DEVELOPING DIGITAL WORKED EXAMPLES TO EFFICIENTLY DEVELOP PROCEDURAL KNOWLEDGE
Universities in Australia, responding to reduced government support, are changing rapidly in efforts to increase efficiency. At the institutional level this includes increasing staff workloads, decreasing face-to-face contact, and greater reliance on sessional staff members. At the same time, the student cohort is changing to a higher proportion of international students who face additional challenges, and domestic students with an increasingly instrumental approach to education. These macro-level changes have put pressure at the micro-level as educators are called upon to adapt their teaching methods. Blended learning has been advanced as a means of achieving both cost savings and increased learning effectiveness (Sampson and Zervas 2011, Pathak 2016).
This study provides a personal account of a group of accounting academics (content specialists) who have responded to institutional pressures (cost cutting, increasing reliance on sessional staff, increasing course coordination responsibility, decreased direct contact with students) by becoming ad hoc instructional designers. These challenges may resonate with many other academics. Without specialist training in educational technology, many academics are being called upon to develop learning materials to support their university’s commitment to Blended Learning.
In this paper we discuss how Cognitive Load Theory (CLT) (Chandler and Sweller 1991, Sweller and Chandler 1991) provided insights and guidance into our foray into instructional design. Specifically, worked examples (Mousavi, Low et al. 1995, Atkinson, Derry et al. 2000, Halabi, Tuovinen et al. 2005) provide an efficient way to develop procedural knowledge (Anderson 1982), and Digital Learning Objects (DLOs) offer an efficient and effective means of distributing worked examples. Educators can maximise the return on their time by creating reusable digital learning objects. Videos that explain and illustrate the problem-solving steps in fundamental accounting problems offer an alternative, or at least a supplement, to individual consultation. The results of a student survey, and the pattern of student access to on-line materials, support the anticipated benefits of worked examples, particularly their access for just-in-time learning. Furthermore, we find evidence that the worked examples decrease the demands on the student’s limited cognitive (particularly their working memory), thereby freeing up those resources for the development of skills and the acquisition of procedural knowledge. Our experience also suggests that, despite a significant initial investment of time, there are significant time savings to be achieved for the educator.
The following sections describe the changing educational context that motivated the development of these DLOs. This is followed by a discussion of the insights from Cognitive Load Theory. Student feedback, YouTube analytics, and the educator’s experience are then provided to evaluate the time spent developing the DLOs, and the return on that effort in terms of student use. Finally, the paper draws insights, conclusions and suggestions based on our experience that will be of interest to other academics considering investing time and resources in the development of DLOs.