Educational Development or Educational Design?

The process and action of educational development is more akin to that of design, here’s why.

This is something that has been occurring to me since developing online and hybrid courses. The action taken when compiling materiel written and provided by the educator is a process of guidance, recommendation and direction to use established standards. For example, I put together a template for a typical one semester course which incorporated all the design elements, generic enough to span most course topics, such as an introduction section, FAQ page, resources section, forums, assignments and weekly tabs (hidden from the student) that open on the Sunday starting that working week. The population of these elements in to the Moodle template uses tested UI and UX principles, the same as good front-end website design. Things like spacing and proximity, hierarchy of content, informal copy writing and image placement.

Since seeing the templates used by colleges – its occurred to me that, like with any design, there has to be a level of ‘letting go’ from the educational developer/ designer. Like with any design on the web that involves some degree of client interaction – elements of that design can become dented, changed, adapted or simply spoiled to the point where part or all of the design falls down. Like the proverbial virgin cement, all shiny and smooth, someone will always unwittingly walk on it, leaving their mark. Not that it’s always a bad thing. However, there is still an element of the ‘printed handout’ type of language used in written instruction, great if you’re in the class room to elaborate on, but in this case we’re not available to do that. Also there is a large element of uploading content which formats differently to other materiel on the page, this becomes a jarring and unpleasant experience for a learner when following tasks. I’m not just talking about aesthetics but more the design of structure. Tasks and resources need to be presented as though on rails, a dropped or lost student following an online task would be a disaster! If we’re to take Maslow in to account here, then the design should dissolve and disappear leaving just the learning to take place. Time and again, I’ve seen pages with a huge list of links or instruction tasks with “click here to do this” or “go here then come back to do this quiz”… Just like classroom teaching, an online delivery needs to follow consistent guidelines.

It’s apparent to me that ‘graceful disarray’ has to be accepted by the educational developer once a design (course template, Moodle page, ect..) is handed over to be used. Providing clear explanations, examples and predefined materials that work with the overall design will help, but preventing poor formatting can only minimised (at this stage) – the copy on the other-hand it seams a whole other monster.