he Constitutional Foundations for Law Enforcement (CFLE) course marked a sharp divide between the design paradigm that the Center had traditionally used and what would follow. There are several reasons for this, some of which will be explored in this post.
Out With the Old
The established design sequence used by the Center for the development of their e-learning courses was an outgrowth of their otherwise highly successful Montpelier Seminars—three-day interactive workshops run on-site at James Madison’s Montpelier. This sequence went something like this:
- Identify scholar from Montpelier Seminar and sound them out for writing an online course on a popular subject.
- Establish a curriculum and MOU with the scholar to produce the course in the form of a 35,000–85,000 document. (The budget distribution was also created at the beginning of this process.)
- The Content Development Manager, working with others, identifies what videos to produce for the course, identifies appropriate scholars to invite, and develops script questions. The resultant videos must be used as-is.
- Content Development Manager receives the first draft and distributes to reviewers for comments.
- Content Development Manager returns comments back to the scholar for review and correction.
- The script is divided into logical sections (‘chunking’) and areas where multimedia (infographics, animations, video) could be used to replace quantities of text in an appropriate manner were identified.
- The ‘chunked’ script was then passed to the Instructional Design Manager to develop in Adobe Captivate at a rate of approximately 1 module (or more, depending on deadlines) per week, including development and integration of all media assets, setting up course shells, copy-editing, and testing.
- Independently, the Content Development Manager generated assessments.
- The course goes live in the LMS (which at the time could not integrate SCORM/Tin Can/etc. thus limiting the type of assessments).
(Note: This would be much easier as an HTML5 animation. I’ll work on that next!)
The content independently produced for these courses—the scholar text, videos, and infographic/animations—were generally high-quality. What the course suffered from, however, was the desire to make them “evergreen,” and the lack of design from an instructional, learner-focused perspective (or, put another way, instructional design). For example, one mine of assessment and design inspiration for the structure of modules that were not used were the “Lecture Themes” and thought-provoking questions that that scholar distributed prior to the on-site workshops. Coupled with readings, these were set to challenge the perspectives of the learners. Unfortunately, they also tended to be more thematic and relevant to the day thereby breaking the “evergreen” rule.
In With the New
Now, this is where things get interesting. With the slower adoption of courses and lower completion rates than the Center wanted, as well as other factors, the CFLE course was opened up in terms of the design paradigm. While there had been long-term questions about personalizing the text through identification of the scholar, use of synchronous ‘touch points’ throughout the course and so on, ultimately the budget distribution for each course was pre-set and could not support too much variance. The CFLE course allowed the successive approximation model (SAM) for course design to be explored with specific elements:
- Background/Preparation. This was a rapid phase in part because of the work done on previous online courses.
- Design Phase. The SME was invited to Montpelier and sat with the design team to kibitz the overall design and how the content would interdigitate with it. Ultimately the decision was used to work with scenario-based learning that used comic-book imagery to project the notion that law enforcement officers are the “Guardians of the Constitution.” The design phase included writing storyboards, identifying art assets that would need to be created, and set up the course shells and interactions.
- Iterative Development Phase. Unlike previous courses, CFLE was taken to alpha/beta testers for feedback that could be folded back into the course. (Ultimately the client and the testers were pleased with the general approach, tone, and style of the course.)
Lesson learned. Working directly and continuously with the SME and design time allows for more rapid and engaging course development. The product is better for it, more interactive, the SME feels more directly engaged with the course rather than it being a laborious task to write a small book, and it allows the same kind of thematic and inquisitive elements that went into the Montpelier Seminars to be developed for the online course. The course was quicker to develop even though it had more moving parts than previous courses (graphic novel image design, audio narration, synchronous videos etc.), taking approximately 6 weeks to pull together in the end.