The Moodle Podcast

Instructional design demystified with Michelle Moore and Jessica Gramp

November 02, 2021 Moodle Podcast Season 1 Episode 1
Instructional design demystified with Michelle Moore and Jessica Gramp
The Moodle Podcast
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The Moodle Podcast
Instructional design demystified with Michelle Moore and Jessica Gramp
Nov 02, 2021 Season 1 Episode 1
Moodle Podcast

In this podcast, Michelle Moore, Head of Customer Success at Moodle US and Jessica Gramp, Moodle Academy Manager demystify instructional design and share some career insights on working with educators and learning technologists to create great online learning experiences.

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Show Notes Transcript

In this podcast, Michelle Moore, Head of Customer Success at Moodle US and Jessica Gramp, Moodle Academy Manager demystify instructional design and share some career insights on working with educators and learning technologists to create great online learning experiences.

Visit Moodle at

Abby Fry  0:05  
Hello everyone and welcome to Moodle's Podcast Series. I'm Abby Fry and I'm the Communications Manager at Moodle. Today I'm really happy to have two of my colleagues here with me. I have Michelle Moore, who's Head of Customer Success at Moodle US. And Jess Grant who's Moodle Academy Manager. 
So, hey, Michelle. Hey, Jess. Hello. Great to have you here. 

Today we're going to be talking about the meaty topic of instructional design. But before we get into that, I just thought I'd touch on the fact that your roles are actually quite different at Moodle. Obviously, as Michelle's involved with leading customer success of Moodle US, she has a direct relationship with customers and helping them to implement Moodle based solutions. Whereas Jess's role is to oversee Moodle Academy. Moodle Academy is where Moodle houses all its learning activities, whether they're videos, tutorials, podcasts, webinars or courses. Roles are different, but they have a lot in common. They're both have really strong educational backgrounds. And they're both really interested and committed to instructional design. So before we get into it, I thought it might be nice if you guys just tell our listeners a little bit about yourselves. Maybe go first, Michelle.

Michelle Moore  1:30  
Sure. Yeah, my background is in education. I started out as a middle school math teacher for about nine years. Definitely one of those technology adopters, you know, one of the teachers that was using technology with my students. I was really enamoured with the possibilities and that eventually led to a master's degree in instructional design and technology.  I first started using Moodle about 2003. And, in about 2005 we started training others and helping others figure out how to use Moodle in all kinds of different settings. So yeah, I've been using Moodle for quite some time now. I've since started a doctorate in Learning Technologies, where my focus has really been on online learning and how to create really exceptional online learning experiences. And I bring that to bare as much as possible in my role with our customers and helping them design online learning courses. 

Abby Fry  2:28  
Wow, an early adopter in many ways, and what about you Jess

Jessica Gramp  2:31  
You beat me by a year Michelle. I started working with real LMS in 2004.  I was asked to develop and support a learning portal for a school I was working at in Brisbane, Australia.  I've studied multimedia project management and most recently an MSc in digital education at the University of Edinburgh, which I finished in 2018.  I also worked at the University of Edinburgh running their online course production service for a year where we made short online courses or MOOCs. Previous to that I was at University College London for about 12 years working as a learning technologist and also an elearning advisor. And since July 2021, I've been the manager of the Moodle Academy.

Abby Fry  3:15  
Wow. So I think everyone who's listening would agree I couldn't have two better people here to talk about instructional design with those backgrounds and working  between the two of you with such different institutions at the coalface. So firstly, from your perspective, what is instructional design? 

Michelle Moore  3:35  
Sure, instructional design is a little bit tricky to classify, you know, if you ask five different people who have the title of instructional designer, their job roles, what they're doing on a day to day basis can vary tremendously. So I talked to some instructional designers who spend their entire day building content like SCORM content and Articulate Storyline or arise or something like that. And that's what they do. So they're designing instruction, but in the context of a very specific tool, other instructional designers are interested in the larger process of instructional design. So they're almost more of a project manager, helping figure out you know, from subject matter experts, what content needs to be delivered and getting that on to the person who's going to develop that content and facilitating the testing and rollout, that sort of thing. There are others who, you know, a little bit like Jess who have a background more in media production, or specializing in those areas. And then there are others who maybe are more interested in learning strategy and what kinds of learning experiences learners are engaged in. So it really runs across the spectrum.

Abby Fry  4:48  
Multifaceted and quite complex by the sound of things. What about you, Jess? Have you got anything to add to that?

Jessica Gramp  4:53  
Just to say that I think good instructional design really is about looking at the learning journey first. And then considering technology second, so really looking at what's the overall aim? What are the learning outcomes and then applying the technology that fits those rather than the other way around, which I think is a trap that some people fall into.

Abby Fry  5:14  
Yeah, sure. Okay. So learning first technology second, and maybe bringing them together to really simplify it down to create great learning experiences. So obviously, as it involves technology, I'm sort of curious, is it quite new? Is it a new science? Or is it something that's been around for a long time?

Michelle Moore  5:34  
The term has been around for a very long time, I think the 60s and 70s, they started talking about this term of instructional design, the theory and things have evolved a lot. In the beginning, it was almost more that what do we need to do to get the learner to respond to this in a certain way, we're going to present this and see if we can get the learner to do that. And then over time, it evolved so that they started thinking a little bit more about what's happening in the learners mind. Like, what does the learner need to think, in order to get this knowledge or to accomplish this task or develop this skill? And then even more beyond that, you know, in the last 20 years or so, probably a little bit longer, actually, people have really  become more interested in constructivism and the idea that people learn best by interacting with each other, which is, you know, the underpinnings of what Moodle was developed around. So yeah, it's definitely been around for a while, but it has evolved, especially as technology has changed.

Abby Fry  6:42  
And are you working with particular tools or particular theories that support instructional design,

Michelle Moore  6:48  
I think you always have to figure out what the needs of the learners are and the needs of the organization, right, that always has to come first. I will say that my personal leaning, my personal preference is towards that social constructivist approach, which again, has learners interacting, collaborating. And I like to think about the instructor or the facilitator, being in a position of just asking the right questions, to draw the learner into the experience to generate the knowledge or locate the knowledge and then apply it. Rather than thinking about the instructor as the deliverer of information, you know, it's the learners just opening up and taking it all in. But there are some cases where learners are really new to content, or we're working on compliance training, and you really just need to think about that sometimes that content delivery method is, is more appropriate. I do always think that there are ways to engage learners through those collaborative, reflective, authentic kinds of activities that enhance and improve any learning experience. So with our clients, I kind of poke at the edges and try to figure out, you know, if they're coming in thinking they're delivering just compliance training, what is their level of openness to these alternative methods? What is their level of time - because that's a factor. If we've just got to get that course out the door, then we do what we got to do in round one, and then we come back around, but I find it's really an evolutionary process, right, I start to sprinkle in the ideas, and they latch on to them. And we apply a little bit. And the next time around, we do something a little bit more. But it really is dependent on the client and their learners. 

Abby Fry  8:33  
Yeah, so you're talking very much about having the learner right at the center of instructional design. Jess, what are your thoughts on this

Jessica Gramp  8:40  
 I'm quite familiar with a method called ABC learning design, which was actually developed at UCL. And we use that to bring teaching teams together in a 90 minute workshop, to look at the student learning journey, and then see how technology fits in. So again, in that order, student learning journey first, and then technology second, and that method, something that we've applied since I've been working here at Moodle HQ. This has been a really useful way to quickly come to a consensus about what a course is all about. And the way that it can be designed to make it most engaging for the students. You can also use this method for things like program design, so looking at how courses within a program kind of interrelate, and you can look at strategy assessment, research based learning employability, and also how the student can be involved in that design process as well. So, having them come along to these workshops has been quite an interesting process that we've we've gone through in the past and we're actually using ABC to sprint design on Moodle Academy courses. So yeah, that's that's been good to have that model because it kind of guides people through that process without them having to understand theory necessarily, because we break that down into these six learning types that people can easily understand just you don't have to be an educator to use it.

Abby Fry  10:09  
Yeah, like a bridge almost. It sounds like both of you are working with educators or the people that delivering courses, to get them to think about things from the learners perspective. And I'm really interested in that, because as you both know, I have had a period in my previous life of working as a teacher, and I'm aware that when you work for a school or a university or a college, you might be under pressure to start to implement technology in the classroom delivery. And that's really challenging, particularly for teachers who have maybe many years experience of being quite classroom delivery based. And obviously, the pandemic has just exploded the uptake of online learning. Institutions that perhaps were just entering the online delivery model or the hybrid model, are now much more engaged or entrenched in that delivery. So from your perspective, what are the challenges for educators or teachers or lecturers? What are they facing in their daily work? 

Jessica Gramp  11:15  
I think when the pandemic began, there was this big rush to move courses online really quickly. And so I heard scary stories of young children being online all day on Zoom. And that's not good online learning. So I think it was the best that could be managed in a really short period of time, probably. But now that we're moving beyond that big rush to get everything up and running, distance education is working in so many different ways that it was never intended for necessarily. We need to kind of take a step back and look at how we can create online courses and improve the ways that we're teaching online and look at how students can be more engaged, and not just in a single form of communication, like a webinar format. But what are the other ways that we can engage learners? And that's easier for some age groups than others. And as Michelle mentioned before, this, continual improvement process, I think, is really a valuable way to do this, it doesn't have to be perfect to start with, you can build towards a really good online course using, you know, different feedback .

Abby Fry  12:32  
Does that resonate Michelle, in your experience with customers or clients? 

Michelle Moore  12:36  
It does, definitely because, as I just said, you know, people had to jump into this space really quickly. We saw some people tried to do that, you know, hours of zoom sessions, we also saw people really focused on the content, you know, what content am I going to drop in the course, rather than thinking about what the learners are going to do? So yeah, it's a it's a shift in thinking and, and it's a little bit of a trick, right? Because teachers, educators, trainers have seen all kinds of models or examples of online learning. And, and it's not, not uncommon, I'm sad to say, to find courses that are really content centric, rather than learner centric. So it's all they know. And that's where they start. And it's also feels like a reasonable default, you know, I just got to get them the information.

Abby Fry  13:28  
What does it look like? What does the content centric course look like as adverse to a course that's been thought about more from a lender's perspective? 

Michelle Moore  13:36  
Yeah, a content subject coarse, link after link after link. And quite often, for a beginner, somebody that's new to the online space, or in a position where they have to get things out very quickly, they might just upload Word documents, PDFs, and PowerPoint presentations. And here's a link to a video that I've embedded from this other place, or I've recorded something that I've dropped it in. It's just things for the learners to consume. And the ABC Learning Design model that just talked about that I've really only recently come to learn about, and I think it's fantastic, is a great tool for helping educators and course designers see that imbalance of content, right? Content alone does not help someone learn, you've got to do something with it, you have to engage, reflect, apply. The ABC Learning Model really helps support that. We also like to use the backward design model. I think that works really well too. There are a number of different ways you can get at that same, that same goal, but the the learner centric model, you see much more. Here's a place where the learner is doing this, the learner is doing something else. So we're seeing more forums, more wikis, more glossaries workshops, just a whole different tool set. 

Jessica Gramp  14:54  
I think flipped learning really fits in well there as well. So looking at how you can deliver content To the students to consume before you come to class, and therefore they have an opportunity to engage with the teacher and their peers. And then you can really use that face to face or even if it's virtual face to face time, for more collaboration and more discussion, and you know, getting to the parts of the content that students didn't really understand. And there are a number of ways you can do that. But for, for example, a really great tool in Moodle is a hot question, which students can type in a question they've got about the that week's lecture, and other students can vote that up. So even if you're working with huge numbers of students, maybe you've got 500 students, you can just address the top most popular hot questions that really helps to improve the understanding and engage the students in that learning process much more.

Abby Fry  15:51  
And they can potentially collaboratively learn from each other as they respond to the questions themselves, too, I imagine. So as Michelle was saying before engage, reflect apply. That sounds like theory. So what I'm what I'm feeling as you're talking is, applying that theory practically, in the way the course is developed, I imagine. 

Michelle Moore  16:14  
Yeah. And there are a lot of different theories that hit on those same ideas with different names, different terminology, I do have some clients who are really interested in theory, and they want to talk about the theory. And I can go that direction, if that's where we want to go. But most of the time, I'm working with a client, and everybody seems to intuitively recognize like, you have to have the learner doing something, we've all been on the receiving end of the 30 minute video that you can't fast forward, and you can't rewind and you, you know, we've all been stuck there. We all know how we've manipulated that system, we know it's not great, but a lot of people don't quite know how to get around that. So we talk about the real life application and implementation and how we do things in a different way. It doesn't matter the theory that's informing that proof is in the pudding. Let's look at the results. Let's look at the number of times students are engaged in the course let's look at what students are producing. And yeah, that that's where that's where it counts.

Abby Fry  17:17  
Yes. And I'm interested in this work of engaging people to think like this. Is it is often one person that's open to this kind of way of thinking or is an early adopter and is keen to engage with the technology in this kind of more sophisticated way? Or is it that you both harnessing groups of people at the same time? Can we talk about that a little bit? Maybe, Michelle, from your perspective, because you're working at the coalface with customers at the moment. What's your experience?

Michelle Moore  17:50  
Yeah, I think it varies depending on the customer. I think it'll be interesting. A lot of the customers that I work with, they're actually, in corporate organizations, nonprofits, government agencies, we do have quite a few academic clients as well. But that's a wholly different model, right? in a corporate setting, I'm often working with a smaller group of people. And they have complete control over how things are rolled out. And so in that sort of group, I asked them about their vision for the learning experience. And it's really common to hear the words interactive and engaging. Now, they can't really define what that means. You know, in a lot of cases, I think engaging means I want them clicking a lot, or what they, you know, they kind of confuse physical engagement for mental engagement. And so I've got to tell me, tell me about the kind of experience you want. How do you want learners to describe your course? What do you want the outcomes to be? What do you want them to be able to do when they're finished? And then, yeah, where there was room, you know, they'll give me an idea. And I'll say, okay, so we can do that this way, this way, or this way. And I, I am pushing at the boundaries all the time, right? I'm gonna go okay, well, we can deliver it this way where it's content with the multiple choice questions, maybe even those have some application in it. And we get more engagement than just the video. But then I also asked, Well, what do you think about a collection of resources where people are providing their own content or their own video or their own questions? And I often say to others, the cool thing about my position and a lot of the clients that we work with, is I kind of see myself and my responsibility as I'm going to throw out the really crazy ideas. Like, you know, if I were to just start with this, like, what do you think if the learners develop all of the content and they answer each other's questions? Like that sounds outrageous to some people like oh, no, we've got to have more control over those things. But the neat thing is what I see happens, I throw out the crazy idea and their ideas down here. This is Into the Spectrum. And we usually land somewhere in the middle, you know, by pushing those boundaries and throwing out the crazy ideas that it does, I think help people think outside of the box a little bit. And then we also do a lot of prototyping. So let me show you how we've done this and another case for with another client in another example. And that helps a lot too, because then they can see, it's quite common, even where I have clients that have maybe picked up on a couple of things. Another client will go, Okay, I like that one. I I'm cool with that one idea, I'm, I feel safe there, I'm not going to take the whole thing that you've said, because that sounds a bit much. But I'm called to take one idea. And that's part of that evolution. And I'm totally cool with that. If you bear with me for a moment more in the academic study, it's a little bit different, because there are so many faculty or educators involved, that we, you know, we're often working with the leadership team. And then that leadership team is often trying to get out the information and the ideas. But we are working to create opportunities to have more engagement and interaction with the faculty directly. We've developed a new campus development plan, which I'm, I'm so excited about. And I know a lot of people are familiar with Ryan Hayes, and Ryan did this at the college that he worked for, right? He worked with faculty there and helped them develop and evolve over a period of years. And so we've kind of taken some of those ideas, and that he and I are very much like minded in terms of philosophy. We've taken those ideas kind of bottled them and said, alright, you know, let's take the best of what worked there and apply it in other institutions. So our goal is to help those faculty in a number of different ways, kind of develop and evolve as well, because many of those faculty members are tasked with developing their own courses, as well. And they don't have quite the resources, in many cases to, you know, go all out. So we help them get there and grow where they can.

Abby Fry  22:02  
Awesome. I mean, what Yeah, Jess, I was gonna say there must be some analogies for you there having worked with institutions in that way. curious to hear what you think.

Jessica Gramp  22:10  
Yeah, definitely. Yeah. So in an academic setting, one thing that I found that worked really well, and I was at UCL, we formed an elearning champions network, which was the leadership team, it was the people who are teaching at the coalface. And we referred a lot to Rogers bell curve of adoption. So we have the early adopters, who may be seen by their peers as being too far advanced to be able to relate to that much even so that you start with those people. And you engage those people in conversations, you get them to share their stories, you create case studies, and that is then absorbed by those around them. So people within the same faculty in particular, and the same departments are seeing somebody who is proving that these technologies and these tools, and these approaches work in their setting. And that really helps the the rest, the early majority and the late majority, and even the laggards eventually to catch up and get there and understand how things may be applied in their own context.

Abby Fry  23:16  
Yeah, champions. That's such a nice idea that within institutions or organizations, people are helping each other and taking each other on that journey, and you guys facilitating that, in many ways. And Michelle are also really like, I thought, I find this area fascinating. This notion that in workplaces where you're working around online learning so upscaling or compliance courses or onboarding, whatever, whatever the requirement may be all of the above that they have, they have an instinctive understanding about interaction and engagement, but they might not have the language of education institutions, of course, because they're not in the business of pedagogy and teaching strategies. So that must be really satisfying work actually translating some of that more academic thinking into the more organizational environment suggests instructional design as head of Moodle Academy, where does that fit into the learning pathways at Moodle.

Jessica Gramp  24:13  
On Moodle Academy where we've got three learning pathways, so we are offering a educators pathway, a administrative pathway and a developer's pathway. And we're really focusing on the educators initially, and we have quite a few courses being developed in there at the moment actually. And we're running webinars as well around these key themes. So the goal really is that the Moodle Academy is the hub where people can come to from around the world to share their their knowledge and to learn and the ultimate plan is that this will be available in many different languages. So as of next year 2022 We will be offering webinars and other languages courses in other languages, and we're really engaged In the community where it's something that we're coming together and building together as an entire Moodle community. So we're working with both Moodle partners and also other community members to build these courses. And actually one of our first upcoming, next upcoming webinars is on ABC learning design, which I mentioned previously. So former colleagues of mine from UCL will be presenting about that. And we've developed a course around that as well. So if somebody wants to learn more about ABC learning design, they can come along to the webinar, or they can watch the recording afterwards, they can undertake some activities in the course. And once they've completed that they'll receive an ABC learning design badge from Moodle Academy.

Abby Fry  25:44  
Cool, with a Moodle focus, presumably?

Jessica Gramp  25:47  
Yeah, I think maybe see, learning design is so broad, but it can be applied in any way. But there is actually some tools out there which you can use, which I'm sure Natasha and I will be mentioning in the webinar, which allow you to easily design using Learning Designer and online tool. And you can actually export that and import it into Moodle directly. So that's definitely something that they will focus on. But it's not just about Moodle. it's broader than that. It's about how do we be good educators? How can we be great administrators? And how can we be great Moodle developers as well?

Abby Fry  26:21  
Yeah, it's a lovely big web, really, because what we've been talking about today is educators working together with the help of instructional designers to understand how to create great learning experience. And then just you're talking about everyone in the Moodle community kind of learning from each other and coming together. And so I can see everybody's coming at it from different angles, effectively trying to do the same thing. And the same with you, Michelle working at the coalface with customers. And then as they go further into them Moodle journey, implementing Moodle based solutions, they have these opportunities to come back and learn with us and with the community. Guys, unfortunately time's up. I think we've had an awesome chat and probably have run over time a little bit. But I want to thank you so much for coming along and having a chat to me. I feel like we could talk about instructional design and go deeper into it and pockets of it. And hopefully we get the opportunity to do that. Keep down the track. But thank you very much for coming along. Thanks to our listeners for joining us. We'll be back with another episode and another podcast. If you have any questions or you want to reach out obviously you can visit which is easy to remember Moodle dot Academy to learn more about Moodle Academy courses and of course Michelle at Moodle us also easy to remember If you have any need to talk about learning design, and one assistance from Moodle us so thanks again and hope to talk to you again next time. Bye guys.

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