Understanding trust in online course design

This is the third article coming out of my ethnography project that studied online course design. It follows up from my study of everydayness, and my study of autonomy and collaboration in course design. What’s unique about this paper is we discovered how many different ways that the concept of trust is used by course designers. Sometimes, they’re telling people to back off and trust them–let them do their jobs. Sometimes, they’re referring to how much they trust others, in a sense recognizing they can’t do the job alone so need the help of qualified collaborators. There are other meanings of trust in course design, too (read the paper!). Among other findings, I think this paper complicates the way lots of other researchers talk about trust. They discuss it as if it were a self-evident good, and never really acknowledge that some of the ways that designers talk about trust are in tension with each other (I trust you vs. back off and just trust me). I wish we acknowledged that more in our discourse.

Abstract:

This study reports research on instructional designers’ experiences of trust in the context of online course design in a university setting. Through semi-structured interviews with designers, we explored how trust showed up as a meaningful phenomenon in their experience and how they went about increasing trust in their relationships with faculty members. Our analysis of interviews suggested two major themes related to how trust fit into designers’ working experiences. First, designers experienced at least three different forms of trust: (1) self-trust; (2) trust in faculty; and (3) organizational trust. Second, designers pursued at least two strategies to nurture trust in design work: (1) cultivating trusting relationships; and (2) building trust through buy-in. Given the various ways in which trust was experienced, and the complicated interconnec- tions between forms of trust reported by participants, we conclude by discussing the significance of trust as a key aspect of instructional design practice.

At Academia.edu

At ResearchGate

At the journal website

Reference:

McDonald, J. K., & Yanchar, S. C. (2024). Understanding trust in online course design. TechTrends. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-024-00940-7

ISD and Functional Design Layering

I’ve heard my dissertation chair, Andy Gibbons, talk about design layers for the entire time I’ve known him–over 20 years now. So it felt like a circle completing to write this chapter with him on design layers for an introductory textbook on current and historical trends in the field. We tried to express the layers idea simply and concretely, while also making a new contribution to the discussion around why layers is a valuable concept for understanding design. I think we accomplished both goals.

Abstract:

This chapter has two purposes. First, we contrast two approaches to instructional design—the traditional Instructional Systems Design (ISD) process and an alternative view known as Functional Design Layering (FDL). In our review, we describe the background of each approach, the problem(s) each approach attempts to solve, and the types of decisions each approach prepares instructional designers to make. Second, we show how these different approaches play complementary roles in the practice of instructional design. When considered together, they offer a more robust conception of how instructional designs can be created. Essentially, ISD focuses on design process at the expense of internal design structure, whereas FLD focuses on internal design structure and proposes a naturalistic view of design decision order that is more closely aligned with actual designer practice. Considered together, these contrasting approaches become mutually strengthening, providing the designer with a wider range of design questions and design process options.

At Academia.edu

At ResearchGate

At BYU Scholar’s Archive

At the book website

Reference:

Gibbons, A. S., & McDonald, J. K. (2023). ISD and functional design layering. In R. E. West, & H. Leary (Eds.), Foundations of learning and instructional design technology: Historical roots & current trends (2nd ed.). EdTech Books. Retrieved from https://edtechbooks.org/foundations_of_learn/24_design_layers

Learning Experience Design as an Orienting Guide for Practice: Insights From Designing for Expertise

I was invited to contribute this article to a special issue on learning experience design by the journal’s guest editors. I was reluctant at first because I didn’t see a strong connection between what I’m currently studying and the direction the issue was taking. But I ended up talking to a couple of the guest editors at a conference near the end of 2022, and because I’m a sucker they both talked me into it. But the more I thought about it, the more I saw how I could take the chance to write about issues I was more interested in, in particular the dispositions or character associated with designing in educational settings. My proposal was super complicated and went way over my head, let alone the heads of the editors. So one of them had to kindly sit me down and encourage me to speak better to their audience. At that point I brought in a student to help me, and in the end I think we got something meaningful and rigorous, and still (relatively) simple as well.

Abstract:

In this paper we consider how learning experience design (LXD) improves designers’ capacities to influence learning. We do this by exploring what LXD offers the design of learning environments that help develop learners’ expertise. We discuss how LXD (a) attunes designers to different learning affordances than are emphasized in traditional ID; (b) challenges the universal applicability of common ID techniques; and (c) expands designers’ views of the outcomes for which they can design. These insights suggest that LXD is useful because it refocuses and reframes designers’ work around flexible design approaches that are often deemphasized in traditional ID.

At Academia.edu

At ResearchGate

At BYU Scholar’s Archive

At the journal website

Reference:

McDonald, J. K., & Westerberg, T. J. (2023). Learning experience design as an orienting guide for practice: Insights from designing for expertise. Journal of Applied Instructional Design. 12(3), 201-214. https://doi.org/10.59668/515.12898

Perception of “This is not a game”: Definition and measurement

This is an interesting article out of the PCS research team. In it we attempt to come up with a working definition of the This is Not a Game construct we use, along with researchers in alternative reality gaming. This is Not a Game is the suspension of disbelief in the fictional world we create, where students give themselves over to the experience. It’s the kind of thing that lots of people kinda get, but that we wanted to think about more precisely and carefully. This article reports our attempt to do so through a survey validation methodology. Not my usual kind of research, but an interesting project to be part of all the same.

Abstract:

Participatory narratives are compelling, at least partly because of their ability to help players sus- pend disbelief in the fictional world in which they engage. Game makers have used the phrase “This is Not a Game” (TINAG) to capture the willingness of players to buy into such narratives in ways that promote productive roleplaying and authentic engagement. Although TINAG has per- meated the academic and popular literature on gaming and immersive narratives for decades, there has not been a scientific grounding for the term that provides researchers support for a more rigorous study of the topic. This article makes two primary contributions. First, it provides a definition of the Perception of TINAG based on a systematic literature review of 50 articles that define or describe critical characteristics of TINAG: The Perception of TINAG is a player’s acceptance that they are embedded in and able to influence a fictional story woven into the real world. Second, the paper develops and validates a survey instrument that researchers can use to measure the Perception of TINAG and its three unique components: (1) the player accepts that they are embedded in a fictional story, (2) the player believes their actions influence the narrative, and (3) the player perceives that the story is woven into the real world. We evaluated the instrument using exploratory factor analysis using expert reviewers and game players. We include a table of the articles describing TINAG and our final scale to facilitate future research.

At Academia.edu

At ResearchGate

At BYU Scholar’s Archive

Reference:

Giboney, J. S., Bonsignore, E. M., McDonald, J. K., Hansen, D. L., Mata, L, & Balzotti, J. (2023). Perception of “This is not a game”: Definition and measurement. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction. https://doi.org/10.1080/10447318.2023.2221598

Instructional designer perspectives on the pursuit of quality in online course design

This paper comes out of the same ethnographic project on instructional design work in higher education out of which I’ve published previously. Here, my colleague Steve Yanchar and I analyzed the formal interviews carried out with instructional designers throughout the project. We focused on values they thought were important during design work, in particular autonomy and collaboration. But what’s unique about this article–and is the major contribution I think it offers–is they also talked about how autonomy and collaboration aren’t always compatible. And so holding to both of them can create some binds they have to navigate. I think these kind of binds are important to acknowledge and understand. I’m happy we were able to do that, even a little bit, here.

Abstract:

In this qualitative study we investigated the experiences of instructional designers as they sought to build quality into online courses. Through semi-structured inter- views, we explored what enabled and hindered their pursuit of quality, how they experienced their efforts in this regard, what mattered to them, and complexities that accompanied this pursuit. Our analysis of participant experiences suggested four themes: (1) connections between quality and designers’ ability to act autonomously; (2) connections between quality and collaborative, team-based relationships; (3) ambivalence due to tensions between autonomy and collaboration; and (4) ways of coping with limits on autonomy and collaboration. We conclude our report with implications for instructional design practice, suggesting that the pursuit of quality often requires creative work arounds and is informed by affective judgements that lie beyond the purview of traditional instructional design processes.

At Academia.edu

At ResearchGate

At BYU Scholar’s Archive

At the journal website

Reference:

McDonald, J. K., & Yanchar, S. C. (2023). Instructional designer perspectives on the pursuit of quality in online course design. Journal of Computing in Higher Education. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12528-023-09388-9

The everydayness of instructional design and the pursuit of quality in online courses

A couple of years ago I decided we needed some good ethnographies of instructional design work. Life in organization is so complex, and never static, and imbued with so many competing considerations and values, that all the studies of instructional design I knew about seemed to reduce it to a simple, input-output model. Even our attempts to be sophisticated at best call it an “iterative process.” Through my ethnographic look into design I wanted to complicate this picture. Of course, no formal research can capture that completely, especially in only 30-some pages. But I gave it a try. And I do think it offers a pretty compelling picture of what makes this form of life what it is.

Abstract:

This article reports research into the everydayness of instructional design (meaning designers’ daily routines, run-of-the-mill interactions with colleagues, and other, prosaic forms of social contact), and how everydayness relates to their pursuit of quality in online course design. These issues were investigated through an ethnographic case study, centered on a team of instructional designers at a university in the United States. Designers were observed spending significant amounts of time engaged in practices of course refinement, meaning mundane, workaday tasks like revising, updating, fine-tuning, or fixing the courses to which they were assigned. Refining practices were interrelated with, but also experienced as distinct from, the specialized processes of instructional design or innovation that the designers also applied. Refining played a meaningful role in designers’ pursuit of course quality, both to help them achieve quality, as well as to understand what the ideal of quality meant in specific instances. The article concludes by exploring what implications these findings have for the study and practice of instructional design in the context of online course development.

At Academica.edu

At ResearchGate

At BYU Scholar’s Archive

At the journal website

Reference:

McDonald, J. K. (2023). The everydayness of instructional design and the pursuit of quality in online courses. Online Learning, 27(2), 137-169. https://doi.org/10.24059/olj.v27i2.3470

The future of the field is not design

I’ve studied and practiced some form of design for nearly 25 years. While I’ve championed it in various settings, I’ve also become increasingly disillusioned with it. At first I thought I was just getting fed up with shallow and superficial design methods (like the reductive design thinking process). But I’m becoming more convinced over time that there are some fundamental flaws in design when we apply to education. This chapter starts to explain why. Be prepared for more research on this topic. It’s going to occupy me for some time.

Abstract:

We currently face a problem in the field of learning and instructional design and technology (LIDT). We have an important contribution to offer towards what Beckwith (1988) called “the transformation of learners and . . . learning” (p. 18). However, in pursuit of this mission, we have become too fixated on being designers and applying the methods of design thinking. As valuable as design has been for our field, it’s ultimately too narrow an approach to help us have the impact we desire because it overemphasizes the importance of the products and services we create. To be more influential, we need approaches that focus our efforts on nurturing people’s “intrinsic talents and capacities” that are ultimately outside of our ability to manage and control (Thomson, 2005, p. 158; see also Biesta, 2013). Tying ourselves to design will not accomplish this, so we need to cultivate an identity of our own—an identity centered on what Dunne (1997) called the character and dispositions of “practical judgment” (p. 160). 

In this chapter I hope to make these issues clear. I start by describing how design’s focus on creating and making misleads our understanding and application of important dimensions of our field. Doing this limits our impact. I then describe how we can cultivate an LIDT identity that is better suited for the aims we are pursuing. An LIDT-specific identity may include some methods from design thinking, but it will also encompass additional ways of improving the human condition, all centered in the character of practical judgment. I end by calling on readers to consider what this important evolution for our field means for their personal practice.

At Academia.edu

At ResearchGate

At BYU Scholar’s Archive

Link to book chapter

Reference:

McDonald, J. K. (2023). The future of the field is not design. In R. E. West, & H. Leary (Eds.), Foundations of learning and instructional design technology: Historical roots & current trends (2nd ed.). EdTech Books. Retrieved from https://edtechbooks.org/foundations_of_learn/the_future_of_the_field_is_not_design

Informal Practices of Localizing Open Educational Resources in Ghana

This paper is an outgrowth of a student thesis completed last year on OER use: how it’s picked up, adapted (or not adapted), and used by facilitators in educational settings. Short story: people don’t segment OER out as a separate class of educational “thing” they treat different than any other. It just fits into their lives as educators as does other things. Beyond this, I think the abstract speaks for itself. So the only other commentary I want to offer is how ambitious this student’s project was, and how successful she was at pulling it off. I won’t share the mean details, but wow did a lot get in the way of this student’s work (more than she knows, actually; I kept some of it to myself). But she pushed through and pulled off a stellar piece of research.

Abstract:

Research on the use of Open Educational Resources (OER) often notes the potential benefits for users to revise, reuse, and remix OER to localize it for specific learners. However, a gap in the literature exists in terms of research that explores how this localization occurs in practice. This is a significant gap given the current flow of OER from higher-income countries in the Global North to lower-income countries in the Global South (King et al., 2018). This study explores how OER from one area of the world is localized when it is used in a different cultural context.

Findings indicated complex encounters with decontextualized content and a variety of localization practices. Participants experienced challenges with technology due to low bandwidth and hardware problems, as well as language problems given Ghana’s history of colonial rule. Native speakers of Twi are less proficient reading Twi than their national language, English. As facilitators worked to overcome these challenges, they were most likely to informally localize content in intuitive ways during the class based on students’ needs. Informal, in-the-moment practices included translating content into Twi, persisting through technological challenges, using local stories and pictures, localizing through discussion, and teaching responsively. These findings have implications for designers to design collaboratively with technological and linguistic flexibility for localization. More research on the practice of OER localization would refine our understanding of how OER is localized and what barriers and affordances exist to this practice.

At Academia.edu

At ResearchGate

At BYU Scholar’s Archive

At the journal website

Reference:

Bradshaw, E. D., & McDonald, J. K. (2023). Informal practices of localizing open educational resources in Ghana. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 24(2), 18-36. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v24i2.7102

“Are These People Real?”: Designing and Playtesting an Alternative Reality, Educational Simulation

This is a report on another playable case study (PCS) project (at this point, the PCS research collaboration has been by far my most fruitful source of publications). The process of developing and testing this simulation was much, much more interesting than the results themselves. So we decided to write it as a design case, giving us a chance to share details of our process, both good and bad, that led to the simulation being what it was. I really like writing design cases. I wish we had more design knowledge like this in the field.

Abstract:

In this design case, we report our design and playtest of a form of alternative reality, educational simulation that we call a playable case study (PCS). One of the features that make our simulations unique is how they are designed to implement a principle called This Is Not a Game, or TINAG, meaning that the affordances we design into the simulation suggest to students that the experience they are having is real, in contrast to the way the artificial nature of the expe- rience is highlighted in many computer games. In this case, we describe some challenges we encountered in designing a PCS to align with TINAG, along with how the situation in which we play tested the simulation highlighted other ways in which the principle of TINAG was challenging to achieve.

At Academia.edu

At ResearchGate

At BYU Scholar’s Archive

At the journal website

Reference:

McDonald, J. K., Balzotti, J., Franklin, M., Haws, J., & Rowan, J. (2023). “Are these people real?” Designing and playtesting an alternative reality, educational simulation. International Journal of Designs for Learning, 14(1), 34-42. https://doi.org/10.14434/ijdl.v14i1.34682

Microcore: Using Online Playable Cases to Increase Student Engagement in Online Writing Environments

Microcore was the first playable case study developed by the research team I work with. I hadn’t actually joined the team when it was finished, but it is still being used and has been experienced by more students than possibly all our other simulations put together. This particular study grew out of a student project, and I joined the writing to help get things cleaned up and out the door.

Abstract:
This case study explores a type of educational simulation, an alternative reality game we call a playable case study (PCS), and how its use influenced student engagement in an online writing classroom. The goal of the simulation was to help students create professional communication artifacts and experience real-world professional communication situations. This article reports the effectiveness of the playable case study as a tool specifically for online writing instruction (OWI). The context of our research was a PCS called Microcore. Acting as interns for a company, students are asked to investigate a serious problem that occurs and present a solution to ensure similar problems do not occur again. Forty-seven students in two sections of an online professional writing classroom responded to pre- and post-survey questions and prompts that gathered their perceptions about writing, understanding of workplace communication, and levels of engagement. Responses were coded and analyzed for thematic trends. Results suggest that playable case studies like the one reported here may be effective in countering primary OWI difficulties, including disengagement; lack of social presence; faltering self-efficacy; and unclear, unproductive perceptions about writing assignments. Students responded positively to the simulation and appeared to develop more realistic views about workplace communication.

At Academia.edu

At ResearchGate

At BYU Scholar’s Archive

Reference:

Balzotti, J., Haws, K., Rogers, A. A., McDonald, J. K., & Baker, M. J. (2022). Microcore: Using online playable case studies to increase student engagement in online writing environments. Journal of Applied Instructional Design, 11(3). https://edtechbooks.org/jaid_11_3/_microcore_using_onl

css.php