Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Instructional Design and Market Sector Differences

The field of instructional design is vast and varied.

In the survey I've been running, Instructional Designers: Do You Have an Advanced Degree? about 30% of respondents have graduate degrees in instructional design. Based on comments, it sounds like an advanced degree is a requirement more so if you're working in the academic sector.

Many of us (myself included) work exclusively in the corporate sector, designing training experiences for employees of corporations. I primarily design self-paced eLearning programs.

But even within the corporate market, I know the roles of the instructional designer vary widely. What kinds of programs do you design? Do you have a graduate degree in ID?

Many of us work in the academic field (both higher ed and k-12), designing what I imagine are completely different types of experiences.

If you're an ID in the academic sector, what does that mean? What do you do? What do you design? I'm guessing you're designing online distance learning courses. Classes for college credit that are taught online. Do you have a graduate degree in ID?

Are the required skill sets of the instructional designer different depending on which sector of the market you're in?


christytucker said...

I'm in the weird place of for-profit education, which really has characteristics of both market sectors. The courses I develop are 3-credit graduate courses for K-12 teachers, taught over 9 weeks. Each course is about 75 hours of work for the students, so the scale is probably larger from most strictly corporate work.

Having just a bachelors degree seems to be fine as long as you aren't working directly for the universities (I'm not sure about K-12 online). For my specific position, it's more relevant that I have K-12 teaching experience than whether I have a masters or not.

Having worked closely with universities previously though, I know that the degrees do matter for many positions. Accrediting bodies look at what degrees faculty and leaders have. Even though IDs aren't teaching and probably don't fall under accrediting standards, it's an environment where people are used to looking at degrees.

Personally, I've had no problems switching back and forth between the academic and corporate sectors. Most of my career has been somewhere in between, including 2 years of for-profit K-12 education. Many people are more comfortable in one market or the other though.

Cammy Bean said...

Christy...would you categorize the courses you develop as "distance learning"? It sounds like you have online sessions as well as self-paced experiences.

christytucker said...

Hmmm...I'm not totally comfortable with the term "distance learning" because it really focuses on the geography. Most of our online students are doing masters programs through universities where some courses are face-to-face at a university and some are online, developed by our company but offered through the university.

If "distance learning" means instructor-led online courses to you though, then yes, that's what I'm doing. I suppose the biggest difference between my work and corporate work is perhaps not the scale of the courses, but that it's instructor-led with a group of students taking it simultaneously. A lot of my focus for design is on the interactions between students and the facilitator and among the students themselves. That part of the design doesn't exist for the self-paced e-learning courses; there isn't that same kind of learning community.

The courses themselves are primarily asynchronous, with the occasional synchronous chat. Courses are divided into weekly modules, and students mostly complete the activities at the same time (although they have control over when in the week they do work).

We started adding self-paced activities as part of courses last year. We're trying to increase the content created in Captivate or Flash, but it's still somewhat limited right now. The interactive content may never really be the focus of the course; the focus of interactions is among the people rather than person-to-computer.

Does that give you a better idea of my work?

Cammy Bean said...

Christy...this does help round out the picture of what you do.

I'm interested in the different skill sets the type of work you do requires. You say, "A lot of my focus for design is on the interactions between students and the facilitator and among the students themselves."

And I wonder, in general, if that's the biggest different between the corporate and academic sectors for ID.

christytucker said...

I agree; developing self-paced e-learning and instructor-led e-learning really shifts the focus of what we do as designers. In the academic world, it's almost always going to be instructor led courses.