Using Digital Technologies to Automate Instructional Design

时间:2010-06-07 00:13来源:知行网www.zhixing123.cn 编辑:麦田守望者

Abstract: Recent advances in computer-based interactive digital technologies have presented a broad range of possibilities to create powerful presentations and instructional messages. However, incorporating these new technologies effectively is not a simple task because the design of effective computer-based instructional material is a complex process. Successful design involves interactions between individual learner characteristics, instructional delivery media, the type of specific knowledge and skills being taught, and the strctegies and methods used to teach the material.

This paper discusses:

The need for an Automated Instructional Design

the integration of learning theory, instructional design and technlogy

Some approachcs for automating instructional dcsign

An exploration of ID Expert, an intelligent computer-based multinedia instructional development system (beta version 1.0).


There I was, ready to start my multimedia academic presentation. I had on hand all the ‘digital paraphernalia’ I needed: computer with send card and CDROM drive, lots of memory, and even a video capture board. For software, I chose a well-known commercial authoring system.

It was my final assignment on the graduate course in Instructional systems, so I wanted to use all the knowledge I ‘should’ have acquired throughout the master’s program. The graduate courses were very comprehensive. They included learning theories, computer-based training, instructional design, interactive video, multimedia systems, communication skills, and more. I soon realized that the amount of information was overwhelming. I would need all my notes and books beside me so that I would mot miss important guidelines towards the development of an effective and comprehensive computer-based instruction.

At this point I dreamed about having my graduate adviser at my side, helping me bring together all relevant information I would need to consider in the development of a good instruction module. So I pulled myself together and went to an advising meeting where I mentioned my impossible dream to my mentors, silently wishing to obtain any special hint they could provide (advisors always have excellent tips they keep hidden in their magic hats). Well, they did not disappoint. They suggested I review research about automation of instructional design, ie, the automation of the process of developing and producing instruction. In spite of this extra burden (who has left an advising meeting without extra things to do?), I considered this topic very exciting.

This article is the result of my exploration of the contemporary and challenging topic: automating instructional design.


My initial research was very promising and I found that my dream could come true. The problem of courseware authoring (instructional materials to be delivered by a computer) was idevtified as a source of difficulty and expense in designing materials for courses in a variety of instructional settings.

The United States Air Force, as one of the major users of Computer-Based Instruction (CBI), sponsored a project called AIDA (Advanced Instructional Design Advisor). A team of experts in the fields of cognitive psychology, artificial intelligence, computer systems and imstructional design were assembled: Robert Gagne. Henry Hallf, David Merrill, Robert Tennyson, Harry O’Neil, Martha Polson, Charles Reigeluth and others (hereafter referred to as AIDA experts).

The papers and discussions that came out from this team were presented in a book entitled automating Instructional Design: Concepts and Issues (Spector, 1993); it is this work which undergrids the theoretical framework for this article.

The need for Automating Instructional Design

There are a number of reasons to automate the instructional design process. Three I consider more important are:

the process requires difficult-to-acquire expertise

the process is time-consuming

the process is repetitive

The extensive list of commercially available courseware authoring tools, environment and languages (89 total according to Instruction Delivery Systems, March/april 1991), is another indication of the need for an automated instructional design adviser. Additionally, expert CBI designers are scarce. Having few human experts in the area of computer-based instructional design can be explained for two reasons:

computer-based instruction is relatively new, and

learning theories have only recently been reborn as a result of contributions from cognitive science.

The AIDA experts agree there is a need for a tool which automates the design and ewvelopment of courseware. This tool should incorporate instructional design expertise with regard to the selection, sequencing and presentation of materials in support of various lesson objcctives and subject-matter domains. Perhaps the most important function of an AIDA system is to specify what instruction should look like for a porticular situation (specific goals, content, learners and learning environment). In other words it must prescribe the most appropriate instructional strategies and tactics.

Integrating learning theory, instructional design and technology

Can a physician prcscribc a mcdicine without solid knowledge about the sickness and its symptoms? According to Rcigeluth (1993), instructional design provides concrete guidance on how to facilitate the occurrence of certain learning processes (prescriptiue), while learning theories provide a rationale as to why certain instructional prcscriptions are useful (descro[tove]. Although these two areas are different, there is a strong relationship bctween them: instructional design is a linking science between learning thcory and educational/training practice.

In spite of the instructional design evolution in incorporating new findings from learning process theories in its ‘knowledge base’, it has been always challenged by cogniti vists and particularly constructiovists. The historical background of instructional science can explain part of this discussion: it was born in the midst of behavioural theory. This debate has become very hot lately. Perkins (1991) describes constructivism as follows:

In particular, learners do not just take in and store up information. They make tentative interpretations of experiences and go on to elaborate and test those interpretations.

If leatning has this constructive character inherently, it follows that teaching practice needs to be supportive of the construction that must occur. The constructivist critique of much comventional education and training practices is that it is mot especially supportive of the work of construction that needs to be done in the minds of the learners.

Spector’s (1994) view of this debate is very pertinent. He argues that supporters of constructivism are right to emphasize the importance of learning activities and constructions, but they would be wrong to ignore the importance of arranging experiences for learners that are likely to be efficient in creating useful constructions. Instructional designers, or instructivists as Spector calls them, are right to emphasize the need for plans and organized sets of activities, and they would be wrong to ignore the need for learners to make their own constructions.

From the information processing approach, learning is a matter of using strategic processing to encode and organize information so that it can be retrieved at the appropriate time for use. ‘learning occurs by extending existing knowledge’ (Kintsch, 1993). Having an engineering background I like to use analogies to extend my prior knowledge. So I see the integration of the learning theories, instructional design and technology as a building construction, the instructional empire building. This building is well-known by its solid foundations/structure (learning theories), award-winning architectural desing/project (instructional design)and by the high quality inner finishing and detailing materials (technology).

To be effective, CBI should be designed to invilve learners actively. Here is where technology plays a major role. Advanced interactive technologies (such as digitized video and audio) offer new opportunities for developing the learning environment. Spector (1994) states:

In short, it is my argument that these new technologies (digitized audio and video, hypermedia presentation systems, object-oriented design environments, etc) can help provide the integration needed between instructional science and learning theory. On the other hand, by building automated environments that can be used to quickly prototype lesson materials, we can more readily determine the way that individual characteristics, media strategies, and knowledge type interact in a learning situation.