Designing for Distance Learning


'http://www' written in chalk across a blackboard

As a multimedia developer and instructional designer working primarily on distance learning courses, my role centres on the effective translation of face to face teaching for online delivery.

I work closely with lecturers and other subject matter experts to help them find engaging and innovative ways of presenting their teaching using a medium with which they are perhaps unfamiliar.

Through many years of experience I have developed a framework for the efficient transition of materials into e-learning courseware. Diagram of the Addie model showing a cycle of from Analysis to Design, Development and Implementatino phases, all interlinked by an evaluation processLoosely aligned with the ADDIE model of Instructional Design, the process follows a clear cycle of

  • needs analysis,
  • curriculum and course design,
  • multimedia development,
  • implementation and
  • evaluation.


I often find that materials created for web-based courses are later reused by lecturers and institutions in order to enrich existing face to face modules. This emergence of blended learning strategies into mainstream education is a great testament to the power of online activities to enrich the student experience. They allow learners to approach their learning from many different perspectives, as well as in their own time, and enhance the transfer of skills and knowledge by meeting the needs of students with different learning styles.

Requirements for a successful distance learning course

  • Strong structure, small modular units of learning
  • Clear goal setting
  • Frequent questioning
  • Practice exercise immediately after a new concept
  • Evaluation, feedback, corrective instruction
  • Great clarity about nature and scope of assessments and task
  • Precise and realistic delineation of time and effort requirements of each unit
  • consistency / uniformity across modules

In a distance learning setting, students have a much greater need for a strong framework providing them with a clear path through their learning. Short, chunked learning episodes are key to helping the learner pace their study. These also encourage and motivate the learner by allowing them to feel that they are steadily piecing together their knowledge of the subject.

Transition to a distance model

In keeping with these best practice requirements, the process of translating materials for online delivery involves the 'chunking' of traditional learning episodes, whether lectures or seminars, into units of learning that can be delivered in smaller more manageable chunks - both online or in a blended learning setting.

chunking process

These units can take many forms, ranging from transmissive e-delivery (perhaps what would most commonly be thought of as typical 'learning objects') to collaborative peer-learning activities. Choosing which types of activities are most suitable; whether self-paced, self-guided online activities or interactive case studies, perhaps even software simulations and video SBLs, requires a thorough understanding of the knowledge domain to be taught.

To help capture the course content as a model that can easily be evaluated for chunking, I have developed a process of mapping the curriculum's learning objectives together with the path a learner travels through in order to arrive at clearly defined learning outcomes.

Last modified on 28-Feb-2023 12:18 | © 2010 All rights reserved