New Role for Instructional Designers?

Elliott Masie in his latest Trends newsletter asks this question:

What is the next role for Instructional Design?

My experiences in instructional design over the past ten years is that it hasn’t changed too much. In the military I learned how to apply the systems approach to training as well as how to create computer-based training, instructor-led training, etc. My conversations with e-learning companies, instructional designers and academics shows that instructional design is still wedded to the course as the basic unit of instruction (I use instruction instead of learning because the former is usually the focus). I believe that there is still a huge gap that instructional design could fill, given the right tools and perspective.

Let me start by saying that my most memorable projects in the learning field have been those that created non-instructional solutions, specifically performance support. These have included online job aids and just-in-time tools to do some specific task. The tools are not that fancy but the analysis required to find the right tool for the context can be quite time-consuming. The cost savings are usually evident and rather significant.

However, you will be hard-pressed to find a program that focuses on ‘how-to’ develop performance support solutions, because developing courses is so much easier. Don Clark has a good graphic on Performance, Learning, Leadership & Knowledge. This is a good place to start to look at the non-instructional side of performance design. My own experience shows that non-instructional interventions (EPSS, KM, CoP) are very intensive at the front end (analysis) but require fewer resources in the middle (design).

In traditional instructional design you may spend up to 20% of your project costs on analysis, but for performance support this amount could go up to 80%. Once the solution is clearly specified, it doesn’t require a factory floor of instructional designers and can be developed by a small team of programmers, graphic artists, etc.

The next role for instructional design should be to get out of the course in a box metaphor. The web as a medium is better suited for non-linear, non-instructional learning programs than for ADDIE-developed courses. Just as the printed book changed academia, so too the web is changing training and education. Get used to it.

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