Design: Professional Experiences

Assistant Executive Director, e-Learning and Government Partnerships, National Science Teachers Association

I began my career with NSTA as a consultant. During my last year at Virginia Tech in the Ph.D. program I was asked by NSTA to direct a $1.3 million dollar grant called WebWatchers. The existing director had to bow out due to a health-related issue, so with just six weeks before the start of two summer institutes (each two weeks in length), I plunged into reviewing the original grant, the year one evaluation report, and deliverables that had been generated to date. I reported to Mr. Tyson Brown, who had done some early work for the summer's workshop activities, but we had some additional planning to do.

WebWatchers SciGuides

Each WebWatcher summer institute brought 48 of the best and brightest teachers from across the nation to help identify and evaluate online instructional resources tied to the National Science Education Standards. In the first year over 400 applicants applied to have the opportunity to use online rubrics in the evaluation of existing web-based instructional resources, which were then encapsulated within thematic web guides and aligned to national standards.

Reviewing the first year guides presented a significant opportunity to enhance their look, navigability and functionality. I worked with the summer participants to create a more coherent design that would include at minimum six URLs for each keyword, with a 2X2X2 matrix that ensured a consistent suite of web-based resources in a certain topic area. I created an improved web site in a short period of time and worked with the IT department to incorporate dynamic "filters" for the URL's and an online web-based evaluation system that would allow distributed users to rate web pages using 8 three level analytical rubrics.

I would later have the opportunity to manage a front-end re-design with a robust WYSIWYG back-end system to facilitate a distributed training and production process. In support of this process I also managed and edited a suite of tutorials to support the creation of SciGuides. The SciGuides program garnered several awards, and we hired a program manager to facilitate development of additional guides after confirming their value with several of our committees.

The SciGuide product served as NSTA's first e-commerce venture for web-accessible e-content. It has since migrated into the NSTA Learning Center and is co-developed with SciPacks in the same topic area. All the simulations that appear for teachers in SciPacks are now readily accessible in a stand-alone format for students. Current plans are adding video vignettes of sample lessons being done in the classroom to further support the implementation of the web and simulations.

After the first summer I had time to adequately prepare for the final year's workshop. I designed the pre workshop web site the agendas, and a post workshop CD-ROM to support this endeavor. Ultimately, I was offered a position at NSTA as Director of the NSTA Institute. E-Learning was a growing area of interest for NSTA.

Initial Design, Deployment and Evaluation of SciPack resource and Business Plan

Ritchie Boyd, Laura DiFranco and I collaboratively designed the initial phases of SciPack production modeled after ADDIE, which we could then use this to help estimate the cost for an individual SciPack. I compared this with known cost for multimedia production at the time. Even today we are still relatively close to the initial cost for a single SciPack ($137K, now $155K + IDC's). Looking back I never realized how much effort would go into the the following areas to get this initiative off the ground:

  • Identification of roles, job descriptions, and the hiring and training of employees to fulfil these roles
  • Creation of prototype SciPack with supporting design documents, construction templates, and how to manual
  • Finding, securing and training a suite of consultants that would be required to complete the build out
  • Identifying an LCMS vendor to help construct our SCORM objects and then oversee implementation, customization and integration issues.
  • Reviewing and aggregating literature and examples concerning simulating production (cognitive load literature)
  • Designing and conducting focus groups to inform the design components and features of the SciPacks
  • Forging strategic partnerships early on to serve as authentic pilot test of both SciPacks and the Learning Center Delivery portal (not yet conceived in this plan)
  • Designing, implementing, and executing the pilots

The first $500K came through the US Department of Education to Montana State University and Dr. Kim Obbink who partnered with NSTA. Other potential partners such as NASA's Classroom of the Future, the University of Idaho, and EDC were also interested and contributed early prototypes for consideration.

This business plan was later adjusted and submitted as a proposal to the Hewlett Foundation. They accepted our proposal and provided the second infusion of $800,000 to get the project off the ground. I had to craft responses to reviewers comments based on my knowledge of appropriate instructional design principles and the current literature regarding SCORM Learning Objects. We adjusted our model to make the Science Objects accessible free of charge, while developing the SciPack as a means to recover cost and sustain the effort. DOT and NASA sponsored the development of several SciPacks after the Executive Director and I made presentations and submitted proposals for consideration. Now over the last two years the NSTA Learning Center has garnered more then $6 million dollars in grant and foundation funding.


NSTA Learning Center and its e-PD Resources and Tools

The NSTA Learning Center is one of NSTA leading efforts as part of their national campaign in science education. I have been fortunate to be part of this effort and welcome new opportunities with enthusiasm. I currently am focusing on our partnership with the GE Foundation, and in this capacity, drafted the Final Report for Year 1 and the Annual Report for the second phase of our grant. There is no shortage of work, but it is extremely exciting to apply all my skills in message design, instructional systems design, implementation, project management, and evaluation to develop this award-winning portal.

It is very humbling to look back on where we were just 3 years ago. The Learning Center formally launched in April in 2008 and has over 28,000 active users who had added over 154,000 assets from the 3,000 available across their collective libraries. Below are some statistics covering the period of January 2008-November 2008:

    • The free Science Objects were accessed over 36,000 times across 8,090 user accounts, which approximately doubles the usage from the same period the year before (19,000 Objects added to 4,757 accounts for 2007).
    • NSTA Press e-books/chapters were accessed more than 19,349 times, more than a seven-fold increase (2,300 accessed in 2007)
    • Copies of various journal articles were downloaded 78,333 times across 19,298 user library accounts, a five-fold increase from last year (11,000 accessed in 2007).
    • Fee-based SciPacks usage increased by 22%, accessed more than 4,000 times (3,300 were accessed as of November 2007).
    • Web seminar access more then doubled with 72,279 views over the same time period a year earlier (21,600 in 2007)
    • Over 23,000 electronic transcripts were generated via the “My Transcript” tool, a 129% increase since December the previous year (7,000 transcripts created as of November 2007).