Tuesday, February 26, 2008

InVision Learning: Seeking an Instructional Designer

We're seeking a full-time Instructional Designer to join our growing company here in Westborough, Massachusetts.
Invision Learning is seeking an Instructional Designer to design leading-edge interactive multimedia and web-based eLearning applications. Our company specializes in Custom Courses, Flash Templates, and Learning Portals...
If you, or someone you know, is an experienced instructional designer looking for work in the greater Boston area, please let me know!

We're looking for someone with a focus on the content creation side; we don't expect or even want you to build these things. You'll work closely with our Flash designers and programmers who will do that heavy lifting. Your focus will be more on the client and content side. Check out my job description for a better sense...

(You'd get to work with me -- how exciting is that?)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

My Client is Addicted: Audio in eLearning

Cathy Moore had a post a few months ago (Addicted to Audio?) that inspired me to change my approach to using audio in eLearning. She suggested using audio sparingly.

So I've been storyboarding differently. When I see a need for a text heavy pages, I eliminate audio so as not to "depress learning." I avoided narrating onscreen text.

In the comments on Cathy's post, there was a bit of discussion about switching back and forth between pages with and pages without audio.

Yesterday, after round four of a storyboard review process (which has stretched out for months, by the way, due to unavailable/overloaded client SMEs), the lead ID at my client came back asking for audio on EVERY page.

The biggest thing I would like to see is that we add some voiceover on just about all of the slides. Based on experience here, our learners are used to having v.o. on just about all slides. They think the program isn't working when they come across a slide that doesn't have v.o. It doesn't need to be much - but there should be something (verbal instruction rather than just text for example).

Now, maybe I'm just jaded and want to get to an approved storyboard. Maybe it's the fact that I'm recovering from pneumonia and just don't have the energy to fight the fight. But I caved. And yesterday I just added audio back to every page. A little. A line here or there.

Can't win every battle.

The reality of everyday instructional design.

Photo credit: Microphone by hiddedevries

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Who Gets to Be Called an Instructional Designer?

A SME builds a course with the latest rapid eLearning tool. A teacher makes a leap into a new field and gets a job as an "instructional designer". A technical writer takes on a new challenge.

Are they instructional designers? If so, when? When do you cross the line and enter the hallowed world of Instructional Design?

Unlike medicine, interior design, or electricians, the field of instructional design does not require a license to practice. At least not yet. I never took a test that said I was actually an instructional designer.

So at what point does one "become" an instructional designer? What are the criteria?
  • Is it the number of courses you have created?
  • The quality of those courses? (And who graded them?)
  • Is it the number of theories you can cite?
  • The number of Gagne's events you can recite?
  • Is it your mindset? Your desire to figure out a better way, so you can create a better learning experience the next time around?
  • Is it a degree?
  • Is it your business card?
  • Does it matter where on the instructional design spectrum you fall and the types of learning experiences you create?
Who and what gave me the right to call myself an instructional designer? What about you?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Essential Reading for Instructional Design?

As an instructional designer/eLearning professional, what books are the essential tools in your reference library?

I'm not looking for the obtuse theory books. I prefer the get-down-and-dirty variety.

These are my current faves. Easy-readers (a term of praise, in this case). Practical books with lots of real examples. They might refer to theory, but they don't get bogged down in it:
Last May, I started a bit of a list in this post: Beginning Instructional Designer's Toolkit.

Dr. John Curry was kind enough to post a really detailed reading list in his post How to Get an Instructional Design Education Without Paying Tuition (gotta love that title!)

After my appeal for something a little more pared down that I might actually be able to read, Dr. John came up with these essentials:
Other ID books of note that have been recently recommended to me:

What would you add? Or can we stop? I'm already feeling a bit overwhelmed. Perhaps we need to start a lending library.

Photo credit: Little by MegElizabeth

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Theory vs. Application in Instructional Design: One Academic's View

A long time ago, I decided I was much better at the practical side of things than the theoretical.

I did great in Calculus AB(?) in high school, which involved solving problems like figuring out the volume of weird spaces. In college, at the urging of my father, I took the next "level up" in Calculus. This turned out to be a big mistake as it was all about proving theorems. I dropped out of that class halfway through the semester and decided I just didn't have the math/technical/scientific nature.

I'm still a really hands-on person. Perhaps this is why I never went back to grad school. Or maybe I'm just too lazy and poor.

Over the past few days, I've been having a back and forth with Dr. John Curry, an Assistant Professor in Educational Technology at Oklahoma State. Now, I'm not linking to John just because he is full of praise of me (which is nice and somewhat embarrassing, I must admit...), but rather because he brings up some interesting points about the disconnect between the theory of instructional design in academia and the actual practice of it.

See what John has to say in Instructional Design and Academia -- Where Theory and Practice RARELY Meet.

John asks,
"So does it matter if Cammy knows (and I have no idea if she does) what the Dick/Carey, Smith/Ragan, or Morrison/Ross/Kemp models are? What about Component Display Theory, Elaboration Theory, the Conditions of Learning, Learning Hierarchies, the ARCS model, 4C/ID, ADDIE, ASSURE, Schema theory, Cognitive apprenticeship, Social Learning theory, or Cognitive flexibility? Does she need to know those?"
Well. My truthful answer is that I've heard of some of these theories and theoreticians. I've even read about some of them. I actually have some books on my shelf that cover these topics. Admittedly, I may not have read all of the books.

Do you think it matters?

Photo Credit: Integral Calculus DSC00163 by Mr. ToHa

Monday, February 11, 2008

Instructional Designers with Degrees: Latest Survey Results

Since I last reported the results of the survey asking practicing instructional designers if they have an advanced degree in ID, the picture has shifted slightly.

As of today, 86 instructional designers have responded to the survey: Do You Have a Degree in ID?

About 35% of instructional designers have an advanced degree in ID. And 65% of us don't.

As reported earlier, there continues to be a wide range of backgrounds for IDers, mostly in the liberal arts.

View the latest survey results here.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Instructional Designer as Consultant?

With the rise of rapid eLearning tools and the ease with which virtually anyone can now create a course, what's changing for the instructional designer?

Consider this part two of my response to the Learning Circuits Big Question for February: Instructional Design - If, When and How Much?

(See part one: Instructional Design as a Spectrum)

In eLearning Magazine's predictions for 2008, Patti Shank said this:
Learning content, activity, and assessment authoring tools continue to improve. There are great tools with a short learning curve (for example, Adobe Captivate and Articulate Presenter) and tools with a longer learning curve that are really excellent (for example, Lectora, and Flashform). Savvy instructional designers are starting to realize that they cannot be involved in the development of all instructional content in their organizations. Designers are beginning to help others author content and that should leave the more complex projects, where quality of instruction and assurance of skills is needed, in the hands of capable instructional designers. One oh-so-hopeful prediction: Instructional design programs will begin teaching instructional designers to write. Why this critical skill isn't considered a must-have has me scratching my head.

Patti Shank, President, Learning Peaks LLC, USA

Instructional Designer as Consultant

Are we seeing this happen? Are "instructional designers" of the experienced/trained in ID sort, providing more consulting expertise to the lower-tier of instructional designers (a.k.a. SMEs using rapid eLearning tools)?

Clive Shepherd thinks so. And thus the 60-Minute Masters: a crash course created by an instructional designer to teach SMEs the basics of instructional design.

Tom Kuhlman is certainly providing this expertise to the Articulate user community and beyond with his Rapid E-Learning Blog.

Laura from Canada sees an increasing call for IDs as "instructional consultants." In her comments on The Value of Instructional Designers, she observes:

Just wanted to add that I think the role of the ID, as seen in Canada at least, seems to be one of instructional consultant. This is from the numerous job posts (mostly medium size organizations) where they are asking for instructional designers who can assess the learning needs of the company and deliver the right training solutions in a blended format. Basically, they want an 'expert' to tell them how and what to train. There seems to be a mix between contract and full time positions, and I'm not sure how to read into that. I've worked as a technical writer for a long time and am seeing a drop in that area and an increase in instructional designers.

I don't know how to interpret this, nor are my findings indicative of any official status in IDs.

Is this what's happening? Are designers beginning to help others author content? Are IDs starting to serve the role of consultant more than the role of creator?

Personally, I am starting to see a bit of a demand for this. One of the products that my company creates are Flash based eLearning templates. We customize them for each client, based on the instructional design approach that organization is taking, look and feel, etc. What we're finding now is that our clients' "IDs" often have little to no ID experience and need help figuring out how to make the best use of this great tool we've built for them.

Is this a standard part of the package now for most rapid eLearning tool companies? Is this rolled right into the product or is that consulting expertise considered extra?

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Big Question: Instructional Design as a Spectrum

The Learning Circuits Big Question this month: Instructional Design - If, When and How Much?

My response here is not so much an answer to this question, but rather, further musings on this endless topic that I've been rambling on about of late.

Shades of Instructional Design

What if we leave the labels aside for a moment. What if we say that everyone who creates instruction is an instructional designer.

Different tools; different projects; different expertise. Some instructional designers are trained in ID; some are subject matter experts who've been assigned a training project or see a training need.

Of course, there may be and there are many variations in the quality of instruction that result.

But one could argue that some SMEs may and do have a natural flair for the art of instructional design (Rupa's post on ID as art; Donald Clark's post).

Some instructional designers, with a Master's Degree and all, may have no natural flair and may design poor instruction.

Many instructional designers find their way into this job rather randomly. Look at our survey results. Look at my own path to instructional design.

I'm wondering if we should be talking about tiers of instructional design. Of course, this is all semantics, and maybe it doesn't matter. But maybe it does.

Some instructional designers:
  • Design self-paced eLearning. PowerPoints on steroids.
  • Create complex simulations and games.
  • Work with 3D tools like Second Life.
  • Use web 2.0 technologies to design collaborative, just-in-time training experiences.
  • Look at organizations' structures and define strategy.
  • Craft distance learning events for college credit that pull together elements of both asynchronous and synchronous learning experiences.
  • Create online learning experiences for use in K-12 classrooms.
We're all still instructional designers. But the shades are many.

I pick purple. What color are you?
Photo: chalk by frumbert

Friday, February 01, 2008

Online Schooling for the K-12 Set

It's not homeschooling, it's online schooling. And it's increasingly being funded as part of the U.S. public school system.

This hasn't gotten onto my radar before -- I'm not sure if there are any state-funded online programs in Massachusetts. Or maybe it's just that my kids haven't gotten to that age yet.

See the article in the New York Times: Online Schooling Grows, Setting Off a Debate

Despite enthusiastic support from parents, the schools have met with opposition from some educators, who say elementary students may be too young for Internet learning, and from teachers, unions and school boards, partly because they divert state payments from the online student’s home district.
What do you think? Is this the inevitable wave of the future for U.S. education?