Final Redesign - Analysis


For the final project in EDET 709, I acted as my own client. Each spring semester, I teach MUSC 365, Introduction to Audio Recording. This is first in a series of recording courses that undergraduate students take as an elective. Students come from various disciplines - including music, media arts, engineering, and journalism - but all have a love of music and an interest in recording. Near the end of the course, I teach a module on the basics of digital audio that typically extends over 2 - 3 class meetings. While nowhere near comprehensive, the intent is to familiarize the students with the concepts of sampling and quantization as it pertains to digital audio. Having just taught this module, I noticed it needed improvement in order to be clear for novice students. It also did a poor job of engaging the students’ attention.

Phase 1: Analysis:

Needs Analysis:
Needs Analysis seeks to discover the discrepancy between the current outcome and the ideal outcome. Often, a series of questions is used to determine this discrepancy.

What is the change being requested?
  • Improved instruction of basics of digital audio module in MUSC 365 Introduction to Audio Recording
Who is being asked?
  • MUSC 365 instructor
What is currently taking place?
  • Inconsistent transfer of information and understanding
  • Slide/lecture format is dull
  • Few concrete examples
  • Little use of multimedia
  • cognitive overload
Who is requesting the change?
  • MUSC 365 instructor and students
Where/when will this change need to take place?
  • MUSC 365 - Week 13 Basics of Digital Audio module
  • offered each spring semester

Learner Analysis:
As a part of EDET 722, I performed a learner analysis on the typical students of MUSC 365. The results of that analysis are shown here:
Learner Analysis Map

The major portion of the instruction comes via a standard lecture. The powerpoint, which began solely as instructor's notes, served primarily to organize the lecture and secondarily to focus the student’s attention. Unfortunately, the ‘talking-head’ style of instruction seems to more often cause the students to glaze over - a sure sign of cognitive overload.

Graphic design:
Currently, the media accompanying instruction consists of a rudimentary power point presentation. The graphic design of the powerpoint is sound, utilizing good contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity. There are several bullet points per page. However, it contains almost no images or diagrams, which are essential for understanding the concepts. These diagrams were typically drawn in class by the instructor - unfortunately they were rarely clear or consistent.

Cognitive Load:
The intrinsic cognitive load of the material is quite high. The powerpoint and the instruction itself were derived from a higher level course that focuses solely on digital audio for the entire semester. The students eligible for that course have had several audio prerequisites and have more math expertise. The course spends several weeks on sampling and quantization, examining it in much greater detail. The powerpoint was adapted for the digital audio module in the Intro course by removing the more complicated topics.

However, simply removing pages from the powerpoint is not enough to lessen the load. One of the challenges I face in designing instruction is to remember that concepts (such as sampling) that I am intimately familiar with are new concepts to these learners. The original instruction was directed at more advanced students. Even with many pages removed, it stilled assumed that the learner could utilize entirely new ideas as complex schema. No wonder their working memory was so quickly overloaded! The instruction could truly benefit from being rethought for beginning audio students.

Mayer’s Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning purports that students learn better from words and pictures than from words alone. This is because of the assumption that the human information processing system contains dual channels: an auditory/verbal channel and a visual/pictorial channel. The original instruction grossly violated this assumption - both the text of the powerpoint and the spoken lecture fall into the verbal category. Very little of the learner’s visual channel was stimulated.
I hope to correct these and many other problems in the instruction redesign .