In building a capstone portfolio representing my time with the Learning, Design, and Technology (LDT) program, I had the opportunity to reflect back through every course I have completed in attaining this Master’s degree. There are two major highlights of my experience in the LDT program that I truly treasure:
● Ability to directly apply what I learned in an authentic context (in my case, Northwestern University in Qatar, NU-Q)
● Getting into a cyclical model of learning and application, where what I learned in “the classroom” was applied to my professional practice, which in turn informed my learning process
Having withdrawn from another online master’s program prior to joining the LDT program, the approach to teaching in the LDT program was refreshing and motivating. As a student, I was asked to bring my personal opinions and experiences into the discussion, and that was a major motivating force. I was now able to bring questions I had from my professional practice to the class and benefit from a variety of diverse and informed opinions, in the context of the applicable theoretical framework I was studying at the same time. Collaborating with some faculty members at NU-Q, I was able to apply new theories, technologies, and teaching methods to their classrooms, and get into a cycle of evaluation and updating.
The design projects that have been selected for this portfolio embody the points above in their entirety. All three projects were inspired by a real challenge or opportunity at NU-Q, either for a specific class or at a service level. These class projects themselves were an inspiration in completing the professional work that resulted from it.
CAPSTONE PROJECT 1: INSTRUCTIONAL SYSTEMS DESIGN USING THE DICK & CAREY MODEL
In this project, my partner Galen Midford and I created a simulated training module for instructors to familiarize themselves with how to control technology in the meeting and learning spaces in the new NU-Q building. In doing this, we implemented the Dick & Carey Instructional Systems Design Model consisting of 9 different stages converted to 11 Project Milestones. The outcome of this design and development project was a virtual training module built in Articulate Storyline that could be made available on the web. Below, you can interact with the virtual lesson and learn about the technology in the new NU-Q classrooms and how to control it.
With an understanding that in an authentic context, rarely does someone use a single instructional model start to finish in developing a learning module, Galen and I, as part of the LDT 415 class, decided to understand and practice every single aspect of the model for our project. This was primarily to gain an appreciation for what each stage encompassed and to also be cognizant of what skills to use when and where in future projects. In the various stages of developing this module, we constantly went back to a “learner-centered” design approach. From articulating the terminal and subordinate objectives to the subordinate skills analysis, it was important to think about how learners would interact with the real control system, and therefore the simulation, especially since this was a self-study module. The lack of a facilitator required us to find the right balance of simplicity and detail.
An important part of this class and the project was to understand that a single instructional design model may not meet a project's need by itself. Moreover, if a model is chosen for the design of a project, not all components of the model may be used in a project. With these premises, going through the lifecycle of a contemporary model in a field was a valuable exercise.
Special thanks to Galen Midford and Dr. Josh Kirby for their support in developing this training module.
CAPSTONE PROJECT 2: DESIGN BLUEPRINT USING THE LEARNING COMMUNITIES FRAMEWORK
In this project, I used the Learning Communities framework as discussed by Bielaczyc and Collins (1999) as part of developing two new blended-learning courses at NU-Q. As part of the new curriculum development exercise, courses in ethics and leadership are required to be taken by NU-Q students during their 10-week long residencies as part of the Journalism program. In the context of a 15-week semester, 5 weeks of these courses will be taught traditionally, while the next 10 weeks will be taught online.
I strongly believe that due to the practical nature of these courses, a learning community comprising of current students, former students who have taken this or a similar class, instructors, and mentors can be created to enhance the students’ learning experience.
The socio-constructivist approach embedded in the course would allow the students to apply their learning from the classrooms to their own residencies and bring questions from their contexts to the classroom for discussion. Students will not only be introduced to concepts in ethics and leadership from various readings but will also participate in discussions with their peers and mentors to better understand how to apply those concepts in the workplace in an authentic context.
This socio-constructivist approach is also inspired by my own experience in the LDT program and the rich learning experience I have been able to participate in. The rich discourse in every single class, with peers, instructors, and TAs has had a major impact in my success in this program, and I believe emulating this in specific contexts can be beneficial in other programs as well.
I’d like to thank Dr. Susan Land for her encouragement, mentorship, and constructive feedback throughout the LDT 527 course. The other three design blueprints created for the course can be found below:
CAPSTONE PROJECT 3: INTEGRATING CLICKERS IN CLASSROOM TEACHING
This project, incorporating mobile technologies in a classroom, was completed as part of my first semester in the program and was instrumental in the development and deployment of a new school-wide clicker program at NU-Q, which has been in place now for 2 years. As one of the first courses I took in the program, this course, and the project, also convinced me that my personal learning goals were well-aligned with the objectives of the program. This project also informally introduced me to Design-based thinking, an approach I find valuable and which I continue to use in a majority of my professional projects.
This project was born out of some NU-Q faculty members wanting to experiment with live student responses in their classroom to make the learning experience more engaging for the students. We had already bought some first generation "clickers" from a known vendor for a different function and decided to loan these out to a faculty member for a classroom trial. While the response from both the students and instructor was positive, the amount of work required to create the content, collate the responses from the software, and making these available quickly to the students was a time sink for the faculty member. This project, at its completion in the LDT 505 class, was a “blueprint” for a future implementation that was put in place as a pilot and was later adopted by the administration as a permanent service.
One of the most important design decisions made during the conception of the project was to put the learners first and reduce the administrative workload for both students and instructors. Practically, this would mean that the clickers would be registered individually to each student by synchronizing with the Learning Management System in place. This would require a one-time registration with the students and later uses of the clickers would simply require the students using them in the classroom without any additional steps. From the instructor's perspective, they would be required to do a one-time import of student data from the LMS to the clicker software. This reduction in administrative time contributed to the success of the pilot and the service implementation.
Another major design decision was to explicitly push the instructors to think about how they would use the technology in their classroom. The combination of asking pedagogical questions about their proposed use along with required training by the Instructional Designer and documentation provided made instructors actively think about the investment and role of the clickers in the classroom. This was, once again, primarily a one-time training prior to their first use, with refreshers at the instructor’s request.
Keeping both the user groups of the technology in focus while thinking about the design of the project was central to its success. I appreciate the support from Dr. Lucy McClain for her detailed and constant feedback throughout the class, and for starting the program for me on the right note.
With a strong technical background, I came into the LDT program wanting to learn about the social sciences based theoretical perspectives to educational technology, and I got far more than what I bargained for. The skills and perspectives I have gained completing this program, especially the various projects, have provided me a keen insight into the human side of educational technologies. The projects selected for the portfolio, among other projects completed, are all centered primarily on the users, whether they are students or the instructors. The learner-centered approach has gone a long way in contributing to my own personal approach to designing services involving technology in education. Over the last two years, using this design-based approach, I have been able to mobilize numerous projects at NU-Q, and look forward to using the theory combined with the practice to inform and advance the field.
I’d like to thank Dr. Josh Kirby and Dr. Priya Sharma for their advisement, support, and constructive criticism that led to the successful completion of this portfolio, and the program.