Monday, March 10, 2008

Thinking Design..Part II

In spite of repeated reminders from Manish I have been postponing this for quite some time (owing to the tight deadlines for the project for which we did this design)! However, I am finally here ready to share my very interesting and engaging experience about coming up with “multiple” design options for one of the large IT companies!

At the very beginning of the project, our team got instructions from Manish that he plans to send this course for Brandon Hall and therefore, we better come up with some innovative/out-of-box/something we haven’t done before – kind of design for this course! At the same time, he instructed that he wants to see two “unique” designs that have nothing in common! That very moment, our struggle for a “good” design started. Four of us (2 LD ppl, 1 CD person, and 1 CT person) in the team started with brain storming amongst ourselves; however soon realized that this exercise should be taken to a larger team to get more perspectives and fresh ideas! We held meetings with several people in content and CD practice. We got many creative ideas from different people. Though for the first initial days it was very difficult, we did not limit our thinking to what we had been doing for so long – but focused our thoughts on what “newness” along with “value add” can we bring about in the course.

On submitting the two design options to Manish, he suggested that we scratch those two ideas and come up with another new one! Phew!! K We thought this wasn’t possible considering that we had already exhausted the list of “new” ideas we had in our mind and got from other people!! However, with much vigor, we started to “think” one more time. Unlike our initial belief that we won’t be able to come up with anything new now, we did manage to hit some new ideas! We presented the last design option to Manish which we all finally agreed upon to take forward with some modifications.

While this entire exercise was one of a kind (took us about 5-6 working days) and one that I haven’t done before in my 8 years long stint at NIIT, it sure posed some critical questions in my mind: Do we understand design? Do we understand what all constitutes design? Do we really design our courses? While I am may not be able to answer all these questions right away, some important things that did etch to mind while doing this exercise are:
  1. “Get together” across teams: Instead of working in isolation as LD, CD, or CT teams, it is important that people from each team get together and create design. One of the important things to understand is that a “design” doesn’t only constitutes the overall instructional theme or the instructional strategies you plan to include in the course; but also includes the interface, look and feel of the course and functionality related issues. So, it is best to thrash out those ideas at the initial design phase to avoid any “mishaps” later.
  2. Brainstorm: Again, one of the biggest mistakes we make as IDs is to work in isolation while creating the course design. The best way to come up with new ideas is to get into a time-packed mode and brainstorm both within and outside the team. The “outside” view is important as it helps in getting non-biased and fresh perspectives in the design.
  3. Find the key takeaway: While you think about design, try to explore what is the key thing/message you are trying to drive home for the learners. What is it that the learners will carry with them after going through the course? This will help you in coming up with an instructional theme for your course.
  4. Forget what you know, think anew: One of the biggest limitation is that we work with constraints in our minds: we are either too comfortable with the way we have been working or we are afraid to try anything new. Whatever be the reason, for once if you are creating a design for the course; forget all that you know and think what is the best possible way to teach the learners about this content.
  5. Do not forget the learner: Amidst all this, do not forget the learner! Evaluate what are the design elements that you will include in the course that will help the learners in any which way – this include the types of interactive you plan to include, the way you want to segregate the “should” know vs. “could” know information, option to print documents, the way you want to test the learners, etc.

Please feel free to add in to this - based on the design experiences you had!


Suresh Rajan on March 11, 2008 at 11:21 AM said...

Thanks for sharing this Sonali. Could you also perhaps share the design itself using slideshare etc? I'm sure many of us will benefit from it. It will be great if you could highlight the salient "out-the-box" components of the design and their bases and principles.

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