4 Best-Of-Breed Tips To Improve As An Open Source Instructional Designer

open source instructional design

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Connected Conference OpenLMS

The future of Open Source technologies is Instructional Design.

As organizations mature, they understand what an ideal partner looks like better. They should, of course, provide the best open source LMS experience there is. But they are now expected to be content allies. Many providers already offered services such as consulting or event content libraries. But a more critical gap could be in the introduction of open source tools for in-house creators.

Whether you are an instructional designer, or want to make one’s jobs more open, here are some tips that will make sure the introduction is effective and rewarding.

Keep your eyes on what the learner prizes

Regardless of the technology, the ultimate goal must be clear. To deliver the best quality learning experience, effectively and efficiently. If you are an open source advocate who wants to convert users, the worst thing you can do is force them in.

We don’t choose the technologies we use because they are open. We choose open because the tend to provide the best, user-centered, collaborative learning experience without compromising ownership or control.

Most designers with Macs under their arm might not be aware of the full breadth and width of open source technologies. An “open” and judgement-free space where they can learn, test and compare tools can go a long way in promoting a culture of openness in the instructional design team.

Make it mobile whenever possible

It’s all about taking the learning wherever learners are, and putting them on their hands.

The world is increasingly mobile, and learners are increasingly natively mobile. But the mobile experience is constantly evolving. To some extent, mobile screen time is always in dispute. The sophistication of mobile advertising knows no seeming bound. Only free (and ad-free) apps can ensure the experience will remain faithful to the designer’s intent. In most cases, these technologies are open.

Now, just because learning is mobile it doesn’t mean it is automatically better. In fact, you will be jumping into a host of issues and trade-offs you haven’t thought of before. For starters, by allowing a student to choose where they learn, they become responsible for choosing their own time and turn off distractions. Good design means turning control transfer into empowerment and autonomy.

Understand the difference between a ‘benign difficulty’ and an outright hassle

Some, if not all learning implies a level of difficulty or challenge. Overcoming them is part of the learning experience itself. Having to click many times or waste time guessing where your options are is not.

Good design means being able to tell the difference between these two very different types of difficulty. That can be surprisingly difficult! Ever since “Don’t make me think” became a mantra in digital design, regrettably seeping into the learning space, it became far too common for instructional designers to shave off key parts of the lessons. All because students might not rate the experience well.

Open source technologies provide an upper hand here, not without some complexities. In general terms, it is easier to monitor and tweak the process while preserving the content. It helps to pair it up with real-life practice or any other form of accurate creative problem-solving experience, for a “full-cycle” understanding of the design.

Animations? Tread lightly

It happens to the best of us. Be it PowerPoint, JQuery or CSS3, the excitement of having learned how to make something pop or flash, literally, ends up running over all of our experience. It’s AFK time!

In my personal experience, one of the best ways to assess the value of an animation, or any other tool or trick that promises to dazzle the user, is to focus on two key elements: Intent and Recurrence.

Intent is, in short, the art of being able to tell the reason why the learner is using the technology. What do they expect to get from it? At which point are they satisfied, and how can we make sure of it? We could have general ideas, but no two users are alike. Intent-informed user-centered design is set to become a growing trend and value differentiator.

Recurrence is basically thinking of the practical link between the application and its use. How often does the user opens the lesson within a given period? For how long? How long in between?

Combining these two elements should give you an idea of how much (or how little) animations are welcome. Generally speaking, more frequent or shorter interactions would do better with fewer bells and whistles. Conversely, experiences meant to captivate and “focus on the moment” could emphasize this with meaningful interaction design.

In Summary: ‘Opening’ a learning journey of your own

One of the trickiest parts of Open Source development goes a little bit in hand with veganism. (Please, hear me out.) Meat alternatives can be delicious and offer incredibly delightful experiences all by themselves. Where I’m lost is at that inexplicable tendency to mock the look of animal-based proteins. Fake bacon is only setting yourself up for disappointment.

Open Source has never excelled at trying to replicate proprietary experiences. In fact, the opposite is true. From Moodle to Linux, part of their success was an effort to think (and re-think) things from scratch.

When it comes to instructional design, the same principles apply. Empowerment and a sense of guidance would encourage students to follow their own path. Ultimately, to chart their own and become autonomous, lifelong self-learners.

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