In an ed tech landscape dominated by emerging technologies and web 2.0 conversations, instructional design is hardly the sexy topic du jour.  We lost about 30% of the attendees in the afternoon portion, which may also be an indication of what people are interested in seeing these days (or perhaps it was the pending snowfall, which almost certainly generates paranoia in  Vancouver).

The instructional design category had 5 groups of presenters, and it was interesting to see what this category shared with and how it diverged from the extended LMS category.  All of the presenters in this category represented courses in WebCT/Moodle/Blackboard LMS’s, yet most of them stretched the LMS in some way, through the addition of flash-based interaction to present content (UBC), or to provide a better solution to an LMS feature (BCIT), or through the use of additional tools such as Wimba or Adobe Connect.

Each of the presentations in this category were so different, so this category ended up being really rich.  Here are some strengths of each of the presentations:

1.  UBC Earth and Ocean Sciences:  We didn’t have enough time (our goof) to let UBC really show all that they had to show, but they managed to wow us with some really amazing flash animations to present content, and stunning design of all course elements–graphics, style sheet, everything.  This submission was an inspiration for the importance of “look and feel” as a component of instructional design, demonstrating the importance of approaching the design across a package of courses within a program.

2. Emily Carr:  We knew Emily Carr was going to have a course that looked good, but this was the best looking Moodle course I have ever seen.   As a bonus, Jane Slemon wowed us with an inspiring presentation that told a story of seeking metaphors between art and science.  It should be a mandatory presentation for K-12 educators, since it really nailed the whole idea that art and science can co-exist quite nicely, and in a way that combined reflection, knowledge and application of these two disciplines.  It also really stretched my own conceptions of what instructional design can look like for online.

3.  Another UBC presentation (by Brian Wilson) got a short time shrift, but it was enough  time to  really nail the potential of voice for solving educational challenges.  Outside of language learning I haven’t seen a course that actually uses a voice board well, despite the fact that they have been around since at least 2003.  Brian presented a UBC dental hygiene course where the voice board was  a key component of its delivery, and the rationale for its integration.

4.  Rob Chong’s JIBC presentation really stretched our ideas of blended learning, and instructional design for contexts where blended involves the workplace and the institution.  This was the most well-thought out example of blended learning that I’ve seen, with a complex instructional design that required negotiating complex workplace environments. The wizardry of this example was in the instructional design, and not in the technological bells and whistles.

5.  Like Rob’s presentation that looked for a creative answer to an instructional challenge, BCIT’s presentation focussed on the development of a flash based glossary tool that could provide a much more learning value than a standard LMS glossary tool.  In both of these presentations, the designers could have taken an easy road and created a much easier alternative.  By not doing so, the learning experience for students was greatly enhanced.

5.  VCC wrapped up the day with a presentation on the e-apprentice Automotive Service Technician program, which faced the challenge of making a lot ( a ton!) of content easily navigable and digestable to students, while keeping them engaged and motivated in a program that they juggle while working as apprentices.  Again, as in other presentations, this was made possible by stretching the LMS and getting creative with the presentation of content.

There was so much good variety in this category that it left me hungry for even more inspiration.  All of the people who presented in this category were obviously very good instructional designers, and I appreciated that there are so many design options to be explored, yet it’s so easy to continue to do what is comfortable and familiar.  This was one of the goals of the day, and I think we succeeded in beginning a conversation that will hopefully continue.