Creating quality training products is more subtle and complex than it may appear. In a well-developed course, instructional design elements are integrated seamlessly. The user should experience the intentional and precise use of images, videos, text, colors, spacing, questions, and other elements as an engaging learning experience.
Our Quality Assurance testing, looks for the elements of good instructional design and how they are implemented to ensure that a course achieves a high level of instructional integrity. ProCert’s instructional design evaluation is one of the keys to the success of our business and gives students and educators the assurance that courses that have been approved by ProCert are quality courses.
Table of Contents
In order to assure relevance of the course content and methodology, effective courseware identifies what a student’s level of comprehension, interests and experience should be in order to effectively learn from the course. Students may become confused and/or dissatisfied when the course is determined to be above or below their level of interest or experience.
Courseware should clearly state the prerequisite skills a student must have in order to effectively learn from the course. This requirement is closely related to the defining of a target audience, but goes further into the details of specific required skills and should be clearly delineated within the course. Specification of prerequisite skills is also helpful to the student in mapping out a plan to achieve certification.
Course objectives are the specific learning points that guide students from simple principles to more complex ones. These objectives are the learning plan for the course, complete with starting points and desired outcomes. They may or may not relate directly to the exam objectives. Course objectives are often defined by the relationship between the technology and the job function it serves.
Exam objectives encapsulate the foundational knowledge principles that are required to be understood in order to pass an exam. A certification course should be constructed with the exam objectives as the center of focus. Objectives ideally listed or specified somewhere in the course.
Readability refers to the level of language the course is written with as well as the skill with which content is structured visually. The appropriate use of white-space, graphics and diagrams add significantly to a course’s engagement and readability. Dictionary-style readability is an example of poor content readability – often precise and factual, but visually boring and lacking in engagement with the student. In contrast, a biographical explanation (e.g., “When I was learning to….”) is still full of facts but written with an engaging, relatable personality. Each course usually fits somewhere in-between these two examples.
Navigation throughout the course should be made as easy and understandable as possible to facilitate an understanding of logical content flow in the learning process. A foundational table of contents is a critical element in demonstrating that content is presented in an understandable, logical and navigable manner.
A foreword gives the student a clear and concise direction for the course. Understanding the context of the information, the flow of the instruction and the goal of the learning are critical factors in helping students prepare to engage, absorb, and understand new concepts appropriately.
An accurate index enables cross-referencing of concepts and facilitates the finding of specific topics and references. Students may also use a course as a reference tool before and after their certification exam, so quickly finding information should be made as easy as possible. Post assessments help identify the overall level of gained knowledge and reinforce concepts learned in the course.
In the learning process, new terms, phrases, acronyms and naming conventions are normally introduced as new concepts are described. While students learn the definitions of terms in the text of the courseware, it is also the function of a courseware product to be a ready reference for continued learning and referral. A glossary is a useful tool in the learning process as terms are continuously referenced throughout the text, providing an easy resource for learning refreshment if questions arise during additional study.
Learning is made more effective when students are able to establish a benchmark level of comprehension in the subject being studied. A pre-assessment of knowledge and understanding of the subject enables students to evaluate the effectiveness of course instruction when compared to a post-assessment of knowledge gained.
Post assessments, when combined with a pre-assessment, can improve the learning experience by first identifying areas for improvement, and then identifying where improvement is still necessary. Post assessments indicate readiness to challenge an exam, and are a good indication of a student’s ability to perform the skills required by the related job role.
Continuous assessment provides a constant challenge to retention and allows for goal-based learning. Information is retained in permanent memory more readily when it is challenged and applied as it is learned. Quizzes and other assessments at the end of each chapter help solidify the concepts associated with each exam objective, and provide a basis for memorization.
Information is retained more permanently when it is applied in a real-life situation. Additionally, application and experimentation leads to familiarity with learned solutions as well as abstract application of learned solutions to unexpected situations. Achieving success on a certification exam is highly correlated with practical experience and involvement with the skills being tested.