Introduction to Instructional Design
Accounting for all possible individual learner preferences has to be built in at the design stage - and this, according to Jan Seabrook, one of the U.K.'s leading instructional designers, requires time. Jan says, "The pay-off is that online learning materials offer advantages such as consistency of content and reduced learning time." Over the years, instructional design (ID) has been emphasized to varying degrees, but it's in danger of being ignored altogether today in the face of template-driven, rapid-authoring of learning objects, simulations, unstructured learning, peer groups, and so on. There is also more of a focus on logging and measuring learning, all on top of the usual pressures of time and costs. Yet ID provides a structure, a discipline for those engaged in it, and a framework for the basis for a learning solution. Moreover, it is based on principles that offer a benchmarking and checking mechanism to keep any project on track. Robert Gagn- (more of whom later in this series of posts) argues that there are different kinds of knowledge and skills, and that each of them requires unique conditions for it to be learned. ID's job is to identify these conditions. Its architecture can comprise media-, message-, strategy-, and model-driven designs for learning programs. Yet, in the world of corporate learning, ID has to overcome a range of practical problems, including:
- It's rare for the instructional designer to lead the learning development team.
- Projects have a habit of developing once they've begun and this can bring conflicting demands, with instructional designers being asked to cater for extra categories of learners â€“ which alters the whole design.
- The rest of the project group and the client are unlikely to understand the particular nuances, skills and rationale of the designer's art.
- Program design has tended to move from the instructional designer to subject matter experts, who're not necessarily skilled in, or sympathetic to, ID techniques. Nor are they adept at remembering what it's like to know very little about the subject in which they're now expert!
- Is based on identified learning needs.
- Is related to organizational needs.
- Is based on clearly defined objectives.
- Structures and sequences content effectively.
- Chooses the appropriate delivery media.
- Provides feedback and assessment.
- What's the purpose of the training?
- What's indicated the need for it?
- Who's the audience?
- What do they need to come away with as a result of completing the training?
- Given that we want them to come away with those things, what exactly do we need to address in the training?
- What's the best way to get those elements of course content across to the audience? (This is where the selection of appropriate learning technologies comes in.)
- How can we help make sure the learning "sticks" - what can we do before, during and after the training to ensure that it's kept alive?
- How will we evaluate the effectiveness of the training, both while it's being developed (or drafted) and after it's been finalized and delivered to the audience?
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