Let's Talk Instructional Design


Online learning communities can be difficult to navigate from many different perspectives. There is the actual technological aspect that will create diverse levels of knowledge among learners. There is the time management and personal study requirements, unique to self-regulated online expectations that will be present various levels of challenge for the learner. Also, there is the relational aspect to learning that will require support from the facilitator to assist in building collaborative learning opportunities for learners.

In this week’s required learning resource, you will read an article by Palloff and Pratt to support your success in this discussion post.  Palloff and Pratt (2007) state that “[t]he online environment can be a lonely place” (p. 158). I would agree. This will present challenges for assessments be they written, performance, discussions, projects, etc.. When we consider a constructivist perspective and the idea that learning is socially constructed, it is easy to see how collaborative learning opportunities provides a richer learning opportunity through peer discussions and sharing of ideas. Knowledge in a collaborative setting can be dialogic, meaning there is a shared building of knowledge. However, this does mean unique assessment responsibilities on the part of the instructional designer.


Consider the arguments presented by Palloff and Pratt regarding the value of collaborative learning. What theoretical from previous learning modules support their ideas? How is collaborative learning different in a F2F environment versus a distance or online line environment? What might be important for the teacher/ID to know and do vs. what the learner will need to know and do?

Also, consider the ways in which the authors explain and give examples of how to set up a collaborative learning environment. What tips do they present and how might you engage those as a designer of instruction/ facilitator of instruction/learner?

By Wednesday, once you have considered these points, write a post explaining aspects to a collaborative learning environment you either were part of (in any role) or would (or have) developed. Include aspects of the article that connect to your experience and/or plan. Why was this important to you over other aspects of ways to engage collaboration. Comment on what you feel the authors left out or did not consider. Why would these perspectives be important to consider?

By Sunday, please provide feedback to at least 2 of your peers. Create collaborative spaces for your learning as well at theirs by asking questions, presenting new resources, or build on ideas presented.

Required Learning Resource

  • Book Excerpt: Palloff, R., & Pratt, K. (2007). Building online communities: Effective strategies for the virtual classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
    (Palloff, R., & Pratt, K., Promoting Collaborative Learning, Building Online Communities). Copyright 2007 John Wiley & Sons Inc. Used with permission from John Wiley & Sons Inc. via the Copyright Clearance Center.

Discussion Rubric

Discussion Rubric

Your post will be assessed using the attached rubric.

Additional Optional Resource

Video: OnSide Learning (2014, February 6). Education- collaboration [Video]. YouTube.


Issues With Plagiarism

Plagiarism is a potential reality in any academic writing setting. With today’s technology world and software, plagiarism detection is easier. For me personally, I have only had experience with TurnitIn through Walden University. As an instructor I used Google.com when I suspected a potential case of plagiarism. This typically came from me getting to know my learners early on and paying attention to their writing norms, which enabled me to spot differences. This is problematic, because the goal of supporting academic writing growth is to support changes in the traits of writing from an individual. So, also knowing the growth norms of learners in any discipline is going to be important. This all takes time and experience. Jocoy and DiBiase (2006) posit that detection is an important aspect of plagiarism prevention, but there needs to be intervention to support knowledge building about plagiarism and how to avoid it. This was the approach I took with my adult and young adult learners.

Educating young writers on the traits as well as the standards is important. Providing learners with good resources as well as templates and samples to follow has worked well for me. Because, you also do not want writers to over quote in an academic piece. This does not support an individual’s ability to formulate an idea based on information. Paraphrasing is typically where I have seen the majority of issues. But, to avoid paraphrasing, over direct citation is an issue that eats at good writing. Jocoy and DiBiase (2006) suggest that while their strategy was not fully successful in supporting learners skill-sets around how to do proper citation to avoid plagiarism issues they do suggest that “expectation management strategy combined with detection and enforcement using Turnitin.com emphasizes to students the importance of academic integrity” (p. 11).

Some resources I have found to be beneficial for educating on the topic of proper citation:


Jocoy, C., & DiBiase, D. (2006). Plagiarism by adult learners online: A case study in detection and remediation. International Review of Research in Open & Distance Learning, 7(1), 1-15.

When it comes to technology use in an online learning context we are typically either using it to understand a specific content or we are learning technological skill sets. And, as Boettcher and Conrad (2010) point out when discussing mastering technology “[a]utomatic behavior gets set only when you use a tool on a daily…basis for a month or so” (p. 103). In either case, technology is great until it isn’t.

Because of this, I feel one of the most important considerations an online instructor should make before implementing technology is to asses their own comfort levels with troubleshooting or making sure they have connected with the technology department masterminds. Because, technology problems will arise it is important to “learn how to use technology, but not completely rely on the technologies” (Yang & Cornelious, para. 14, 2005). However, at no point should an instructor be fearful of technology. I have certainly felt fear and those were the moments when I was the most stressed out teaching an online course. I quickly learned that I would need to have confidence in my own learning about technology and I would need to be proactive in building that confidence level. I am still working on that!

In my own career, interactive authoring tools are a big part of what I must engage with. So, tools like the Lectora package, Adobe, and a variety of online sites that support interactive designing templates. The biggest challenge I have had has been with webinar software… I’m not a fan! Getting a large group of people to all be on the same page from a wide geographical area is not easy. It requires a lot of organization and communication.

Regardless of the struggles and challenges of using technology for online learning, technology is an important aspect of online learning.


Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Yang, Y. & Cornelious, L. (2005). Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 8(1). Retrieved from http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/spring81/yang81.htm

To prepare for this assignment, view the video, “Launching the Online Learning Experience and read Chapters 4 and 5 in The Online Teaching Survival Guide. These resources outline the essentials of setting up the online learning experience. Consider all of the steps associated with setting up a course or training module. Then reflect upon the experience by considering the following:

  • What is the significance of knowing the technology available to you?
  • Why is it essential to communicate clear expectations to learners?
  • What additional considerations should the instructor take into account when setting up an online learning experience?

Teaching is complex and requires a lot of organization. Essentially, a teacher is the director, scene designer, props master, stage manager, etc. They prepare the experience, in this case a learning experience, for the participant. This is no simple task considering participants are as individual as a snowflake. How does one create a somewhat standard learning experience for a diverse group of consumers of knowledge? Well, it requires a set of best-practices. Regardless of if your learning context is happening in a face-to-face or online environment (or any other variance) best practices allow the novice and expert teacher to better prepare and practice effective organizational skills. However, online instruction does require a unique set of best practices to consider.

When teaching an online course, technology is obviously going to be a key resource. Having a general understanding of technology is essential. Equally important to having knowledge about technology will be a good level of confidence and/or willingness to be outside of your comfort zone if you tend to be technology leery. Typically, your online course will be housed in a Course Management System (CMS), which “is where the instructor and students gather, share thinking, ideas, and complete the course requirements” (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010, p. 65). This is where your syllabus, discussion posts, weekly resource folders, etc. will be housed. This is the “classroom” where relationships will need to be nurtured to build an effective learning community as well as building the teacher-student relationship. The CMS will be the landing spot for assignments and feedback as well as the logistics of grading and tracking.

Instruction in an online course is similar to a F2F setting. However, it requires a few nuanced items to support the autonomy of online learning as well as being proactive in making sure participants have a clear picture as to what expectations are for success. Boettcher and Conrad (2010) provide some insight into how to create a learning environment for online learning instruction including providing weekly teaching guides as well as a syllabus that “sets out the overall course plan with performance goals, learning outcomes, and requirements” clearly stated (p. 64). Furthermore, weekly teaching guides should be in place prior to the start of the course.

Knowing these, and more, technology issues a head of time, will help you communicate with your participants and have richer discussions, fewer logistical questions and more content driven questions, feel safe and ready for active learning, and provide the opportunity for mastery level learning. Mastery level learning will require timely and consistent assessment. Rubrics are good way to be highly transparent about grading processes and outcomes. Rubrics lay out the parameters for success (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010). Thus, allowing the participant autonomy in what goals they set for their own learning and fully understanding the expectations for any given grade.

For all of this to happen beyond getting the environment set-up, paying attention to communication and relationship building will be essential. How will you get to know your learners? How will you differentiate instruction if/when necessary? Both of those are part of a constructivist pedagogical model and neither should be left to happenstance. How you communicate with your class needs to be thought about, shared, and held to a consistent process. Knowing when to step in and our of a discussion post is not an innate skill. You must anticipate and plan accordingly. What does the research say? Typically, when the instructor pops into a discussion too soon, learners will mimic the instructor or respond in a way they assume is expected versus giving an honest un-rehearsed response (Laureate Education, 2010).

These are but a few aspects to online instruction. I will discuss more in future blog posts, but I look forward to your questions and feedback to help push this conversation.

Thank you!




Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Conrad, R., & Donaldson, J. A. (2011). Engaging the online learner: Activities and resources for creative instruction (Updated ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Launching the online learning experience [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

I have always believed that learning is socially constructed. I also believe that the best learning environment is one that allows for equity and engages relationship building. Because of this, I have never viewed myself as “the sage on the stage”. In any learning experience regardless of my role (learner/facilitator) I am a co-seeker of knowledge who happens to possess a set of skills and knowledges that (a) I am willing to share, (b) I am able to share in a way that follows a foundation of pedagogical best practices, and (c) are theoretically aligned with a socio-cultural and constructivist perspective.

So, when asked to consider how the construction of a learning community can help facilitate course outcomes and act as the vehicle through which online education is best delivered, I begin by saying a learning community is about interaction because it engages social structures and relationships.

In their video program, “Online Learning Communities,” Dr. Rena Palloff and Dr. Keith Pratt discuss online learning communities as having three aspects: people, purpose, and process. They begin by defining an online learning community as being “A community of students and faculty who explore content together to construct meaning and knowledge about that content” and add that it is the act of peers engaging each other to dig deeper to learn as they build knowledge together in a way that is active and dialogic (Palloff & Pratt, 2010). The online learner begins by creating a social presence very much in the same way we engage with social media spaces (texting, instant messaging, emoticons, etc.).


  • How do online learning communities significantly impact both student learning and satisfaction within online courses?

Pratt and Palloff (2010) state the power of learning communities is learner-to-learner engagement. The online learning community works to empower the learner by being learner centered. It also engages social contructivism, which is grounded in the philosophies of individuals like Vygotsky, Bruner, and Dewey. This philosophy posits that learner’s experience is greatly impacted their knowledge seeking and how they engage with learning experiences.

According to Boettcher and Conrad (2010) online courses are also highly engaging due to because “[t]he faculty role shifts to coaching and mentoring…[m]eetings are asynchronous…[l]earners are more active; learning resources and spaces are more flexibl…[and] [a]ssessment is continuous” (p. 7-8).


  • What are the essential elements of online community building?
  1. People
  2. Purpose
  3. Process
  4. Methodology
  5. Social Presence [1]


  • How can online learning communities be sustained?

It is important to be consistent as a facilitator and/or designer of an online learning community. Rules have to be established regarding participation expectations and responding. Having very clear instructions and making sure the vision for the class and everyone’s role in it is clear. Pratt and Pallof (2010) explain that the “facilitator role might not be apparent. So, facilitators need to explain to students how they will be supporting them in a learning community approach.”


  • What is the relationship between community building and effective online instruction?

It is also important for the learning community to be self-motivated and for the facilitator to be intune to potential disengagement. When it might be suspected that one of the community members is becoming disengaged it is important for the facility and the peer group to reach out to the learner and help support them reconnecting with the learning community.

Some facilitators make sure to also connect with learners well ahead of time before a course begins. This helps to establish the safe environment essential for relationship building. Also, being very transparent and clear about what a learner can expect by being organized, available, and having effective communication practices in place. Pratt (2010) states that “learning communities create a dynamic where facilitators and learners are equal participants” (Pratt & Pallof, 2010).



Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Online learning communities [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

[1] Presented by Dr. Rena Palloff and Dr. Keith Pratt in a video made available by Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Online learning communities [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Thank you for following my blog for our Instructional Strategies course. I look forward to your feedback and the conversations.

Talk soon!


Anticipating the Creep…

I have not directly had a situation where scope-creep was an issue. I am new to the field of ID and PM and in a new position and none of these have given me the opportunity to work through issues of scope-creep or other issues that impact the time and budget aspects of a project.

However, I anticipate this will be the case as I have begun to get several projects at work. I am not the PM of these projects, but the organization I work for are unclear with what they want and do not engage in clarifying project management processes. So, basically no one really knows who is in charge of a project per say or the tasks within that project. However, I have proposed some resources be purchased for the new distance learning protocol they plan to implement and I will have a lead role in. Just this week on Friday, I learned that budget was partially approved. However, one of the major resources I requested and had as a priority will be dropped. This will impact my plans for potential project that I were on the docket but not yet started.

When there is an issue of scope-creep, Stolovitch suggests to use a Change of Scope Document (Laureate, n.d.), get commitments, sign offs, and make clear the reallocation of resources. You have to pay attention to how scope creep impact budget and make sure the stakeholder understands this will very often then get turned down by those stakeholders that ultimately have the last say. I am fortunate to know the resource issues before my project even begins. However, the primary stakeholders have made it clear that they are not totally onboard with implementing distance learing/blended learning contexts even though this is directly their stated goal. It is confusing.

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Monitoring projects [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

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