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DCE Magazine

Don Shannon, DMA, Certified Instructional Designer

E-Learning Instructional Design

Winter 2018

Q. Why did you decide to become an instructor?

A. Instruction comes naturally for me — with an innate curiosity and a desire to help others, I've always enjoyed figuring out how to deliver content effectively. I've taught very diverse subject matter — music theory/analysis, composition, piano pedagogy, computer software applications/programming, instructional design, adult learning theory, and management training.

I've taught college students and corporate employees both face-to- face and online, but it was when I discovered the *intersection of instruction and instructional design* that the field became alive for me. I completed two instructional design certifications, and in each one I found myself saying, “This really makes sense — I've been using these techniques and methods for years, and now I have evidence and validation that backs up my approach.” The certificate programs also piqued my interest in clarifying our field and in dispelling some myths regarding course design that linger within the profession — two of these in my course are, “Instructional Design: How Hard Can That Be?” and “The Myth of Learning Styles.”

Q. What's your favorite lesson to teach and why?

A. One of my favorite lessons is about the types of content we create in e-Learning. The participants study how to produce content effectively — how to create, organize, display, and communicate it – and how to use multiple interactive techniques and media to engage and motivate learners.

As a corollary to content types, you might ask, “How does a person apply instructional design to varied content?” For any content domain, the key to effective instructional design is the instructional methods used. Instructional methods have been validated, are relatively stable, and apply across all subject domains, and are the key ingredients that make learning happen. An example: Let's say you prepare a lesson on how to repair widgets. You can present information “about” widgets or “history of widgets,” but if you don't create practice opportunities to repair widgets, participants will never learn the task at hand. In this example, practice (or “rehearsal”) is the instructional method in play, and is key to learning the task. There are dozens of instructional methods, and my “Principles of e-Learning Instructional Design” course emphasizes instructional methods that work best in e-Learning lessons and courses.

Q. What's unique about your teaching style?

A. I like to establish an online “presence” that's evident, consistent, and dependable – I find that this is a key to successful online teaching.

I also like to give students room to consider new ideas and to grow, to challenge time-worn assumptions and practices, and to perform tasks they weren't able to do prior to the course.

I place a premium on organization, so it's important to me that the course is well-organized and resources are easy to find — especially in the world of ever-changing/evolving Learning Management Systems.

I focus more on the student's grasp of concepts than in awarding grades: It's more important to know if “the lights are going on” than an over-emphasis on rewards and penalties. It's also important to support motivation — create activities that inspire, challenge, and stretch students, but also attainable.

Q. What do you find most rewarding about being an instructor?

A. Here are three elements (among many) that I find most rewarding when working with the very talented UCI student population:

  • To see a student interact with content, to form new knowledge, to find value in the transaction, and demonstrate skills that they didn't have before
  • To work with a diverse student population — experienced practitioners and neophytes, those in career transition, and those from all parts of the world
  • To learn of student successes in their post-course pursuits and how the course may have opened new opportunities for them.