Letter to a budding Instructional Designer: Getting Started Designing in Instructure’s Canvas LMS

CLIC - Continuous Learning Improvement Cycle
CLIC – Continuous Learning Improvement Cycle (Photo credit: bchapman_utah)

I was recently asked to email a friend-of-a-friend, a librarian who was asked to do some Instructional Design in Canvas LMS. I’m reprinting my response in case it can benefit any other education/information professionals who are just getting started designing courses in an online setting.

Welcome to the world of Instructional Design! Don’t feel bad that you don’t come from an ID background- most of us don’t, but we are usually proficient in some combination of pedagogy and design. All design is about solving problems, and ID is no different. What are the problems your course is trying to solve? What are the problems involved in getting your learners to proficiency and what can you build to solve those problems?

This is as good of a “crash course” as any in instructional design. I find that designing inspiring courses yourself starts with articulating what you yourself find inspiring about a course! If possible, take an analytic look at the many free MOOC courses available online, and note specific characteristics of the course that do or don’t work well. Imitate the ideas you like best, and think of other solutions for the areas where each course falls short.

Everyone responds well to attractive photos, organized layouts, and relevant video content and readings, but research shows that students report highest satisfaction when there are lots of opportunities to interact with the instructor and their classmates. How can you structure the course so students can respond, collaborate, show what they’ve learned, and get feedback from you / other students?

Here are some great tutorial courses for Canvas for faculty and students.
And here are some publicly available Canvas courses from universities like ours (including one I designed myself!)

Please note that in my own course, the Faculty Online Canvas Training course, I don’t follow my own advice. For that, I was tasked with creating an “automatic” course that required no ongoing attention or input from me. It’s good for what it is, but truthfully it does not command the level of engagement that a vibrant online learning community should exemplify.

Hopefully this will help you get started.
Good luck-

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