The Design Saltmines


I have spent the past couple of weeks designing and writing up my proposal for my e-learning course.  This is the third proposal that I have worked on over the course of the MA and I found it interesting to review the changes in how I work since I started the MA in Autumn 2015.

I now understand the design process.  You have to make a start – there are tasks to be completed and  process is iterative. The big difference this time is that I developed the proposal having conducted primary research into learner needs by carrying out a survey and meeting SME’s working on the field of data protection. I used Survey Monkey for my survey and found that the free “10 questions” option was sufficient. I e-mailed friends and colleagues who work in a variety of professions.  In all, I got 14 responses which I used as the basis of my needs analysis.

It could be argued that a higher number of responses would give more robust results.  However, I feel that 14 responses are sufficient to guide my approach to the design of the project. It also reminded me of Jacob Nielsen’s point about usability testing groups. He argues that elaborate usability tests are a waste of resources and for usability testing the optimal results come from testing no more than 5 users and running as many small tests as you can afford. His point is that identifying the main themes or potential issues in project, in his case a usability study, in this case a needs analysis, can be done with small groups of users. Additional users add new insights in decreasing quantities as the number of users surveyed increases. So, while zero users give zero insights”, the fifth user surveyed generates fewer new insights than the first or second and so on. This finding correlates with my findings with the most responses to my survey questions clustered around one or two choices.

Finally, did my survey generate any surprising results? Well, my question regarding preferences about course delivery resulted on only one respondent opting for an e-learning/ online course only, with the majority opting for instructor led or a blended course (this means both e-learning and instructor led elements). This may reflect the fact that many people have never been exposed to e-learning.  However, for me it was a salutary reminder that learning is not just an ‘information-download’ type of activity and that as course designers we forget the social elements to learning at our peril.

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