Conducting Needs Assessments & Evaluations +
In the links below, I am including the final projects that I did for both "Needs Assessments" and "Formative and Summative Evaluation." The documents demonstrate my ability to analyze situations before rushing into design and development. Rigorous analysis of the situation allows you to determine what, if any, learning systems will be most effective.
This report was submitted as a group project for credit in Professor Caplow's course "Formative and Summative Evaluation." We were assigned to conduct a formative evaluation for Professor Jane Howland's course "Instructional Systems Design" taught in the Spring of 2014. Our client's primary focus of inquiry was the functionality of assigning group projects in the course. Were group projects an effective instructional strategy? Were there ways in which group assignments could be structured to improve student outcomes?
Ironically enough, the group of graduate students assigned to evaluate the efficacy of the use of group projects in another course was itself quite dysfunctional. We failed to achieve group cohesion early. Some members of the group were more involved with the project than others. This was my first online group project, and I am not submitting this report to showcase my academic excellence. On the contrary, the failure of our group to function as a group helped me understand just how difficult it is to collaborate online. There is a great deal of awkwardness in simply forming the group. We never held a "get to know you" session. In fact, all of our work was done via email. This experience taught me the importance of taking the time at the beginning of the project to learn who the people you've been assigned to work with are. Find out who they are as a person rather than focusing on memorizing their email address. Learn about their strengths so that you can leverage them. Learn about their weaknesses so that you can compensate for them. Just as teachers must proactively identify strategies for improving student engagement, student groups must look for ways to engage with each other.
"Reconciliation and Communion" is a needs assessment that I prepared for credit in Professor Holly's course "Needs Assessment for Learning and Performance." I struggled to find a subject for this project. At the time that I was enrolled in this course, I was working as a contract instructional designer. I was juggling a couple of clients, neither of whom were keen on allowing me to use their organization for a school project. I finally settled on my local parish. When my wife and I moved out of the apartment we were leasing and into our first home, commuting to our old parish would have been a 30-minute drive each way. We were very active in our old parish and had made many friends. We were married there. It was home.
Faith has always been a challenge for me, but my wife is a cradle Catholic. When we began attending Mass at the parish closest to our new house, I was struck by how unfriendly people were. The priests didn't introduce themselves when they saw that we were new to the parish. Neither did other parishioners. Was my own social awkwardness getting in the way of fitting in to the new environment? Was I breaking some unwritten rules of the parish causing people to shun me? Maybe. But the other parishioners did not seem congenial to each other either. I wanted to find out why. What I learned was that St. Mark's was a new parish formed by consolidating three other parishes, and the manner in which this consolidation happened left many people bitter. They attended Mass out of obligation rather than spiritual fulfillment and fellowship. I may be socially inept, but the parishioners I encountered never noticed as they had no intention of getting to know each other, much less new people.
Designing Learning Environments+
I typically do not insist on clear differentiation between design and development. I've worked in environments where designers and developers are completely different roles, and the people in those role rarely interact. I prefer to work in a more agile environment where the development is at the core of the design process. Great ideas must be put into practice in order to determine if they're actually going to work. The projects linked to below are high fidelity prototypes that I designed to allow stakeholders and decision makers to try out the program before committing resources to fully develop them.
"Surfing with Madison" is a high fidelity prototype for a cancer care tool designed for pre-teens and teens. I worked with Marilyn Anderson and Amy Frisz-Conlon to design this application for credit in Professor Moore's course "Interaction Design." This mobile and tablet app is designed for use by pre-teens and teens fighting cancer and their parents. This project was designed with insights received directly from an eleven year old girl living in North Carolina diagnosed with leukemia. M.H. and her mother guided us as to their actual needs according to their daily challenges of fighting cancer. We chose to title our app in honor of M.H. who is an avid swimmer and soccer player. M.H. loves the North Carolina beaches and is learning to surf.
The primary goal of this mobile app is to allow patients to have a more active role in their cancer treatment and enhance communication amongst the care team in order to make treatment more effective and efficient. Users would be given access to the app when they first begin treatment. Whenever data is entered into the patient's medical record, the relevant information is pushed to the app. So, the app provides a schedule, list of current medications, and information about the patient's diagnosis. The patient is then able to enter data about how she is feeling in a symptom diary which is synced to the medical record and communicate directly with her care team. The app also contains resources such as access to an online community, games, and entertainment.
"Know Your Rights" is a website prototype that I built using Microsoft PowerPoint exported to iSpring for publishing. I designed this site for credit it Professor Mara's course "Rapid Authoring Tools." At the time I was enrolled in this course, I worked for a company that sold compliance courseware to banks, credit unions, and other non-bank lenders such as mortgage companies. Before working for this company, I had no idea just how complicated financial regulations are.
I know that you have to sign a lot of forms to apply for a loan, but like most people, I never paid attention to what these disclosures say or how they protect consumers. Do you, for example, know about the Right of Recission? I didn't until I had to design courseware on Regulation Z. Whenever your primary residence is going to be used to secure a loan, by law, you have three days in which to reconsider your decision and rescind the transaction. Congress decided that people should be able to change their minds about any loan that could result in the borrowers losing their home. The danger for banks is that borrowers can invoke this right at any time IF the lender fails to inform them of this right before loaning them the money. Think about it--if a loan officer overlooks this disclosure at the time he originates a loan, a borrower can decide to rescind the transaction 20 years later. I decided to take my knowledge of financial regulations and design a prototype for a series of courses that presented this same information but for consumers. After all, we were teaching the banks what the law required them to do, but how many people know what protections these same laws provide to them? How many people know, for example, that a bank cannot ask a woman if she is pregnant when she applies for a loan? This site is a prototype for a much larger project, but it includes working links to different sections that I designed.
Developing Learning System Applications Or Components+
Developing websites, courses, and interactions is the most personally fulfilling and meaningful aspect of being an instructional designer. It should be obvious that thorough analysis, careful design, and objective evaluation are equally critical. These are the activities that you have to do so that you earn the privilege of development.
One of the challenges that I've faced in all of the courses I've taken in the Master of Education program involves intellectual property and corporate privacy. I was not given permission from either of my employers to use their content in any of my courses. I understand their hesitation even if I ultimately disagree with them.
In "Protecting Homeowners Facing Foreclosure", I began with a radical assumption: because of the stress and fear felt by homeowners facing foreclosure, banks have an obligation to educate borrowers about the kinds of scams that they are susceptible to. Desperate people do not think clearly, and if someone promises them an easy solution to the problem they are facing, they are more likely to make bad decisions. Obviously, this assumption is not shared by many, but, if banks do in fact have an obligation to protect homeowners, how can they do so? In this module, I identify several common scams and provide legitimate sources of assistance for those who need it.
I am including this branching simulation into my portfolio, frankly, because I'm proud of it. I did not develop it as a course project. This simulation was an idea that I pitched to a previous employer who rejected it. In this simulation, the learner is introduced to the basic tenents of the Community Reinvestment Act. Simulations such as this are more engaging than simply presenting the information in a click-through course, thus increasing knowledge retention.
This simulation comes at the end of the course and forces the user to apply the knowledge gained in the course to help a customer find documents that must be publicly available according to the Community Reinvestment Act. The scenario allows the user to backtrack when he or she answers incorrectly so that the user can understand the consequences of their decisions when interacting with customers.
Whenever possible, the projects I develop are scenario-based, and with branching simulations, users can learn by doing, not just reading. Branching simulations allow users to immediately connect the learning with their current role by forcing them to apply their knowledge to solve a problem. They also allow users a safe place to fail as their answers to the simulation will not be part of the score reported to the LMS.
The documents in this section of my portfolio are submitted to demonstrate my ability to follow established methodologies in my evaluation of learning systems. Unlike the earlier evaluations, these reports are focused on the user experience of completed projects rather than evaluations of attempts to address ongoing issues and concerns. While the former focused on investigation, the documents in this section apply established heuristics to fully developed systems.
This document contains the usability reports I completed for my peers in "Intermediate Web Development." I am including it here to demonstrate my ability to analyze the user experience following an established methodology. I have blacked out the names of the peers to protect their privacy.
While the preceeding document contains the usability reports I conducted for my peers, this document contains my summary of the feedback I received from them. I am including it here to demonstrate my ability to receive criticism and evaluate it. As you can see, some of the feedback was more useful than others. You must have an open mind and receptive to constructive criticism, but it is also important to be able to discern between good advice and bad.