Information Design Lab

The digital presence of Information Design Lab, IDC, IIT Bombay

Instructional Design

Instructor: Prof. Venkatesh Rajamanickam

Course duration: 3 weeks

Student Assignments

Assignment 1: Evaluating a MOOC

MOOCs are a relatively recent phenomena that have no established evaluation criteria. These courses vary greatly and do not adhere to a standardized, accepted definition or structure. Generally MOOCs do not have set learning objectives that apply to all participants, which makes it difficult to evaluate them against a set criteria. The Assignment was to take up a MOOC and evaluate it based on some evaluation criteria. The resources below were provided to students help them evaluate MOOC.

Stephen Downes proposes two approaches to evaluating MOOCs, both of which assess these courses as networks. The first method is referred to as the ‘process perspective’ whereby the MOOC is evaluated by the criteria of successful networks (autonomy, diversity, openness, interactivity). The second method that Downes proposes is the ‘outcomes perspective’. In this approach MOOCs are evaluated as knowing systems; as entities which learn as a whole. MOOC effectiveness is then based on the system’s success and not on individual participant outcomes. Both of Downes’ approaches are very interesting and deserve more thought and exploration.

In this Atlantic article The Tricky Task of Figuring Out What Makes a MOOC Successful the authors Reich and Ho explain (based on their original research) why traditional metrics like completion rates aren't a good way to evaluate online courses, and argue for the need to change the entire way we think about success.

A student's perspective of How NOT to Design a MOOC: The Disaster at Coursera and How to Fix it.

An excellent review (but heavy on content side) of Sebastian Thrun's Statistics course by a statistics teacher. Don't miss out on some very thoughtful comments on the post.

INNOQUAL, the International Journal for Innovation and Quality in Learning came out with a special issue (Volume 2, No 3, 2014) on Quality in Massive Open Online Courses. Check out the full papers in the 'Quality in MOOCs' section.

Assignment 2: A survey and presentation on influential theories of learning

In this assignment, students had to survey, understand, analyse and present the most influential theories, models and frameworks for educational research and practice. The exercise was done under the 3 broad perspectives of Behaviourism, Cognitivism, and Constructivism.

Each theoretical perspective offers benefits to designers, but which perspectives must be applied depends on the situation, performance goals, and learners. Since the context in which the learning takes place can be dynamic and multi-dimensional, and since some combination of the three learning theories and perhaps others should be considered and incorporated into the instructional design process to provide optimal learning.

The assignment outcome was to come up with a poster providing a critical understanding of these learning theories.

Assignment 3: Designing Direct Instruction

In this assignment, students had to convert the classroom exercise to teach the concept of Opportunity Cost into a Direct Instruction lesson plan. Learners for this assignment will be high school students (10th standard).

The lesson plan should be very detailed, self-contained and self-explanatory script that a potential teacher should be able to pick up, and with a little practice, should be able to teach the concept as envisioned. Englemanns & Colvin's Rubric for Identifying Authentic Direct Instruction Programs has guidelines and detailed scripts for teaching grammar and critique of those scripts that you can use as reference.

The lesson plan was assessed on the basis of Engelmann's 'logical analysis' by peers and professor. The above guideline has some good examples of such analyses, this is an analysis done by Englemann of the Learning Objectives of a lesson plan.

Assignment 4: Design of a lesson in Local History

Historical knowledge is no more and no less than carefully and critically constructed collective memory. As such it can both make us wiser in our public choices and more richly human in our private lives.
—William H. McNeill, Why Study History? (1985)

In the final assignment of the course, students designed a lesson and associated resources (both for the teacher and the students) for teaching & learning of local history to secondary students.

An important place to start this exercise off is the National Curriculum Framework document of 2005. A decent summary of the NCF 2005 document is here. The main concern of NCF 2005 was: “Why has education become a burden rather than a source of joy?” It envisions an education, from science and maths to social science and language, where children are given a space to reflect, ask questions, wonder, and probe sources of knowledge outside the textbook.

The social sciences position paper, further recommends that learning of history should enable students to better understand their own world and their own identities. History should help them discover processes of change and continuity in their world, and to compare ways in which power and control were and are exercised. Emphasis is on developing concepts and the ability to analyse sociopolitical realities rather than on the mere retention of information without comprehension.

A lot of good people have thought very seriously about education in India and yet, we seem to have failed when it comes to delivering the goods on the ground. Part of the problem I think is, the recommendations paint a broader picture of 'what' could be done without telling 'how' to do them. Even this detailed CBSE advisory ultimately leaves it to the teacher "who can kindle interest and also create curiosity in children’s minds to critically seek new knowledge and examine what they already know", to deal with the details of the 'how'.

A phrase which occurs rather frequently in these documents is contextualizing education. The recommendations of the report are informed by the the Kothari Commission which suggested an epistemological shift in reorienting/redesigning the curriculum so as to accommodate the multiple ways of imagining the Indian nation. Along with the national perspective, the local also needs to be creatively balanced. In order to achieve balancing between national and local, it is necessary to incorporate the local perceptions through which the people can relate themselves to the nation. Doing this will also ensure a much deeper and richer understanding of the nation the commission contended.

Local History

This assignment is therefore to address the 'how' problem. You students will be doing this by making history learning local.

Given the centralised nature of textbook production the content leading to lack of plurality and locality, it is necessary to work towards alternate, more decentralised mechanisms of knowledge-generation in which teachers, students, and the local community feel empowered to bring in their own realities to the content of history. I believe this personal engagement would make history compelling and refreshing for teacher and student alike. It gives students the opportunity to present/re-present history with their own voice (rather than the standardized voice of academia), to make it subjective, to knowingly offer different lenses through which the complex web of history can be viewed.

Furthermore, this approach would encourage ownership through discovery and give the students a sense of engagement and immediacy with the content. The strategies of this class offer the possibility for documenting, investigating and thinking rather than dry historical regurgitation. The idea is not new. British & American schools have long incorporated local history lessons while several universities offer it as a specialised field of study.

The objective of this assignment was to create the first set of teaching & learning materials specific to a locality (Powai, Andheri, Aurangabad and so on) that schools from the locality can use to build a history of their villages, towns or parts of cities. The larger goal is to make this an open source project where such locally created history lessons across India will be collected through contributions from teachers and history enthusiasts, and made available to schools for use in their classroom.

The Task

Create a local history lesson for any secondary class (6th to 10th standard). Your design output should include a set of learning materials (well chosen primary materials such as maps, images, data etc., activities such as understanding change through analysing data, recording and interpreting oral histories etc.,, easy templates and formats for documentation/presentation) for the students and teaching resources (lesson plan, teaching notes etc.) for teachers.

The lesson should be completed in about 3-4 class periods with perhaps an additional half-day on a Saturday for field work. Students referred to NCERT history/social studies text books for these classes to get a sense of typical length and coverage.


You can reach Prof. Venkatesh Rajamanickam via email