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?


John H. Curry said...

Okay, Cammy. You wanted my academic musings, and now you've got them. I've responded to this post on my blog (

Cammy Bean said...

John...thanks for the musings. I thought it most interesting that your professor was calling for a need to train IDs more in project management. This is the reality of ID in the corporate sector, that's for sure.

John H. Curry said...

BTW, I meant baiting in a *good* way. You've gotten me to start thinking about what I do in a different way.

Look for another post later today continuing the conversation . . .

Anonymous said...

Cammy, I just posted something along this line on my blog, in reaction to the original Learning Circuits post:

I would add, in addition to learning consulting, that ID for me includes managing the learning project as well.

Cammy Bean said...

Jeffrey..great post! I take it you work for a large organization with a big training department?

Anonymous said...

Yes, I work for a large organization with a somewhat de-centralized training functions. I am in the largest group, clinical education, but many of our departments have their own training specialists. There are currently two instructional designers in our organization, though we do not often work directly with one another.

One of the facets of my job is that my field is adult education, business education, and organizational communication. My skill set is both learning-focused as well as business-focused, so I bring what I consider to be more of a holistic perspective to the design of instruction.

This is odd since our organization is large enough that we can have specialists who do only one thing well, but I am intersted in so many things I find that over-specialization somewhat constraining.