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?


Professor Phelps said...

IMHO you are an instructional designer if you actually plan and develop the instructional content, whether for classroom, internet, job aide, etc. The instruction may delivered or produced by you or someone else. What matters is personal involvement in the plan.

Chris @ eQuixotic said...

Cammy, I don't think there is such a thing as a "right" to be called an instructional designer, any more than there is a "right" to be called a Web designer.

Sure, many instructional designers may think their specialized degrees give them that right, but the bottom line is this: if you're designing instruction, you're an instructional designer. Pretty simple. Whether you're a good one or a bad one, of course, is another question entirely.

My degree is in Spanish. I believe yours is in English and German. Yet here we are, designing eLearning. Go figure. And odds are it's better than much of the eLearning being created by those with the fancy I.D. degrees. Do I claim the title of Instructional Designer? Absolutely. Along with a handful of other titles, some less glorified than others. :)

I say it's all about vision, creativity, passion for the learner experience, a good design sense, solid writing skills. Adult learning theory? Secondary.

This industry is too caught up in abstract thinking and not attentive enough to the actual products they are creating.

Just because a film professor has a graduate degree doesn't mean he/she can make a great movie. In fact, in most cases, it probably means he/she almost certainly cannot.

Rupa said...

Hi Cammy,

I totally agree with Chris.

These days organizations, for want of head count, take anyone from any background as Instructional Designers and Technical Writers.

Whether these people are really sure of what they are doing, is a big question mark.

In my opinion, the one who knows instructional designing reasonably well can be called an Instructional Designer.

MBritz said...

As a former teacher who took the leap I believe I was an instructional designer when I was teaching secondary education... I had a curriculum but my audience was diverse. I did informal needs analysis on a daily basis, I wrote measurable objectives and built level 2 evaluations and authentic assessment items... I moved on to eLearning development and can say - I aint no techie ...but most techies I know (those designing webpages, using Flash) don't really understand education. So as a licensed teacher I feel very knowledgeable in theory as well as practice and took that to a new level... Adult learners using eLearning. I am working towards a degree in ID now, and heck, its easy since I had been doing much of it for over 8 years in the classroom. So I must say i agree mostly with professor phelps on this one ... but the stronger the mix in theory knowledge, application and mediums ... the more of an ID you are.. wasn't in the book animal farm where it was said ...all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others?? I think this applies to being called an ID.

Cammy Bean said...

I'm with you all. This post was mostly a rant while in recovery from pneumonia (so the doctor tells me) -- so I admit to being a bit more cantankerous and ornery than usual.

Joe said...

Personally, I don't think anyone can call them self an instructional designer unless:

1. You can write an instructional objective.

2. You can develop a test item.

3. You can come up with one or more instructional strategies that would be consistent with different types of objectives.

4. You can prepare a storyboard.

5. You can write a course.

6. You can develop/implement an evaluation plan.

An instructional designer must have some understanding of the systems process used to develop instruction. This implies some training in the discipline coupled with experience.

Electricians Greenwood Indiana said...

If all what you do is dumping content into PowerPoint slides or text to read, you don’t need an instructional designer. The use of instruction is to help users overcome a deficiency in their job skills or knowledge and the designer will just make them efficient.