Using the ISD model for implementing change

Posted on Mar 15, 2010

This entry is in response to applying my ISD model towards planned change and instructional development.

In Donald Ely’s “Conditions That Facilitate the Implementation of Educational Technology Innovations”, Journal of Research on Computing in Education, v23 n2 p298-305 Win 1990 (ERIC #EJ421756), there are eight conditions critical to moving from a present state to an new state of system operation.

  1. Dissatisfaction With The Status Quo
  2. Existence Of Knowledge and Skills
  3. Availability Of Resources
  4. Availability Of Time
  5. Rewards Or Incentives Exist
  6. Participation
  7. Commitment
  8. Leadership

My chosen focus for my ISD model is on the “gap” between the production of learning content and material, and the network systems upon which they are deployed for retrieval and use by students in a higher education distance learning environment. We may examine the implementation of change from both sides of the instructional equation: learner and instruction.

1. Dissatisfaction With The Status Quo:

Learners: Ely is referring to “dissatisfaction with the status quo” from the perspective of the student’s condition of dissatisfaction, urging towards the desire for introducing change, though in this case, it is the learner’s resistance to change as a result of the university’s dissatisfaction with the status quo. Learners may prefer to operate in the traditional learning environment, though circumstances may force them to function in a distance learning environment when the university offers no other options. The resistance to migrating to an asynchronous environment that functions through a computer interface and with course delivery applications may introduce emotional distractions to the learner that must be resolved or minimized before the learner can focus on the learning activities.

Instruction: Higher education’s desire to move beyond the status quo sees benefits in delivering online classes that primarily serve the needs of the university – not necessarily the needs of students. Although there are numerous benefits for students in terms of accessibility, time management, personal and professional development, the technologies employed to deliver information to students continue to evolve, suggesting that the student will be continuously encumbered with assimilating and adapting their online learning dialect, year after year. We need to be conscious of the effect that the changing online learning environment may have on the stress of student learning engagement, and to minimize it.

2. Existence of Knowledge and Skills:

Learners: Ely describes this aspect as the skills and competencies present to operate in a changed environment. For learners, this component relies heavily on learner’s strong feelings of self-efficacy about using an innovation, program, or technology, with user knowledge and skill correlating positively with the confidence or fear it produces to use it. This means, simply, that students who do not possess the linguistic vocabulary – or competencies – in the online learning environment, will be distracted, disoriented, and will resist operating within it. In this ISD model, we suggest the use of digital literacy assessment prior to engaging the student in online instruction. This assures that, at a certain degree, students may enter an unknown online learning experience with generalizable process skills that may be adapted to reasonably well designed information delivery.

Instruction: Knowledge and skills, in the deliver of instruction, points to the ability of ID professionals to be aware that information delivery and student reception systems differ in the online environment than in f-2-f instruction. This includes developing the skills to compose instructional content in ways that are appropriate for an online environment where there are no cues to the instructor for sensing when learners are struggling with comprehension, or where the information interface is causing unnecessary stress, disorientation or confusion about the appropriate response.

3. Availability Of Resources:

Learners: This aspect refers to management-level components, such as finances, personnel, technology, and instructional materials. For students, it is not a given that online instruction interfaces will appear on all computer monitors with equal clarity or with optimal working space. If a student’s monitor is relatively small – such as in a laptop or a 15″ standalone model – the student may be handicapped in operating efficiently. This extends further into areas of broadband Internet connectivity speed – a critical factor in streaming asynchronous and synchronous A/V media.

Instruction: Institutions that offer online courses need not account for the lowest common denominator of all potential student resources, though there should be an accounting of the recommended minimum standards presented to students prior to enrollment, with a full explanation for why operating with less-than-optimal resources may affect student perception of learning value and affection for the course in general.

4. Availability Of Time:

Learners: When a student enters a traditional classroom in the higher education environment, he or she may be bringing with them 12 or more years of experience in adapting to the variations of teaching styles from one teacher to the next – each year with perhaps 3 to 5 different teachers. In the online environment, however, we cannot be assured that the student has developed a repertoire of online structural and communication skills to adapt to the presentation of any given system on online instruction. The potential result is an initial “expository” lag that the learner may experience while attempting to acquire, decipher, assimilate or adapt to the information presentation system, applications, and response patterns. This may result in students experiencing undue stress or apprehension. Time must be made available for the student to become acculturated to the learning environment.

Instruction: The reciprocal half of the above statement is that instructional development must offer the opportunity for students to acculturate to the online learning environment prior to the commencement of instruction, and, perhaps, they must monitor the strategies employed in instruction to limit the breadth of user’s use of online tools at initial stages, then introduce more tools as the amount of student engagement time increases.

5. Rewards Or Incentives Exist:

Learners: Considering the upside intrinsic benefits of functioning well in the online learning environment, learners stand to gain a great deal if they believe there will be a consistently well-designed presentation of instruction in an online environment that also leads to achieving actual learning outcomes. The downside of badly designed online instruction resonates in the sense of students suffering through the course activities, as well as imprinting the learner with a sense that all online learning is inherently unsavory. I dare say that if instructional designers approach the distance learning student as a “love interest”, that we may apply more personal care and sensitivity into our efforts to present information to the student with the highest level of integrity possible, in a medium that minimizes the possibility for “coloring” the information in an ambiguous or misleading way.

Instruction: Fulfillment of the above considerations may lead to a greater willingness for instructional designers to trust the use of distance learning as a viable solution for certain aspects of information delivery, if it is know that it is a method that has gained acceptance and comfort among the student population. This, in turn, may result in an institution willing to exploit the efficiencies of online instruction with greater confidence and credibility.

6. Participation:

Learners: Participation, in this context, refers to the inclusion of stakeholders in the process of decision-making. For students pursuing a degree program, there may or may not be an opportunity to choose between taking a particular course online or f-2-f. (This is one of my current gripes with my MS degree program at the moment). Clearly, in my case, the institution has chosen to structure the core program courses through a combination of traditional and online classes (which is understandable for Instructional Design studies), though this policy is imposed, rather than presented to the student with an opportunity to participate in the decision-making process to offer this innovation. I suppose this policy is rendered as a result of a combination of resource limitations (offering the same class simultaneously online and f-2-f would be unfeasible), as well as a offering a method to place ID students into the very environments for which they may be developing instruction.

Instruction: Instructional development should be conscious of the diversity needs of students in the online environment. Research has shown that even “digital natives” have narrow or shallow experience in certain competencies needed for functioning in the online learning environment (Lei, 2009). Options should be made available for students who need assistance in comprehending the online instructional environment as a part of the course amenities.

7. Commitment:

Learners: Commitment, in this sense, is about visible support for the implementation of change. For students in distance learning classes, the role of leadership must include the willingness to engage the instructor with their experiences of difficulty, stress or disorientation as they proceed through the course curriculum. This expression should be made available for all other participants to review so that others may also feel inclined to express their views, or to assist others.

Instruction: Instructional design should include an overt expression in the support structure of the course that states that online learning is distinct from and dissimilar in many ways from traditional classroom learning so that the students clearly understand that they will need to approach the learning situation with a dialectically distinct set of expectations, response patterns, interaction modes, and resourcefulness for managing disparate, disattached spots of information. The language of instruction in online learning may need to include sensitivity to the learner’s emotional distress from being placed in an unfamiliar learning environment, using tools that are adapted from online social applications that are often times imposed on the instructor whether or not they prefer such methods or applications.

8. Leadership:

Instruction: If higher education wishes to impose distance learning onto students, they must commit to developing it as a species of instruction unto its own, represent it as such, commit to it as an effective system that has its own needs, and develop programs to assist teachers in how to develop courses that will function well in the defined space.


Lei, Jing, (2009), Digital natives as preservice teachers: What technology preparation is needed? Journal of Computing in Teacher Education (JCTE), Volume 25, Number 3, Spring 2009

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