WisCom designers and developers applied instructional design methods using Gunawardena, et. al’s. (2019) framework and guide for building online wisdom communities.
Using Richey and Klein’s taxonomy of design and development research we classify the investigation as “model use research (2014, p. 72).” The goal of such research is to provide “theoretical insights and practical solutions in real-world contexts, together with stakeholders” (McKenny and Reeves, 2019, p. 6). Iterative phases of (1) needs analysis and exploration, (2) design and construction, and (3) evaluation and reflection comprise such studies. We report on phases one and two. In phase one, as suggested by McKenny and Reeves, we attempted to “generate a clear understanding of the problem and its origins as well as specification of long-range goals” (p. 85) for the WisCom as reported above. In phase two, through teamwork, communication, and creativity we produced a potential solution to the stated problem by creating a WisCom in Canvas. In phase three, which is yet to come, we will evaluate the impact of the WisCom implementation on faculty and students.
In the context of the graduate level Foundations of Learning Design course, EDLT students helped design and develop the EDLT WisCom in accordance with the principles of instructional design. Topics of eleven modules in the Foundations of Learning Design course follow: Becoming a Learning Designer, IDer, and Educational Technologist; History of the Field; ID Models; Foundational Theories; Needs and Learner Analysis; Task Analysis and Identification of Types of Learning; Assessing Learning; Development of Strategies that Address What We Know about How People Learn; Implementation and Management of Learning Design Projects; Evaluation; and Conclusion. Readings included Culturally Inclusive Instructional Design by Gunawardena, Frechette, and Layne, (2019) and instructor-generated content in each of the modules.
As potential end-users, students were actively involved in the design process to help ensure the resulting WisCom would be compelling, usable, and responsive to their cultural, emotional, spiritual, and practical needs. Recent research suggests that designers create more innovative concepts and ideas when working within a co-designed environment with others than they do when creating ideas on their own (Treischler, Trischler, J.; Pervan, S. J.; Kelly, S. J.; & Scott, D. R., 2018). Therefore, they built Canvas-based WisComs in four teams of three to four students. Participants included one faculty member (the lead researcher and instructor for the course), one doctoral student (co-researcher and graduate assistant), and fifteen students enrolled in the eight-week online graduate level course on learning design. The faculty member identifies as a white female from the U.S Westcoast with several years of teaching experience in educational technology and instructional design. The graduate student identifies as a white female from the Southwest with several years of teaching experience and K-12 educational administration experience. Students’ ethnicities were 8 Hispanic, 4 White, 1 African American, 1 Native American, and 1 West Indian; and genders were 12 females and 3 males. In terms of teaching experience, 62% of the participants had 0-5 years, 31% had 6-10 years, and 7% had 11-15 years.
EDLT students served as designer-developers following the principles of both instructional design and user design, also known as participatory design (Carr-Chellman, 2015; Lowdermilk, 2013). Such designs involve input from potential users of the design so that the resulting learning experiences meet their needs. The researchers collected naturalistic data in the context of participants making design decisions.
Data sources and their corresponding codes for analysis were— 1) a Pre-Wisdom-Community Design and Development Survey developed and administered by the researchers to determine students’ perceptions regarding their needs (PreS); 2) online discussion of “Our Personal and Professional Selves” (OD); 3) design and development documents: a needs assessment developed and administered by students and distributed to EDLT students who were not in the class, a goal/task analysis developed and conducted by students, assessment criteria identified by students, strategies and features identified and described by students, implementation strategies identified by students, and one-on-one and small group evaluations conducted by students (D&Ddocs); 4) a Post-Wisdom-Community Design and Development Survey (PostS); and 5) the four student-developed WisCom prototypes (WCs). Each of these sources contributed to the ultimate design of the EDLT WisCom.
The overarching course assignment was for students to work in teams to develop EDLT WisComs while course modules scaffolded their design and development efforts. The first four modules laid the foundation for instructional design. Beginning with the fifth module, needs and learner analysis, each assignment led to the systematic development of their team’s WisCom.
In a Zoom mediated course orientation, students were introduced to their term project of developing an EDLT WisCom for future use by Masters and Doctoral students. In the first Canvas module, they were also given written instructions and the rubric used to assess their ultimate product. They were divided into four teams and each team was given a Canvas shell in which to build an EDLT WisCom. The Pre-Wisdom-Community Design and Development Assessment was administered online using Google Forms in the context of the first course module. It was designed to establish whether or not there was a need for a WisCom, whether or not EDLT students were likely to participate in a voluntary WisCom, and what topics students would be interested in exploring together in a WisCom. In Module 2, students carried on a discussion entitled “Our Personal and Professional Selves.” In the discussion, students shared their career goals and what they hoped they would learn in their EDLT program.
Student-teams developed and conducted surveys to assess needs that they sent to all EDLT graduate students. In response to subsequent modules, the teams went on to conduct goal/task analyses, establish assessment criteria, develop prototype WisComs that demonstrated their preferred strategies and features, describe implementation strategies, conduct one-on-one and small group evaluations, and revise their WisComs accordingly. The resulting products were the four WisCom prototypes. The researchers identified the most effective and compelling components and features of each in order to assemble one WisCom that would address EDLT students’ expresses needs and interests. In the final course module, students filled out the Post-Wisdom-Community Design and Development Assessment using Google Forms.
Data Collection and Analyses
Data collection took place in the context of course activities in the Foundations of Learning Design course. Therefore, design and development tasks and data were realistic in scope. Students collaboratively generated and submitted design and development documents for each design and development phase. In addition, they participated in the online class discussion and took the Pre and Post Wisdom-Community Design and Development surveys. The researchers had access to the four WisComs built in Canvas. These were not assessed or analyzed until the end of the course.
All data sources were qualitatively focus-coded according to a) activities in which students wanted to participate, b) features they wanted included in the WisCom, and, c) suggestions for implementation. They were then categorized across five salient components of WisComs that lead to transformative learning according to Gunawardena, Frechette, & Layne, (2019): technology, communication, distributed co-mentoring, learner support, and collaborative inquiry cycles. Findings reported reflect saturation within or across data sources. Data interpretations and the final WisCom were member-checked with participants before it was launched to the EDLT community so that they could affirm, clarify, or contribute new ideas regarding the design.
Students studied and learned instructional design processes in the context of a term-long project to design and develop an EDLT WisCom. Although the entire class was delivered online, students requested that the instructor meet with them via Zoom once a week to clarify content to study and tasks to complete. Covid was in full swing and we all needed the human interaction to support our learning.
The PostS revealed the extent that students felt course resources and activities helped them design the WisCom. From the students’ perspectives, goal-setting was most helpful; conducting needs and goal analyses, listing objectives, and instructor constructed readings were also helpful; developing a test-blueprint, collaborating, identifying features, and establishing implementation and management processes were somewhat less helpful; formative evaluation was even somewhat less helpful; and readings in the text were considered to be the least helpful of all the class activities (see Table 1). These preferences reflect some students’ remarks that they want less reading in both their courses and in their WisCom.
The PreS as well as the student administered needs assessment that went to all EDLT students established that students felt the need for an online environment where they could share content with other students in EDLT. Most said that they were likely to participate. In their D&Ddocs, students stated that they look forward to being able to learn in the EDLT WisCom. Students’ processes for evaluating their prototype WisComs revealed, through one-on-one and small group evaluation that the environment will provide students with a “sense of connection to the edtech community,” and a “safe and pleasant space to promote discussion.” They want “online collaboration with more control than teacher-led structured learning environments.” EDLT students offered that the WisCom would be a welcome “community space where questions can be asked and answered by different community members with different perspectives that can broaden others’ perspectives.” They want a space for “shared expertise, ideas, methods and approaches to online teaching and learning design,” and “relevant discourse.” One student offered that she sees the WisCom as a “pool of knowledge to access and/or a hive-mind to address certain topics.” Another student plans to use the space to “get input on things I was struggling with or just need guidance on how to go about it.” Most importantly they expressed appreciation for a “space where everyone feels welcome to voice their thoughts and experiences.”
For students to feel comfortable co-mentoring, they shared that both faculty and students should invest time and effort toward building trust. They want to know that the WisCom is a supportive environment where they will not be made to feel stupid or ill-informed no matter what they ask or share. They “want others to share their ideas, methods and approaches to overcoming specific gaps or situations;” want to “share ideas, experiences, success stories, and approaches;” as well as provide the “opportunity for more seasoned students to mentor newcomers to the EDLT program,” (D&Ddocs). Together they want to “create, test, and sample content,” (PreS) and “share experiences of teaching online,” (OD).
In what activities do EDLT students want to participate?
Beyond what they study in their coursework, students want to share tutorials in learning technologies as well as share, see, and practice ways that they and others apply technologies to support learning. They want to “share wins and losses of tech implementation in the classroom[s]” where they teach (PreS). Students on each team provided both synchronous and asynchronous communication in their WisCom prototypes and want students to be able to communicate in both discussions and brief chats.
Several students expressed the wish to see each EDLT community member’s introductory profile and biography; and many want to be able to connect and network with each other to, “share my content I create” and “impact other’s development” (D&Ddocs). They want to be able to ask and answer each other questions about the field and about their experiences in the degree program. In addition to spaces for chatting and discussions, they want a space to share celebrations of personal and professional achievements.
An agreement among students was that faculty members and doctoral students take turns and volunteer to design and moderate the Collaborative Inquiry Cycles (CICs). Topics and experiences of interest established by the students for CICs include:
- Social/emotional support and stress reduction – university offerings to support mental health (D&Ddocs, PostA, WCs),
- Guest speakers (D&Ddocs),
- Field competencies and standards (D&Ddocs),
- EDLT terms and definitions (PreS).
- ID models (PreS),
- ID foundations and “workshops that tackle the components of instructional design,” (PreS, OD),
- History of ID (PreS, WCs),
- ID methods (D&Ddocs),
- Gagne’s 9 events of instruction (PostS),
- Instructional design critique (D&Ddocs),
- Different example course designs (OD, D&Ddocs),
- Teamwork and conflict resolution (D&Ddocs),
- Relevant theories including Problem-Based-Learning, critical theory, and critical digital literacy (OD, D&Ddocs, WCs),
- How to establish presence online (D&Ddocs),
- High impact instructional strategies; what works and what doesn’t (OD, D&Ddocs)),
- Technology integration models (PostA),
- Engaging strategies with a variety of tools (D&Ddocs, WCs),
- History of educational technology (PreS, WCs),
- Tutorials for use of specific learning technologies; specifically students named Discord, Google Scholar, MicroSoft Office, Facebook, social media, (OD, D&Ddocs, WCs),
- Problem solving scenarios based on prior course work or work experiences (D&Ddocs),
- MOOCs (OD),
- How to provide teachers’ professional development (D&Ddocs),
- Feedback on work-product (OD, D&Ddocs, WCs),
- Ideas, experiences, success stories, and approaches (D&Ddocs),
- How to mentor and co-mentor (OD; WCs),
- Social networking (OD; WCs),
- Research engagement (D&Ddocs),
- How to develop valid and reliable assessments (D&Ddocs),
- APA citation help (D&Ddocs),
- Seminal article studies (OD),
- Recent enlightening journal articles (OD),
- Research findings (OD),
- Portfolio development with examples and feedback (OD),
- Relevant national organizations, journals, and conferences (OD, D&Ddocs, PostS; WCs),
- National policies (PostS),
- potential funding (D&Ddocs),
- How to crowd-source (D&Ddocs),
- OERs (D&Ddocs),
- Degree program advice (D&Ddocs),
- Career preparation (vitae and portfolio development; types of positions; internships; post-docs, etc.) (OD, D&Ddocs, PostA),
- Corporate and academic job opportunities (D&Ddocs),
- How to work with clients (PostS)
What features would students like included in the WisCom?
Students requested that the WisCom be conducted in Canvas, the campus LMS in which all EDLT students are fluent (PreS). They felt that using another technology such as Discord or Teams would potentially interfere with their broad and seamless adoption, but that tutorials in those applications would be appropriate (D&Ddocs). Zoom is integrated into Canvas courses and is the adopted application for synchronous gatherings. In addition, students asked that we “create a handle and share posts with #WisComEDLT,” (D&Ddocs). While courses are often text-heavy, they want the WisCom to have less text and more videos, graphics, and social media to gain EDLT students’ attentions to activities (D&Ddocs; PostS).
Each group of developers included a space with interaction and resources to support their peers’ social-emotional well-being. Students want the WisCom to include “webinars and Zoom meetings,” “seminars, …and discussion, and networking with like-minded professionals,” as well as “workshops,” (OD, D&Ddocs). Each WisCom also included an evaluative exit survey for students to take at the end of their degree program to support formative evaluation. Features of the four student-developed prototypes are listed in Table 2 below:
In the consolidated WisCom, CICs are developed as modules in Canvas. Students requested additional modules for purposes other than CICs. Therefore, the WisCom includes an orientation that explains their WisCom offerings and activities with “homepage highlights where new members can begin” and demonstrations of Canvas use (D&Ddocs, WCs). As students suggested, the WisCom includes a growing module to be populated with self-paced tutorials and lessons that allow them to check their understandings without risk to their grades or reputation as a student, teacher, and scholar. A question-and-answer space allows students to ask about whatever is on their minds. Each of the four WisCom teams recommended having students sign a netiquette pledge with acceptable behaviors clearly stated.
As mentioned earlier, students want opportunites to interact both acadmically and socially, so we created a “Water Cooler” discussion space for very short social messages, a “Café” for more indepth social discussions, and a “Celebrations” space for announcing achievements such as design and development projects completed, progress with research, internships, and jobs.
How can the WisCom best be implemented to serve each individual in the graduate programs?
Feeling stressed by their mandatory coursework, family, and workplace obligations, students unanimously want a low-stakes, supportive, optional environment designed to move them forward without requiring homework or testing beyond self-checks. “Users must be provided the opportunity to manage and contribute according to their interests in varying ways that are comfortable for them,” (D&Ddocs). One student recommended that facilitators “gradually release responsibility to the users,” (D&Ddocs). This is accomplished by encouraging doctoral students and senior Masters students to moderate CICs. Students concluded that testing or quizzing EDLT students on content in the WisCom context would be oppressive and turn students off to participation. In short, students want “a positive, supportive environment” (PostA) as they progress through their degree program. They suggest that the “community be self-run, all members contributing and building one another's knowledge concerning EDLT” (D&Ddocs).
Students recommended that systems be in place for providing access and knowledge of how to navigate and be active in the WisCom to all EDLT students (D&Ddocs, PostA, WCs). Therefore, a faculty member maintains those systems that include entering and deleting students as they enter and leave the program, and granting and withdrawing editing priviledges to CIC moderators every two weeks. The faculty member also assures that new students are oriented to WisCom purposes and activities. The faculty member documents guidelines for maintaining the site and for WisCom CIC moderators. Although the framework proposed by Gunawardena et al. suggests that participation in CICs continue until a CIC is complete, EDLT students prefered short experiences. After much deliberation, we settled on two-week-long CICs.
Generally, roles of students and faculty members are the same as they are equal participants and co-mentors. But, for some tasks, roles differ. Students wanted to direct the WisCom themselves, indicating that the site should be managed by faculty or a graduate student intern under faculty supervision, but that students should generate content. Therefore, faculty members decided to use a volunteer approach giving students the responsibility of moderating CICs. Only faculty members and student moderators have full editing rights while students contribute and interact. Those moderator-volunteers identify the theme of the CIC that they lead and attend to its contents daily for 2 weeks. Because students want daily access and moderator availability, moderators support the environment each weekday of those 2 weeks (PreA). Students want an easy space to navigate. Therefore, we open one CIC at a time and archive completed CICs so that the WisCom does not get too complicated and content-dense.
CIC moderators announce where on the site students collaborate as well as the topic for their CIC. Each CIC begins with a learning challenge, provides an initial exploration and resources, and gives students opportunities for reflection and negotiation of meaning. In addition to contributing to the Canvas site, students want to share links to valuable content. They work together and network with others in the field using social media and post to the WisCom links to those communication channels and suggestions regarding who to “follow” and “friend.”
Students suggested that, because participation is optional and participants typically work full time while going to school, motivation to participate must be addressed by design. Therefore, we applied the ARCS-V (Keller, 2010; Keller & Deiman, 2012) motivation model across the environment and in that context demonstrate the ARCS-V model to students suggesting that they apply it as they lead others through CICs as well as in their future careers. Through design we gain students’ attention through student ownership in the environment, injection of personal stories, invited speakers, variation, and unexpected events. CIC moderators establish relevance by relating CICs to fellow students’ goals, interests, and experiences. CIC designers build confidence by providing clear expectations, as well as opportunities for success and personal responsibility. And, students gain satisfaction with their experiences in the WisCom as they are rewarded by inclusion and fairness while growing as educational technologists (D&Ddocs).
From the faculty members’ and researchers’ perspectives there were some weaknesses in the students’ WisCom designs that the faculty were able to address when consolidating and revising the four student-developed Wiscoms. For instance, students embedded frequent self-checks in the hope that those would keep students engaged and they included numerous exit surveys at the end of modules for collecting students’ responses to the environment for formative evaluation purposes. These interactive features can be expected in a course on instructional design foundations, but were determined to be detrimental to participation in the otherwise supportive WisCom and were removed because they might be seen by students as burdensome and potentially punitive.
Students realized that they were to develop a flexible framework for participation. However, their final products did not reflect full understanding that co-mentoring and collaboration are to take place across time, content, and activities and not in just one dedicated space. Rather each group created Modules titled Collaboration and Mentoring where those activities were to take place. Also, students did not address how CICs would be administered and implemented, leaving that up to the instructor. In the consolidated and revised design, collaboration and co-mentoring take place within all modules and CICs include learning challenges, initial explorations, resources, reflections, negotiation, and ultimately, preservation in Canvas archives.