Online Course Design with ‘X’ in Mind

I share in this post how the ‘X problem’ approach to problem solving is helping to create a unique course design framework for online courses.

Image: Got X Problems? Design Mind on Air (link in resources below)

I’d hit a roadblock in my ongoing efforts to create a course design model for educators to help with the development of online courses and MOOCs. But this week it felt like I hit gold when I discovered the ‘X Problem’ approach to problem solving. I had an aha moment when reviewing the method described in “Innovation X” (2010), a book written by Adam Richardson, Creative Director of the global innovation company frog design, inc. 

In previous posts I’ve shared the research project I’m working on, which is to create an updated course design framework that is relevant and applicable to 21st century learning and instructional modalities. In a previous post Why Online [Really] need an Instructional Design Strategy, I described how educators need to implement a course strategy, particularly for online courses, and in a subsequent post reviewed several instructional design models. These design models mentioned in the post such as the familiar ADDIE model, are not flexible enough to create courses for today’s varied, dynamic and sometimes chaotic learning environments.

“Isn’t it time for the MOOC providers to review the learning design so as to ensure the course is built on a flexible emergent design, rather than a rigid, one size suits all online course principle?” (Guardia, Maina, & Sangra, 2013)  

And there is a need, as the above quote suggests. Though not only for MOOCs, but for other formats that include blended/hybrid formats, fully online and competency-based learning.

The X Factor
I’ve been stymied to come up with something new that is adaptable, yet solid in its learning theories and principles. It was this web page that [finally] moved my thinking about a course design framework forward.  It was the table on the page comparing five different design methodologies that prompted me to look at the concept of design, not just in context of an educational problem. Richardson describes how X problems fall into a class all of their own, “a new class of 21st century challenges that defy conventional planning”. I discovered the book after listening to Richardson discussing his book in a brief podcast interview on Design Mind where he shares this:

“The process focused on design in X-problems consist of a cluster of four challenges that come up over and over again for companies of all sizes, across many industries. Often each of the four is looked at and dealt with in isolation, but in reality they are interrelated and must be treated systemically in order to be solved.” Richardson

X Factor Applied to Course Design
The ‘X’ factor applies to the education industry just as it does to others—as Richardson emphasizes the challenges within industries are universal. Richardson describes how ‘X’ represents the unknown, and the ‘X’ on the treasure map—the goal we are all seeking to achieve. In context of course design we can consider ‘X’ in terms of the variables that an instructor and course designer need to consider and analyze in the development process. And, the variables are becoming more varied and complex as new educational delivery systems and technological applications emerge for educational purposes. A course design model that considers these variables can guide the course development process to keep technology in its place [as a tool], and keep the learner needs and course goals in the forefront.

Some of the variables affecting course design are:

  • learners – their background, skill set, experience, Internet access capabilities, etc.
  • purpose of course [credit, certificate, personal development]
  • Learning theory subscribed to – constructivist, connectivist, etc.
  • course objectives and goals
  • course delivery method/platform
  • discipline of subject matter [course topic]

The Variables
The variables, as discussed determine the outcomes of the development stage of the  course design process. It is in this stage that the instructor develops the syllabus, determines content vehicles (push or pull), decides upon and creates assessment methods, determines the type and scope of learning activities, identifies guest presenter(s) etc. These variables determine the instructional and learning strategy of the course. Thus, when considering the x variables, and following the principles associated with x problem method, a course plan emerges that is specific and tailored to the course. The method supports a customized approach to course design, as opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach.

Stay tuned for more updates. I have created several drafts of visual representations of this X Design model which I’ll share soon.


6 thoughts on “Online Course Design with ‘X’ in Mind

  1. You have promised, “Stay tuned for more updates. I have created several drafts of visual representations of this X Design model which I’ll share soon.” Where can I learn more about your X Design model?


  2. It is interesting to find that no matter the century we will always consider learners first. Thanks for the links, really interesting


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