A Learner-Centered Focus: Reflecting on 2021

A tea light burns in a white lantern sitting next to a pine branch, pine cones, and red ornaments on a wood floor.

As with other years, we’re taking time this season to reflect on a year once again defined by uncertainty. In some ways, 2021 seemed like a blur—a continuation of the Covid-19 pandemic challenges we faced in 2020. 

Despite these challenges, Model eLearning continues to be a creative outlet for our research, writing, and passion for meeting the needs of our learners. We’re thankful for you—our readers, community of practice, and colleagues. Your support makes our efforts on the blog meaningful as we approach two years of remote work. Our team’s focus—creating learner-centered experiences—remains our compass as we look to 2022 and beyond.

Faculty development and support

At the start of 2021, Ann shared the importance of providing faculty training to support their efforts while teaching learners. As instructional designers, we can help instructors develop through one-on-one training as well as working with programs to speak at faculty meetings and conferences. Similarly, I described how just-in-time faculty resources continue to support after a training and allow instructors to find the information they need—when they need it.

Course design and sustainability

As instructional designers, it’s important to understand the brains behind assessment and consider neuroscience, psychology, and universal design for learning (UDL) as we design courses. While tools can enhance the learner’s experience, Jess reminds us technology should never get in the way of learning. When you design, ask yourself if adding a tool supports or hinders learning. Remember, digital does not equal superior. Sometimes the best solution comes from an analog source.

When learners discuss with their peers, they come to a better understanding of the topic. If you’ve designed an online or blended course, you probably included discussion boards to help create a community of learning. Consider using alternative discussion board ideas to refresh the classic activity.

Sustainable processes will save you time and effort while designing and developing courses. Sometimes, it seems like you create content only for it to need to be recreated or updated the next time the course runs. Kyle outlined some guidelines to consider the time and effort to maintain high-effort creations like video

The accessibility of learning

Our team continues to look for ways to increase accessible and inclusive learning experiences at our university. As we see more needs for flexibility in learning, accessibility becomes essential to our process. This year, we started an accessibility task force to address accessibility in our course design. Even small steps to make your class more accessible make a big difference in the learner’s experience—and it doesn’t need to be complicated. Kyle started a series about creating accessible learning materials in Microsoft Office. He’s covered Word and PowerPoint, and I’m looking forward to reading about accessible Excel spreadsheets in the new year.

Reflections, and looking to the future

At the beginning of 2017, we published our first post on Model eLearning. It was months in the making and hitting that publish button seemed significant. When we started the blog, I never would have believed the times we’re designing in now. As Ann reflected on her 10 years working with instructional design in higher education, she found consistency in the team’s efforts to create learning experiences for students. Change is inevitable, yet the focus on learners shapes how we design and develop courses that meet the learner’s shifting needs.

In the new year, we’re looking forward to opportunity. Opportunity to learn, and opportunity to redefine what it means to work remotely as a team. And most importantly, opportunity to support students and instructors on their learning journeys.

From the team at Model eLearning—have a wonderful Christmas! We’ll see you in the new year!

Author: Jessica Bishop, Instructional Designer

Jessica is a designer and writer focused on learnability, storytelling, sensemaking, wayfinding, and removing barriers to learning. A Michigan native, she likes crafting, reading, walking, and spending way too much time in the distant corners of the internet. You can also find her at JessicaMBishop.com.

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