Instructional design and training skills have become a key competency that is expected of public health professionals. However, the research on educating public health students as instructional designers (ID) is lacking. The purpose of this study is to better understand how novice IDs to design training using their design judgment in an authentic instructional design project in order to provide them with effective educational supports. The data sources of this case study include 11 training lesson plans generated by 37 students through a semester and six semi-structured interviews. The findings reveal that: (1) online games, (2) instructional videos, (3) handouts, (4) PowerPoint presentation slides, and (5) infographics were designed and used by novice IDs. In the midst of the various challenges that were encountered, framing judgment, core judgment, instrumental judgment, navigational judgment, and appearance judgment were manifested in the design process of novice IDs. Based on the findings, practical implementations are recommended to develop effective instructional design curricula for novice public health student designers.
design judgment, instructional design, instructional design challenges, instructional design practices, novice instructional designers, public health
Communication skills and strategies are significant for public health professionals to inform and impact diverse individuals, organizations, and communities in an effective and efficient way (Calhoun, McElligott, Weist, & Raczynski, 2012). Bernhardt (2004, p. 2051) defines the concept of public health communication as “the scientific development, strategic dissemination, and critical evaluation of relevant, accurate, accessible, and understandable health information communicated to and from intended audiences to advance the health of the public.”
The above definition of public health communication includes many common features with definitions and descriptions of the instructional design field (Januszewski & Molenda, 2008; Reiser & Dempsey, 2018). Reiser (2002), for instance, describes the instructional design as a systematic and reflective process of design, development, implementation, management, and evaluation of learning and instruction. Based on this definition, instructional designers’ (ID) responsibilities range from the design of training materials such as infographics, job aids, podcasts, flyers, instructional videos, and tutorials; such materials might be employed in the design of online, blended, and conventional courses and workshops. Since one of the main responsibilities of public health professionals is to educate the public, instructional design skills are essential to their success.
Research indicates that expert and novice instructional designers approach the design process differently (Cross, 2004; Kim & Ryu, 2014). For instance, instructional design experts have the ability to form meaningful problem representations through integrating a variety of information and resource considerations in accordance with their prior knowledge and experience (Ertmer et al., 2008; Rowland, 1992). Such findings indicate those novice instructional designers (ID) are more likely to capture the surface features of the design problem while missing opportunities for integrating and connecting different key issues. In comparison, experts more often can grasp the underlying principles and connections (Ertmer & Stepich, 2005).
Many governments and foundation reports, as well as news stories, increasingly point to the need for professional instructional designers (e.g., Berrett, 2016; Intentional Futures, 2016; Kim, 2018; Richey, Fields, & Foxon, 2001; Riter, 2016). These reports are a sign that educators need to prepare competent ID professionals in instructional methods through solving real-world problems (Dijkstra, 2005; Jonassen & Hernandez-Serrano, 2002). However, studies have indicated that simply using problem-solving methods to engage learners does not ensure that a novice will automatically transform into an expert (Dufresne, Gerace, Hardiman, & Mestre, 1992). As Sweller (1988) argued, the traditional means-end method to problem-solving, primarily used by novices, is ineffective. To address this issue, Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006) suggested providing scaffolded support and guidance to help novices acquire problem-solving skills.
There are myriad expectations for public health professionals including designing informational and persuasive communications and initiating marketing communication such as health literacy concepts (Calhoun et al., 2012). More specifically, instructional design and training skills have become a key competency that is expected of public health professionals. For instance, a common expectation of community health professionals educating patients(Community Health Network). Browsing open positions listed at Indeed and Glassdoor, it becomes obvious that the healthcare field needs instructional designers. There are myriad advertisements listed for instructional design consultants, learning and development specialists, learning design managers, process trainers, documentation and training coordinators, digital learning designers, online course writers and designers, hospital education specialists, professional development specialists, active learning instructional designers, and much more. Not surprisingly, the “instructing skill” was listed as one of the key skills for community health workers by MyMajors (https://www.mymajors.com/career/community-health-workers/skills/); a website that helps students create a clear pathway to complete their degree.
Clearly, instructional design courses are now deemed crucial for public health students. Some universities, in fact, provide instructional design courses for public health students such as Chicago Medical School at Rosalind Franklin University and the authors’ institution. However, the research on educating public health students as instructional designers is lacking. This case study examines design practices, challenges, and judgments of undergraduate students majoring in public health as novice instructional designers. The purpose is to better understand how they strategically select, plan, develop, implement, and evaluate learning tools and activities using their design judgment in an authentic instructional design project. Hopefully, the results can further inform public health educators of the necessary support structures that can be provided to students to acquire the necessary skills and experiences.
Discussions and Conclusions:
This case study examines design practices, challenges, and judgment of novice IDs majoring in the public health field. The purpose of this study is to better understand how novice IDs’ design practices and design judgment are used in authentic instructional design projects to provide them with enhanced educational supports. The findings reveal that: (1) online games, (2) instructional videos, (3) handouts, (4) PowerPoint presentation slides, and (5) infographics were designed and used by novice IDs. In the midst of the various challenges that were encountered, framing judgment, core judgment, instrumental judgment, navigational judgment, and appearance judgment were manifested in the design process of novice instructional designers.
Public health students, as novice instructional designers, demonstrated using framing judgment by providing a generic rationale for their design problems. The design problems were mostly framed based on public health students’ past experiences and core judgments which are usually buried deep inside one’s belief system. For example, in the case of safe sex education, the students framed the issue by stating that sex education is important for college students. However, they failed to provide any depth or extended details regarding why this is the case.
Such results coincide with previous literature that novice instructional designers are more likely to capture the surface features of the design problem while missing opportunities to integrate or connect different issues and pieces of information (Ertmer & Stepich, 2005). In contrast, experts tend to grasp the underlying principles and connections (Ertmer & Stepich, 2005; Ertmer et al., 2008; Rowland, 1992). Given these differences, novices attempt to solve the problem quickly based on the surface differences and commit to a solution quickly (Rowland, 1992). Although the subjective position of novice IDs is important, they also need to be taught how to frame the problem based on the objective evidence outside of their own subjectivity. Thus, more practical decision-making models such as SWOT, which refers to strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (Leigh, 2010), might be helpful to guide novice IDs when addressing instructional design problems and challenges.
Another critical use of designer judgment is core judgment that refers to subconscious limits of value and meaning. In this study, we found that making instruction interesting and engaging, accessible, and effective are some of the core judgments held by the participants. This finding is in line with Boling et al.’s (2017) study which indicated that while designer judgment is rarely discussed in the ID field, designers appear to bring core judgments into their design efforts. In addition, the core judgments identified from the novice instructional designers in the present study also echoed with the perspective of Merrill, Drake, Lacy, and Pratt (1996). Merrill and his colleagues argued that instruction should make “the acquisition of knowledge and skill more efficient, effective, and appealing.” (p. 6) Thus, public health educators can leverage students’ current design judgment and shape their judgment in the design process if and when the situation arises.
Third, the selection and design of online games, instructional videos, handouts, PowerPoint Presentation Slides, and infographics were found to be outcomes of novice designers using their instrumental judgment. Novice instructional designers selected assorted instruments to meet their different purposes using their judgment. However, the tools and resources that they selected were primarily limited to the instruments presented by the instructors. Therefore, instructors should be cautious about the scope of possible instruments presented to learners. As indicated by Lachheb and Boling (2018), it would be beneficial to teach students how to select the needed tools, resources, and materials, rather than which instruments should be used.
Next, the study found that novice instructional designers demonstrated their appearance judgment using their theoretical visual design knowledge about contrast, color, white space, emphasis, and unity to their training materials. This finding suggests that visual design plays a vital role in instructional design. Thus, instruction on visual elements (e.g., line, shape, volume, color, and texture) and visual design principles (e.g., unity, hierarchy, balance, contrast, scale, and dominance) might enhance their appearance judgment while designing public health training or lessons.
Finally, the novice instructional designers encountered challenges during the analysis, design, evaluation, and implementation phases of the project. Honnebein (2019) discussed these challenges under the name of ‘constraints’ that refer to the availability of resources such as money, time, and other tools. In particular, many technical issues including poor Internet connections and media demonstration appeared during implementation phases. Some of the novice instructional designers demonstrated their navigational judgment to solve problems. However, most of them failed in these complex situations. As several scholars have indicated, design situations are complex and unpredictable (e.g., Nelson & Stolterman, 2012; Schön, 1983). Given such complexity, instructional designers should be ready to use their judgment to handle problems and challenges as they arise. Thus, educators might prepare students to be structured and organized, and, at the same time, be flexible and open to uncertainties.
Overall, this study revealed novice IDs’ design practices, challenges, and judgments used in their instructional design practices. The findings may inform public health educators of students’ experiences and perceptions of instructional design. With a comprehensive understanding of novice IDs’ design practices and judgments, educators can better facilitate learners in their learning processes and develop and shape students’ design judgments that are related to specific instructional design situations. In other words, academic investigations and discussions on the novice IDs’ design conditions (e.g., learner, content, context, and constraints) and values (e.g., goals and framing priorities) would help educators better understand how novice, student IDs make judgments about effective instructional design and help educators better facilitate their students’ instructional design processes and decision making.
The Kavian Scientific Research Association (KSRA) is a non-profit research organization to provide research / educational services in December 2013. The members of the community had formed a virtual group on the Viber social network. The core of the Kavian Scientific Association was formed with these members as founders. These individuals, led by Professor Siavosh Kaviani, decided to launch a scientific / research association with an emphasis on education.
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FULL Paper PDF file:A Case Study of the Design Practices and Judgments of Novice Instructional Designers
We would like to thank Indiana University Professors Elizabeth Boling and Erik Stolterman who influenced aspects of this manuscript with their consultative advice and design ideas and frameworks.
CONTEMP EDUC TECHNOL, Volume 12, Issue 2, Article No: ep267
Received: 5 Feb 2020 Accepted: 15 Feb 2020
Number of pages of English article 19 pages in pdf format
Type of writing Research Article
How to submit an article Journal
Courses related to this article Educational Science
Published in Journal CONTEMPORARY EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY
key words design judgment, instructional design, instructional design challenges, instructional design practices, novice instructional designers, public health
ISSN 1309-517X (Online)
Digital ID – DOI https://doi.org/10.30935/cedtech/7829
Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.
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Professor Siavosh Kaviani was born in 1961 in Tehran. He had a professorship. He holds a Ph.D. in Software Engineering from the QL University of Software Development Methodology and an honorary Ph.D. from the University of Chelsea.