All posts by Joel Gendler

Top 10 Victory Blogs in 2016

What are your colleagues exploring? From instructional design to visual literacy to interactive lessons, here’s one way to find out: the top ten Victory blogs from 2016.

This year we had 6,187 unique visitors to our blog, and more than 2,100 of you kept coming back. Our top blog had 432 unique page-views, and it kept people interested for an average of 5 minutes. Yet we know we can do even better this year! Help us deliver educational insights that are important to you: request a Victory blog topic for 2017.

Top 10 Victory Blog Posts in 2016

1. Instructional Design 101
In educational publishing, design often refers to graphic design—envisioning and creating the visual look and feel of a book or product. However, graphic design is just one small part of another field of design essential to creating educational materials—instructional design.

2. Design: The Secret Behind Effective Digital Learning Experiences—Part 2
Imagine being able to see evidence of students’ analysis, the kinds of suppositions they make, and when and how they change their minds even before they write about it. Picture literally watching how their prior investigations influence their subsequent decisions. What if we could recognize not only students’ conclusions, but how their close reading of a text (or struggles with it) shapes their entire decision-making process?

3. U.S. Education Market Snapshot: English Language Learners (ELLs)
Overall, the number of ELL students in U.S. public schools is increasing steadily. According to the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), ELLs are the fastest growing segment of the student population. Growth in grades 7–12 is the highest and now comprises 10.5% of the nation’s K–12 enrollment. The number of ELL students in elementary grades is also increasing.

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5 Keys to Visual Literacy

When we develop digital solutions at Victory, we want the end user to experience visuals as intuitively as possible. Because space is always at a premium, visuals and text are equally important. The visuals need to immediately convey information and tell an extended story. When used well, they not only save space on the page (a picture is worth a thousand words), they also inspire confidence in the reader (or should we say “viewer”) by subtly conveying that the overall message will also be easy to understand.

Visual literacy is experiencing resurgence. It is defined many ways in different disciplines, but a good general definition is:

visual literacy: a set of skills used when a person either sees or produces images in order to interpret them, discover a fuller meaning, and make emotional connections.

From our research, there are five important things to consider about visual literacy:

5 Keys to Visual Literacy
key-flipped-small 1 Observing elements in complex images and determining how they relate
key-flipped-small 2 Developing questions to ask about the images
key-flipped-small 3 Understanding how different visual approaches convey different meanings
key-flipped-small 4 Identifying the emotional impact of different techniques on the viewer
key-flipped-small 5 Interpreting an author’s intent based on the choices made to deliver the message

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A Revolutionary Interactive Lesson

In our last blog on performance tasks, we revealed our instructional design approach to creating a social studies performance task, The Boston Massacre.

In this blog, we’ll explain why we expanded the performance task to become an interactive lesson, with embedded performance tasks. So, this is really an evolution, not a revolution.

Here is a sneak preview of the lesson:


What Was Missing in the Original Task?

Our original Boston Massacre performance task was unique in several regards:

  • It developed critical thinking through the analysis and comparison of key characters.
  • Students evaluated multiple causes and effects to rank the importance of earlier events that led up to the key event.
  • Students needed to do a close reading to find evidence to support their arguments.
But, a performance task is rarely used in isolation. It is either part of a summative assessment or used formatively in a lesson. For a lesson, providing a stand-alone performance task requires the teacher to do a lot of work before it can be effective. The teacher has to decide:
  • whether it supports the lesson objectives,
  • when to use it in a lesson,
  • how to provide support if students struggle, and
  • how to use the scores.

Even the world’s best performance task won’t help students if teachers won’t use it!

Collaborating on a Solution

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Victory’s Vendor and Partnership Processes

In our recent blog post, Instructional Design 101, we provided an overview of several popular instructional design models. One of these, the original ADDIE model, was a linear approach with some iterative features. It evolved to be more cyclical, and spawned many other models. In similar fashion, our linear workflows at Victory have evolved to keep up with rapid changes in our industry.

Watch this video for a quick look at Victory’s vendor and partnership processes. Many projects do not require a partnership process; we originally used it to develop digital products, but it has many benefits for complex print products as well.


The video also references backward design, which we first blogged about in Talking to the Test: The Learning Continuum. In backward design, the initial development focuses on assessments because they determine what evidence we will accept as proof of mastery of the associated learning objectives. Again, not every project warrants a backward-design approach. It makes the most sense for subjects with open-ended user experiences that are hard to assess and hard to teach. We have found that if most of the assessment is traditional, then a traditional development process generally will also be sufficient.

metacog Building Its Deep Learning Analytics Platform with Databricks

Victory’s spinoff metacog was just featured in a blog post by Databricks, a company founded by the team that created Apache Spark, a powerful open-source data processing engine. See the Databricks blog post below.

metacog has been hard at work releasing new capabilities of its learning analytics platform, while at the same time enhancing existing capabilities. If you offer subscription-based products, you know that your customers expect continuous improvement. With metacog, we partner with you to deliver new capabilities in deep learning analytics that you can easily integrate into your products to generate new data-driven business models and revenue streams.

Why data analytics for adaptive and competency-based learning is so challenging

You may have seen many companies offering data analytics applied to learning products. If you look closely, most of the time what is offered is “administrative-level” data and simple scoring data:

  • Time-on-task data – How long did learners use the interactive?
  • “Attendance” data – Did learners participate?
  • SCORM-compliant scores reported to a learning management system (LMS) – How well are learners doing?
  • Simple score reports – How many right, how many wrong?

It turns out that in order to improve anything, you have to be able to measure it, but so far in education we have been measuring the wrong thing – the final answer.

This explains why scoring is the key issue. In the past, most open-ended assessments had to be human-scored. And this greatly reduces the frequency with which teachers and professors assign open-ended assessments. Yet it is open-ended tasks that best assess the ability of a candidate to perform well in today’s job market.

Why metacog is different

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Instructional Design 101

Before we plunge into instructional design, let’s step back. What does it mean to design? Here’s the definition, according to Merriam-Webster:

Design

1. to create, fashion, execute, or construct according to plan: devise, contrive

2. a:  to conceive and plan out in the mind

b:  to have as a purpose: intend

c:  to devise for a specific function or end

Design is applied in many fields. Engineers design, construct, test, and refine solutions to problems. Fashion designers bring art to life in clothing, jewelry, and accessories. And then there’s user interface design, video and film design, marketing, and even publishing. In educational publishing, design often refers to graphic design—envisioning and creating the visual look and feel of a book or product. However, graphic design is just one small part of another field of design essential to creating educational materials—instructional design.

Instructional Design Models

Over the years, numerous instructional design models have been developed that serve as frameworks for modules or lessons, by:

  • increasing and/or enhancing the possibility of learning, and
  • encouraging the engagement of learners so that they learn faster and gain deeper levels of understanding.

Instructional design is the systemic process by which instructional materials are designed, developed, and delivered. Instructional design creates a learning environment that is focused on the learner, with an organized structure for content and activities designed to achieve specific learning objectives. This involves applying educational research and teaching practice to craft curriculum and instructional materials aligned to those objectives, thereby improving learning outcomes.

You often hear about instructional design in the context of technology—specifically, digital learning experiences. But the primary goal of instructional design is not the use of technology—it’s good instruction. Technology is just one tool that can be employed to achieve the larger goal: to improve learning outcomes.

The ADDIE Model

One of the earliest instructional design models, ADDIE, includes these five phases:
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So You Want to Make an e-Book

Here are some insights into different formats available for creating e-books—and some issues to consider.

When picking an e-book format, you’ll be making trade-offs among these factors:

  • device compatibility (What devices/platforms can customers read it on?)
  • sales compatibility (Where can you sell it?)
  • features (What does it look like? What can it do?)
  • ease/cost of conversion (How long will it take? How much will it cost?).

ebook-format-comparison

These are the five major formats to consider for publishing an e-book:

  •  PDF
  •  EPUB2/KF8
  •  reflowable EPUB3/KF8
  •  fixed-layout EPUB3/KF8
  •  iBooks Author format

There are other formats, but these five cover the vast majority of business cases. Whenever you hear “e-book,” you can take it to mean that the speaker is thinking of one of these five formats.

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