Virtual School Meanderings

July 21, 2016

Invitation from Designers for Learning: Enrollment Is Now Open! Join Our Free Instructional Design Service-MOOC

This may be of interest to some K-12 folks who design online courses.

Enrollment is open for our next free open service course managed by Designers for Learning, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in the United States that coordinates service-learning opportunities for those who want to gain experience creating instruction to support important social causes. This 12-week course will take place September 12 – December 4, 2016 on Canvas Network, a massive open online course (MOOC) platform. Enroll now for free, or check out the frequently asked questions page on our website for details about the course.
Over 2,000 participants enrolled in the prior implementation of this free course that centers on the design and development of open educational resources (OER) for adult basic education (ABE). In this project-based MOOC, participants network with others in the adult education and instructional design fields, and gain instructional design experience while developing educational materials that will be made available for free to adult educators and learners on OER Commons and Canvas Commons.

This free service-MOOC offers a guided experiential learning opportunity for those seeking instructional design professional development, as well as an authentic real-world project for faculty and students within instructional design programs. Instructional design students and faculty, please note this open service-MOOC is a great opportunity for students to gain instructional design experience as part of a class, practicum, design portfolio, or other program requirement.

What is the course focus?

This project-based course focuses on a real-world instructional need. As a participant in this course, you will design and develop open educational resources for adult basic education. You will begin the design process by dissecting the adult basic education design scenario to explore key aspects of the opportunity. As part of the instructional design project, you will describe your instructional solution within a written design proposal assignment, and then develop a prototype that will be the subject of a round of formative evaluation. As the final assignment, you will submit a complete unit of instruction that includes all necessary content presentation, learner practice, and assessment materials.

What are the costs & prerequisites?

  • Cost: This course is free.
  • Prerequisites: There are no prerequisites for the course.
  • Required resource purchases: None.

What is the time commitment?

To be successful in this course, you should plan to devote 40 hours of time to the course (i.e. three to four hours per week). Like most experiences in life, the worth of this course is related to the time and effort committed to it. Therefore, while lurkers are welcomed, the experience will be enhanced through active participant engagement in discussion and course activities. Your personal commitment to actively engage three to four hours per week in the course will help to support a worthwhile experience for you and others.
Why should I participate in this course?

  • Gain Experience for Good: Through your participation in this course, you will further your own professional development in instructional design, while offering your service contributions to a grossly underserved educational segment of adult learners and instructors. In the US alone, 30 million adults do not have high school credentials, but less than 2 million are currently supported within federally funded adult education programs. While we have a US-centric focus on this project, support for adult education is a need around the globe, and the open educational resources created on on this project can be adapted for other contexts.
  • Earn Two Badges: Upon successful completion of this course, you will earn an Instructional Design Service Badge to acknowledge that you have completed an instructional design process to develop an educational resource to support a social need. In other words, you have gained experience for good! In addition, we have partnered with Canvas Network to offer a Create Open Content Badge for those who want to take on the bonus challenge of developing their lessons in a free Canvas for Teachers account and uploading the materials on Canvas Commons.
  • Earn a Certificate of Recognition: Upon successful completion of this course, you will also receive a Certificate of Recognition from Designers for Learning recognizing your instructional design service contribution.
  • Expand your CV, Resume, or Portfolio: Given that all content produced within this project is released under a Creative Commons license, participants are encouraged to include copies of the work they produced on this project within their design portfolios.

What will I do in this course?

During this 12-week course, you will progress through a design cycle within seven course modules. Each module contains material for your review and activities to complete related to the instructional design project to develop open educational resources for adult basic education. The module activities include individual practice exercises, reflections, and assignments, as well as conversation prompts to ponder within a whole class discussion forum.

What is different in this version of the course?

Were you a participant in a prior service project? If so, please enroll in this course! We have made several exciting enhancements based on participant feedback, as well as our partnership with the design team at Canvas Network. In this version of the course, we are rolling out a new “bonus challenge” for those who want to develop their lesson as online learning within the Canvas learning management system. In addition to developing your lesson in Open Author on OER Commons, you will now have the additional option of adapting your lesson as online learning in your own Canvas Free for Teachers account where you can share your lesson with others in Canvas Commons. This is a fantastic option if you want to expand your instructional design skills by developing online learning within Canvas … and you will leave our course with a Canvas Free for Teachers account to use with your own learners! How cool is that?!

What support will I receive in this course?

While this course is designed to be self-guided, a team of volunteer facilitators is here to support your progress through the course. Given the size of the course, the facilitators will not grade your assignments, but they will be available to answer your questions in the online help forums. In addition, other participants in the class and the facilitators will share their perspectives within the discussion forums, and participate in the prototype evaluation.

What is the instructional design project?

This is a project-based course that focuses on a real-world instructional need. You will gain instructional design experience while developing open educational resources that will be made available for free to adult educators and their learners. Here is an overview of the instructional design project:

  • The open educational resources you design and develop will support adult learners who have not completed high school and are taking adult basic education courses as they prepare for high school equivalency exams (i.e. the GED, HiSET, or TASC tests) or other certifications.
  • The instruction you design will align with the College and Career Readiness Standards (CCRS) that underly high school equivalency exams and other adult basic education programs.
  • You are able to select the topic of the instruction from English Language Arts / Literacy and Mathematics subject areas.
  • The open educational resources you design and develop will incorporate all necessary content presentation, learner practice, and assessment materials on the standard and topic you have chosen, as well as guidance for instructors regarding use of these materials.

Do I work on the instructional design project alone?

While this course is designed for individuals working alone on an instructional design project, you are welcome to work on the instructional design project with others, including as part of a class project or practicum in an instructional design program. In addition, faculty are invited to include this project in an instructional design class they are teaching.

What have prior students said about the course?

When asked how this service-MOOC helped to meet personal or professional goals, here is how some of our course participants responded:

  • Having a project-based course is helpful as I learn best when DOING something rather than just thinking about it.  At the end, I will have a document that I can add to my digital portfolio.
  • Gives hands-on, real-world experience.
  • It has deepened my understanding of each phase of the instructional design process.
  • I wanted to update myself on curriculum development. The course is set up well and the materials are excellent. I already work in adult education and I knew about the College and Career Readiness Standards (CCRS), but had not had the opportunity to review them carefully. The lesson planning activities are also excellent. As we read, we are able to think about the specific components of our lesson.
  • In the discussions, I was able to read about other people’s various ideas. Also, I could build networks with people who are interested in the same issue / topic (e.g., ESL teaching).

In other feedback to the facilitators about the course experience, participants shared:

  • Your course design is fabulous! I really appreciate how thoughtful and intentional you were in mapping out our journey.
  • Thank you so much. I learned a lot about the design process.
  • I am very honored to be a part of this course. I hope to be of more assistance once the course has completed. Please keep me in mind for future opportunities.

Why is this called a “service” course?

This course is a service-learning experience where you will gain experience for good. Service learning is an educational approach that incorporates academic coursework with opportunities for applied learning. Service learning is a unique form of experiential learning in that community service is a central component of the experience. A hallmark of service learning is the reciprocal benefit gained by the learner from the experience, and by the community from the service provided.

Who are the course designers and facilitators?

A unique aspect of this course is that it is facilitated by an all volunteer team with Designers for Learning. Starting in the fall of 2015, a team of volunteers spent 13 weeks designing and developing this course. Another team is volunteering for 12 weeks as your course facilitators. You will meet many of these volunteers in course videos, and in the discussion forums. The team of volunteers includes professional instructional designers and adult educators with years of subject matter experience. By the end of this course, these professional educators and instructional designers will have volunteered over 1,000 hours of their time to design and facilitate this service-learning experience. A conservative estimate of the professional services donated by the volunteers who designed and are facilitating this course exceeds $50,000. We thank them for their volunteer service!

Additional Comments for Questions?

Please help us spread the news about this upcoming course by forwarding this announcement to other interested colleagues or students. Do you have comments or questions about this course? Would you like to get involved with our organization? Please connect with us at:

Jennifer Maddrell
Designers for Learning
Designers for

Designers for Learning is organized as a nonprofit corporation in the State of Illinois, and operates exclusively for charitable purposes in accordance with section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code. Designers for Learning promotes service-learning opportunities through collaboration with schools, students, and volunteers.

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