Interview with Jennifer Jaiswal on Course Design
Jennifer Jaiswal is an Instructional Designer and Technologist for the Center for Excellence in Learning at Stony Brook University, the State University of New York. Her experience in instructional design and learning technologies exceeds 15 years. She joined Stony Brook, NY in 2011, and is currently an Instructional Designer and Technologist for the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching. She is a faculty member for the Online Learning Consortium’s Instructional Design Certificate program. Instructional design, online and blended learning, pedagogy, technology selection, curriculum design and development, course review, course, and program alignment, etc., are her areas of expertise.
She completed her Master’s Degree in Instructional Technology and Media at Columbia University: Teachers College. Jennifer consults with faculty about instructional design considerations.
First off, Jennifer, many thanks for making time to speak to us.
JJ: Thank you so much for letting me join you.
Q. So has your phone been ringing off the hook and email inbox overflowing since traditional in-person classes were canceled across the US and in much of the world? But seriously, how have you been coping with the sudden interest in exclusively online learning?
JJ: Teaching and learning have changed dramatically in a short amount of time since we switched to emergency remote teaching. For us in Instructional Design, online learning is a planned process that can take a year or more to complete. This is a thought out process involving time to assess student and faculty needs, aligning them with the learning outcomes, and then selecting the best way to assess student performance and determine what technologies to use. Emergency remote teaching is what we describe this past semester during the pandemic. Classes that were face to face classes were being hosted online with tools like Zoom, WebEx, Google Meet, etc. These meetings were meant to be a direct replacement for the face to face classes vs. a class that is developed to be exclusively online.
We have been managing this challenge fairly well but continue with new challenges daily. Many of us have been flooded with requests for support from faculty and administration unfamiliar with the online process. Still, we are getting positive feedback from our campuses for the solutions we have created and methods that have helped change the class experience from face to face.
Q. Can you give us a sense of the amount of interest in online learning now and say 3 months ago?
JJ. In the Summer, we normally have a low number of enrollments for our in-house Online Teaching Certificate, and Spring is our highest enrollment. However, the amount of faculty in our campus’s Online Teaching Certificate has more than tripled from our normal Spring cohort, which registered prior to the COVID crisis.
Many faculty are reaching out for support in making new assessments and find strategies to teach effectively online for the upcoming Fall semester.
Q. What goes into making a great course? How should teachers of any kind in a formal educational setting, or even in a corporate environment, be structuring their content for ‘learning’?
JJ: It starts with clear learning objectives and being able to answer the question: What do I want my student to leave here, knowing? I recommend keeping these SMART, Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Students should be able to easily know what the teacher’s goals are, and they should be able to complete them by the end of the session or course. These learning objectives will help a good teacher develop proper assessments to measure what learning took place and should guide what activities are needed.
Q. What should teachers/instructors, be not doing at all when it comes to delivering a great learning experience?
JJ: Never think of what technology you are going to use first. Always start with learning outcomes and let them guide which technology you should use.
Q. How does the design and construction on an online course deliver from an in-person course?
JJ: The process for both is exactly the same. In many cases, I have faculty come to me saying that I want to move this activity online. When we look at the objective, sometimes we find ways to do it better face to face than online. The real goal when constructing any course is keeping the learning objective in mind, and all things should come back to it.
The most important part of online learning is to remember that interaction is the key to learning. Interaction is what keeps us engaged in learning and connected with our communities. Learning is about creating a community of practice where dialogue is shared around the subject material, and comprehension is assessed.
Q. What do you think the ‘new normal’ is going to look like in the learning environment?
JJ: I think that there will be more online courses in general and more online courses where there are over 150 students in a single course. More classes will also take a “blended” approach, where there are less face to face meetings and more online activities. There will also be new challenges in keeping social distance; for example, running a seminar of even 10 students requires a significant amount of space and doesn’t have that space between everyone change the dynamic of face to face delivery?
Q. Apart from the COVID imposed change on the learning space, how has learning evolved, and how is it keeping pace with the digital-first generation?
JJ: Learning has evolved with the digital age, and in many ways, it's become better for learners. Online learning has grown to allow for adaptive technologies that allow for customized learning where systems are able to aid students in all areas of learning. Video conferencing and streaming technologies are allowing us to expand the number of students that we can reach in the United States and around the world. Virtual technologies allow us the ability to practice skills and test processes before students can try them in person.
Thank you for speaking to us.