Topic design basics

This resource introduces some basic topic design considerations, and offers a range of ideas for practice, with an emphasis on designing for online

Narrative instruction

Instructional  guidance is a narrative in the 'teacher's voice' in a topic captured through the way that items like titling, text, visual signposts, and video or audio captures are arranged and worded so that they tell a story in the topic site that helps that the student start somewhere, take a journey, and end up somewhere else.

Narrative is a good way of creating character in your topic, and it develops cohesion across diverse elements. The journey - as a whole -  is one of the things that the online environment can do more easily that a face-to-face learning environment, because the entire journey - from entry point to finish point - is laid out as a map. Done well, a topic with a good narrative helps the student get the big picture of where they are in that journey, what comes next, and how it all fits together. 

It is important to consider the narrative style that your are using, because this is the teacher's voice captured in the site. Should the style be friendly, supportive, professional, challenging, inquiring? This may change as the topic proceeds - for instance, early activities may be highly scaffolded, while later activities might assume that some of the task support 'narrative' is no longer required. 

The way that FLO is designed helps topic narrative occur, because of its sequential layout, and through the use of recognisable icons for its standard activities that act as signals to the student about what they will be doing. 

A really simple thing that you can do to support topic narrative is to write and display descriptive text for activities and resources added to the site, and make sure they are sequenced or organised in the site in a way that makes sense.

Not all the topic narrative needs to be built into the site before the topic starts. Instructional narrative can also be added as you go through the use of announcements, or by adding new resources or text into the site where it is required. 

One way to design your topic as a journey with a narrative is to put yourself in the role of the student. What do they see first, when they enter the topic? What can they read that tells them what to do? Is it obvious what they should do first? Then what? How is the order of activity made clear to the student? 

Check your narrative from the teacher's perspective as well...running through the sequence of activities, what does the teacher need to do? What is the story of activity between student and teacher?