator. Here comes the role of a visual ID. Where an authoring ID should effectively write the voice over, the visual ID is responsible for making the presentation effective by choosing the proper place for on-screen text, user friendly colours, pace of the animation, effective highlighting, proper VO synchronization etc. This is the exact role of an ID in an academic elearning organization where ID acts as a bridge between education and technology. Those who manage content are also called IDs, but they are senior content writers only.
I went through many slides of our mathematics material. I really feel like having a lot of improvements, as mathematics is a subject which needs the attention of a visual ID completely. The style we use to present will depend on lot of theories which are really valid .Theories like split attention theory (explained below)
Here the diagram in the right can enhance learning compared to the diagram in the left. Theories such as cognitive load theory, colour theory, positioning theory etc. also come into picture when we do this kind of academic elearning where we present intensive study material to the user.
About my role..
Although, the importance of the flow of content cannot be forgotten, it is not the crux in a company like ours. We should concentrate on the communication with GDs. Visualization for a whole lesson should not be done at one stake. We have to concentrate on a small part. Explain it to them and be with them for each and every step. The voice also should be available. We can reduce at least 80 percent mistakes by doing so. I feel this is the best time to implement it, as we are revamping the SBs. I can be responsible for the visual presentation of the material, the on-screen text, the positioning of the images and text, the whole layout and the synchronization of voice accordingly.(Don’t mistake it with the responsibilities of animation head as he will be responsible for the animation quality).
Note: Please note that our updated SBs are also incomplete in case of animation description and on-screen text. We will get confused where we have to place the OST (These kinds of issues can be resolved utilizing a visual ID.)
I feel my services can properly be utilized if i am placed in the visualization part. (I am ready to be involved in visualization of all the subjects, giving thrust to maths and derivation, experiment parts in physics, chemistry etc.).As a part of this I have to go through the storyboard at least once and make necessary changes in OSTs accordingly-which won’t disrupt our VO recording)

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