1 University of Alberta (CANADA)
2 University of Saskatchewan (CANADA)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2019 Proceedings
Publication year: 2019
Pages: 15-21
ISBN: 978-84-09-14755-7
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2019.0009
Conference name: 12th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 11-13 November, 2019
Location: Seville, Spain
Most universities, including online universities, are cultural institutions that reflect the sociocultural values of their communities. A review of learning design and program delivery suggests that many online institutions do not take advantage of multiple sociocultural perspectives and uncritically reflect a (Western) dominant-culture curricula design (cf. Hongladarom, 2001; Rogers & Mayes, 2007; Young, 2007). Learning organizations around the world share the challenges and opportunities of developing programs in which adult learners work collaboratively to confront social issues strongly, and the imperative becomes to design the learning experience as “one of facilitated constructivist learning through dialogue, or an open-ended, non-dogmatic, and emancipatory discourse” (Harris, 2000, p. 39).

We assert that instructional designers are rarely taught to explicitly engage in an emancipatory discourse about teaching and learning, although through the decades, theory and practice has consistently reflected the sociocultural and political conditions and contexts in which they have occurred. Instructional design (ID) is not simply a technical methodology to be applied to design situations; ID (Kuhn, 1962) has always been a situated practice, although it has not been explored or described in this way. For example, Hongladarom (2001) argues that because the Internet bears the American stamp of the culture of its origin, values such as liberalism, egalitarianism, individualism, and competitiveness are well embedded in both the technology and the nature of the communication enabled by it. While there is evidence that instructional designers have been pivotal to the growth and success of online offerings in higher education (Bates, 2005), critical theorists have described their products and environments as prescriptive, restrictive, and reductionist, due in no small way to the culture they have acquired within their areas of study that include systems and cognitivist views of learning. However, a discourse is emerging about the actual practice of instructional designers, characterizing it as situated and embedded in context (cf. Garrison, 1993; Visscher-Voerman & Gustafson, 2004). Similarly, a lively conversation about ID theory is happening, with some challenging us to rethink the discipline from an agentic viewpoint using predominantly postmodern methodologies, and others challenging postmodern views and calling for ID to be public with its discourse and about its warrants and claims as a scientific venture (cf. Evans, 2011; Yanchar & Spackman, 2012).

We challenge the grand narrative that ID is a scientific domain immune to its sociocultural, geopolitical and economic contexts. We will show that instructional design has always been informed by the social movements to which it responds, by placing research on learning and theory building, applications of ID theory and development of models, and implications for distance education practice, on a temporal and sociopolitical timeline that illustrates how sensitive ID has been to social, cultural, political and economic currents. We argue that designers of distance education environments should be familiar with the history that has shaped their field and, going forward, be able to critically design within relevant sociocultural frameworks.

References available:
Instructional design, distance education, ID theory.