Beginning our Discovery Process

As we await our upcoming Wednesday, September 2nd webinar, I ask that you begin to dip your toe into our project. As all designers know, each project involves a discovery process (often a loooong and winding process) of information gathering and analysis to gain an understanding of the instructional need and context, the subject matter, and (most importantly) the learners who will influence our design. Designers often speak of both the thrill and uncertainty that accompany discovery. While discovery keeps our job interesting (the thrill of exploring something new), it can leave us with a parallel uneasy feeling of never having complete information (the uncertainty).

As our first order of business on this project, I ask that you embark on your discovery process by spending some time this next week thinking about our learners and the instructional need. Given Designers for Learning’s mission to offer volunteer service-learning opportunities for instructional designers, we have two instructional needs and two learner populations on our projects, which can be confusing when we talk about “the instruction” and “our learners”.  I typically refer to those involved in our service projects or courses as “service learners”, and those who will be using the deliverables from our projects as “the learners”. Confused? The following should help …

Who are our service learners?

As noted, Designers for Learning’s mission is to offer volunteer service-learning opportunities for instructional designers. For the past two years, we have asked those who contact us via our website to describe their interest in Designers for Learning. All project members have access to a spreadsheet of the nearly 300 responses we have received from potential service learners. While I have stripped out all identifying information, please consider this to be confidential information not to be shared outside this project team.

The responses provide us insight into the characteristics and motivations (i.e. the need) of our potential service learners. While some are interested in a career change from a related field, many have advanced degrees in education (including from prominent instructional design programs), and are hungry for EXPERIENCE. Note that the word experience was used 146 times by respondents within the spreadsheet.

Therefore, for the Open Adult Basic Education (Open ABE) course that we are designing, we are anticipating a diverse learner population (the service learners) looking to gain experience in an authentic real-world instructional design project (their instructional need). These service learners will include a mix of the types of people who have contacted us to to date, including experienced design professionals who are interested in giving back, adult educators with an interest in designing quality instruction for their learners, and novice designers with some academic background in instructional design, but little real-world experience. How is that for a diverse group? While it provides a challenge for us, keep in mind that we are fulfilling a stated need for experience from our target service-learner population.

Who are our “other” learners?

As outlined in the Open Adult Basic Education (Open ABE) course description, the service learners will be designing instruction to support learners in an adult basic education (ABE) instructional context. These are our “other” very important learners. Aside from the SMEs, most of us have not worked in an ABE setting. While most of us have designed instruction for adults, as defined by World Education:

“An adult education system refers to programs in the U.S. that offer instruction ranging from basic literacy and numeracy and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) to high school diploma equivalency, and college and career readiness.”

The ABE Instructional Need

As I found over the past 18 months during our other service projects, I have much to learn about our adult learner population, the ABE instructional context, and the ABE instructional need. Our SMEs will help us in this part of our discovery. While there are various forms of adult education and several pathways to high school equivalency, let’s start our discovery process with one of the most visible: the General Educational Development (GED) test preparation.

In 2014, the GED Testing Service amended the GED testing requirements from the former 2002 version. The new GED test aligns with the College and Career Readiness (CCR) standards (see below) released in 2013 by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Vocational and Adult Education as a guide for adult education programs that prepare learners for post-secondary college and career training. The CCR standards were crafted to dovetail with the K12 Common Core Standards. In addition to the inclusion of knowledge and skills that were not part of the prior test, the revised test is now only delivered online, which requires several technology skills not previously needed by test takers. While previous versions of the test were based on multiple-choice items, the new test items include drag-and-drop, fill-in the blank, as well as short and long essays.

Over the next week, please take an hour or so to skim the materials linked below to gain initial insight into the ABE instructional need as it relates to the GED test and the underlying standards.

(Optional) LINCS

In addition, one of our SMEs, Amanda Duffy, has shared information about an online discussion series sponsored by LINCS that is running this week. LINCS is a community of practice for adult education practitioners funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE). Amanda suggested it would be a good opportunity for participants in this project to become familiar with current topics in adult education, specifically the use of open educational resources (OER) to support instruction.

Comments or Questions?

I think that is a good start to get our discovery process underway. Please touch base with any comments or questions. Thank you!

Jennifer Maddrell