Principle-Driven Design: The Certificate in Advanced Educational Leadership

by: Bonnie Anderson

CAEL Project Poster

As described in an earlier post, the TLL’s work on the Certificate in Advanced Educational Leadership (CAEL) has yielded fruitful lessons for all involved. In particular, we are seeing the importance of infusing evidence-based design principles and our own team’s guiding principles into every aspect of this project. In this post, I will focus on the influence of three specific design principles on the creation of the CAEL program.

Design Principle 1: Consistency

Research into effective engagement strategies for adult learners in online contexts indicates that a consistent cadence within and across learning experiences increases both learner satisfaction and the quality of learning outcomes (Swan, 2003; Collins, Weber & Sambrano, 2013; Sebastienelli, Swift & Tamimi, 2015). As the CAEL course design team developed the learning experience, we carefully considered the learner experience and created a structure reflecting consistency as a core value. The design framework will be shared by all modules in the program, and each topic strand (weeks 2-4 and 8) will be divided into 3 sections (“blocks”), with deliverables due on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday of each week. All modules will follow this basic structure such that learners can focus on what they are learning rather than on changing guidelines or expectations within and across modules.

Design Principle 2: Community

The CAEL learning experience is both personal and collaborative, interweaving deep individualized learning with a rich community of peers and facilitators engaged in asynchronous discussions and live, scheduled web conferences during each module. The last decade of research into online learning has shown that a sense of relatedness or (aka connectedness or affiliation) within a learning community can greatly enhance a student’s motivation (Ryan & Deci, 2002), learning (Boling, et. al., 2012), and satisfaction (Seiver & Troja, 2014). The CAEL design framework includes weekly discussions around assigned readings, two live online sessions with peers and the teaching team, and three project-based learning weeks in which students are encouraged to engage in team-based, job-embedded projects unique to their own context.

Design Principle 3: Impact

Within the TLL, we define impact in terms of three key elements: outcomes, reusability, and scalability. From a design perspective, the principle of impact maximizes the investments made by faculty, designers, developers and others to create the learning experience, while also maximizing the investment of time and resources made by learners by ensuring that learning outcomes are aligned with their needs and that they are assessed in a meaningful way.

  • Outcomes Adult learners in any context care about the relevance of what they are learning (Knowles, 1988); they need to know why it matters to their lives. Each module in the CAEL program is developed by HGSE faculty and appointed doctoral students based on content from the Ed.L.D. curriculum. Each module is framed in terms of direct impact on current or aspirational careers and includes job-embedded, contextualized projects to demonstrate the immediacy and relevance of the material. Completion of four CAEL modules results in a meaningful certificate of competency, not only a marker of completion. As Dr. City says, “This is about your learning, not about seat time.”
  • Reusability Each of the assets developed for Leading Learning, from videos and VoiceThread presentations to interactive exercises and surveys, are designed with reuse in mind. We already have dozens of assets that may now be used in Ed.L.D. courses and other programs throughout GSE. In addition to Leading Learning concepts, these assets deal with technical competencies such as Meeting Wise and Design Thinking and will have wide reach beyond the CAEL program curriculum.

  • Scalability The very essence of the CAEL program is an effort to scale the reach of the Ed.L.D. curriculum; CAEL came to the TLL as a grant-funded project to create a fully online certificate program built around Ed.L.D. content. This program expands the reach of Ed.L.D. core teachings beyond 25 students per year which extends the impact of our faculty research and teachings on the field. In fact, during the design of Leading Learning Dr. City commented on the opportunity of making more teachers and leaders aware of core Ed.L.D. concepts,

Consistency, Community, and Impact are three particularly important examples of evidence-based design principles influencing our thinking during the creation of Leading Learning and other modules in the CAEL program. As the CAEL program unfolds, I’m looking forward to discussing other design principles in light of what we will soon know about the learner experience in these modules. The first module of the certificate program, Leading Learning, launches February 15, 2016 and we’re excited to see the first results of a highly interactive and engaging online program. Stay tuned as we expect to report on those results in future posts.

See also: Course, Project