Biannually, NLA project leads and contributing staff gather in-person and online to discuss goals and potential lessons for the next phase of the project. Meetings include the sharing of project goals for the semester; status reports on in-progress lessons, recently completed lessons, and special projects; and breakout sessions where members discuss the lessons most needed within the ACRL Framework. Two to three lessons are usually selected for creation, and individuals volunteer for lessons that sound meaningful and interesting to them.
Lesson groups consist of members interested in working on the lesson as well as an instructional designer. Instructional designers have extensive knowledge of learning theories, instructional models, course development, and online education. They apply that knowledge to create learning environments that are not only more efficient, engaging, and effective, but also fun. The group spends time forming the objective of the lesson before ultimately focusing on creating the content. The frequency of group meetings depends on many factors, including the group’s timeline and lesson goals. Sometimes members meet once a week, sometimes once a month is sufficient.
Lessons tell a story that include not only a beginning, middle, and end, but also drama and relevance to the reader. This is called a story arc and many lessons are influenced by this process. Choosing activities and assessments that are engaging is crucial to telling a good story. There are many possibilities from which to choose, and a mix of modalities are usually incorporated into a lesson.
Part of creating a good lesson is access to interactive tools. Open edX is an open source tool that has a good mix of features considered essential to the project, including:
- customizable learning experiences to reflect different goals
- desktop and mobile-friendly features
- built-in reports to help manage online content
- cloud-based creation, editing, and storage of lessons
- compliance to standards (WCAG, SCORM and LTI)
OER and Rapid Prototyping
NLA has used other tools over time, including various open educational resources (OERs) and rapid prototyping. OERs are educational materials that are made available to the public for little or no cost. Instructional designers use rapid prototyping throughout the development process to ensure that lessons aren’t continuously in the development phase. This philosophy pushes lessons in development out to stakeholders (usually students) for feedback before a lesson is completed, which provides invaluable feedback for improving the lesson.