I wear a lot of hats in the work I do. Teacher, trainer, writer, coach, cheerleader, critic, speaker, listener, expert, dumb guy, resource, questioner, confidant… But the one that I like best (and I really think defines my skill set most clearly) is “Instructional Designer”.
Unfortunately, most of the folks I work with (and for) don’t really get that part. They see ID work as mostly taking the brain dump of every single thing their experts know about the subject and just pouring it into the muffin tins of a course outline. (I’m reminded of those videos of the uniformed men on the Tokyo subways who push and strain to jam just one more passenger onto the cars before the doors close.)
The goal of many of my clients is to jam in just one more fact, procedure or policy so that they can claim to have presented it to the learners during the day or training. Then they’re confident that every single possible important item has been covered, and the job is complete. Whew!
And with this model, there really isn’t much need for any “design” — just keep that muffin tin as level as you can, and when it slops over the edge keep pouring and pouring and pouring. It will all fit in, somehow.
I’m currently working on a course where I’m actually contributing quite a bit of Instructional Design skill — and it we’re having a great time actually developing some learning materials that will drive the content into the pointy little heads of the students rather than just parade slide after slide past their glazed little eyeballs.
Why? Because we started with the basics: Who are these people? What do they need? How do they learn? How will we provide it for them? Where can we engage them in learning? What resources do they need? Who do they respect to learn from? What activities will engage them and get them to actually participate?
Would it have been easier to just put together two days of PowerPoint slides with loverly animations and color washes? You bet. But I always feel a little guilty as I stand in the back of the room, listening to the heads hit the chests as they doze off.