Up until recently , I've been thinking it's instructional designers who will be using our tools. Perhaps. But as I look around at who is actually doing instructional design out there (and look at me) I realize more and more that 'instructional designer' is an over-used title and does not necessarily mean that one knows a thing about it; perhaps it's just a role that someone evolved into. It certainly doesn't mean that the individual has a background in 'experience design' (to borrow from Patrick Dunn) or even in e-Learning. Instructional designers are often SMEs who have evolved into trainers. And then e-Learning fell onto their plate.
The folks at Kineo wrote a piece on the future of rapid e-learning tools, summarizing "our view is to give potential authors [SMEs] some easy to use but well structured templates which will give instructional integrity to how they develop their learning."
Barry Sampson responds,
[This approach] presupposes that the templates are instructionally sound in the first place: In reality I doubt that any templated approach is likely to be instructionally sound. For me this is is one of the key failings of traditional elearning content: fitting your learning need to pre-existing templates, whether that's SME built rapid content or something produced by an elearning provider. Templates are about keeping costs down, not standards up.
My response to Barry, hmmm....well I suppose I agree that a template, in and of itself, can not be instructionally sound. But what is a template? It's really a mental model. We all work from templates. Even when you've got a blank page in front of you and you start writing: paragraphs, commas, periods. We have some pre-existing notion in our heads of the structure we might want to follow.
From a rapid e-Learning perspective -- or just e-Learning in general -- templates and tools provide a starting point. They provide a mental model. They can save time; create a more efficient process. And hopefully, they are flexible enough that they can be altered as needed in order to create an effective learning experience.
Silke Fleischer of Adobe Captivate fame, in her post Update on eLearning Guild Conference , talks about the rapid e-learning panel of which she was a part, and the subject of SMEs and IDs:
Some instructional designers want SMEs to use rapid tools to create rapid eLearning, some would not want them near an authoring tool. For me it seems less a discussion between rapid eLearning that SMEs develop content or not, it's rather rapid eLearning developed by IDs (Instructional Designer) with the SMEs (SMEs start by capturing the knowledge, IDs add the ID) versus the informal learning SMEs like most of my coworkers produce using rapid eLearning tools - they don't call what they do "rapid development" nor "rapid eLearning".
I think this is a good vision. In fact, one of the sessions I attended at the Guild Event gave me a taste for this approach. In Rapid Project Management Techniques for e-Learning presented by Coates & Hill of Deloitte, they outlined their approach to creating a big enterprise-wide training program in an extremely aggressive timeframe. The project management stuff from the session was really basic, but the main point I took away was embedded into the program about 40 minutes in.
They described their War Room. The got the key SMEs together in a room with the instructional designers. The SMEs had to create the storyboards. Once the storyboard was created, the lead instructional designer reviewed it, fine-tuning things to create an "instructionally sound" experience. This approach saved them a ton of time, and resulted in an effective training program.
But before they even set the SMEs loose on the storyboarding process, they gave them a training in the basics of e-Learning and instructional design! Nothing long, nothing too deep, just the basics. And this was the seed that led to a conversation with Clive Shepherd that led to the 30-minute masters.
So we give SMEs access to these tools: because this is the wave of the future/the now, this IS what is required. We create templates and tools that provide some instructional approach. Perhaps we build wizards and guidance right into the tools themselves. We provide flexibility in the tools so that they are seen as a starting point.
More importantly, we educate the SMEs upfront. We provide mentoring and partnering between SMEs and instructional designers. If we set the SMEs -- AND the instructional designers -- loose with these tools, let's set them up for success.