Wednesday, December 02, 2009

When Accidental Instructional Designers Become Intentional

There's been a great conversation going on around my last post "Accidental Instructional Designers". Check out the comments, and also be sure to look at Sahana's response on her blog.

Sahana is a practicing ID in India, where ID programs don't really exist yet. Instead people turn to 8 week ID certification programs to get started.

Karl Kapp feels like I'm chewing his chaw a bit and was reminded of his own post from last year: We Need a Degree in Instructional Design (yes, the conversation has been going on for ages -- and I sometimes am always in the middle of it!)

I don't mean it to devolve into the "do you need an ID degree or not?" conversation. I'm ready to move past that. I've made up my mind :) *

But it seems like it's a bit of the ID lifecycle and IDs love to banter this one about. Perhaps it's just that people get entrenched and defensive of their own paths. But I think we can also say that the landscape today has greatly changed, and a formal ID degree may not be necessary...

Questions I have:

At what point does an "accidental instructional designer" become intentional?

What does the typical ID grad student look like? Are they mid-career, having worked in the ID field for x number of years and now looking for that foundation?

As Brent Schlenker said in the comments on Sahana's post -- the web 2.0 world has completely changed how we access expertise and information in this field. It's a different time and place today than it was 10 years ago.

I do agree we're all ready to start talking about what the critical ID competencies are for today's corporate instructional designers.

Connie Malamed (The eLearning Coach) has made a nice start with 10 Qualities of the Ideal Instructional Designer.

So what do you think are the key competencies for an ID practicing today? Hmmm...

* For the record, I don't think I will get a graduate degree in ID. At least not this year. I've written about this before -- I'm getting it informally. Here. With all of you. And it's customized precisely for me. And it's free. I like free. Plus, I don't have time to go to real school! I've got too many other things to do.


Jenise Cook said...


You inspired me back in June 2008. Then, I left the topic to pursue others.

Your current Twitter tweets and blog posts have energized me to join back into the conversation! :)

See how you inspired me before, and I look forward to yours, and everyone's, continued discussion:


Janet Clarey said...

Personal experience: I could not get what I get out of graduate school with my current online network and I could not get what I get out of my current online network in graduate school. Both offer unique, rich learning opportunities. There are some good competency listings already spelled out in competency libraries offered by vendors, usually integrated within a talent management system.

Cammy Bean said...

So Janet, what does your program give you that you can't get here? (And remind people what type of program you're in).

Apostolos K. ("AK") said...

First let's answer the questions :-)

>>At what point does an "accidental instructional designer" become intentional?

AFAIC, You become an intentional instructional designer when you take yourself seriously as an instructional designer and you seek out knowledge that enhances your capabilities as a professional

>>What does the typical ID grad student look like? Are they mid-career, having worked in the ID field for x number of years and now looking for that foundation?

Being a grad school for ID, I can say that MY classmates vary considerably in both age, life experiences, job experiences and other assorted expertise. Practitioners vary widely! Imagine a scatter-plot that is all over the place.

Some people are coming in because they NEED a degree in ID for promotions and getting other jobs, and others come in because they love what they do and want to augment it (I think this is the same in other degrees to).

Now some commentary ;-)
As far as being an autodidact goes, I am all for it! There is only one problem, some lazy autodidacts can fall into the trap of just exploring the areas that they are interested in.

So if you come from a graphic design background, you might learn a little about ADDIE, but focus all your time on learning about the new gizmo that allows you to do your work and not focus on theory at all.

Also, learning via social networks (blogs, twitter, linkedin, book recommendations, etc), might serve, in a worse case scenario, as an echo chamber where participants don't get the whole picture or sometimes they even get wrong info altogether!

I agree with Janet - What I get online, I don't get in school, and what I get in school, I don't get online. They both complement each other, but they are not a replacement.

Joe Deegan said...

I dis agree with the statement regarding not having time for Grad school. If anything, taking part in an ID degree program accelerates the process of learning the essentials of ID. I can go out and look for info on my own and start conversations through social media but it will take longer for me to decipher what I need to learn. Formalized programs have already done this part for you and created structured courses so that you don't have to waste time potentially going down the wrong path. I wouldn't say that you need to get a degree in ID to be an instructional designer but it will certainly help you get started quicker.

Cammy, in your case I don't think a degree in instructional design would do you any good because you are experienced and wouldn't learn much new. However for "Accidental Instructional Designers" just getting started it is the quickest route to becoming an intentional instructional designer. In my case I was a sales person asked to create a new training program. I could have spent years trolling through the web to learn or I could have it all delivered to me through a formal degree program. Without the degree program I actually wouldn't be very familiar with Web 2.0 and all that it has to offer.

After all, knowing how to use WebMD doesn't make you a doctor.

Karl Kapp said...

Ah, Cammy, good discussion, I plan to write more on the traits of an instructional designer and what is an instructional designer and wasn't even going to post a comment at this time but then I read Joe's comment.

"After all, knowing how to use WebMD doesn't make you a doctor."

Brilliant and I could not agree more...I'll be back:)

Cammy Bean said...

Joe -- I don't disagree with you. I toyed with getting a Master's in EdTech when I was a few years into ID and then I went to massage therapy school instead. A completely different direction, I know, but that led into a few years of classroom teaching -- a hugely valuable experience that's very applicable to what I do now.

If you'll notice -- I did say, I'm not getting a degree "this year." I've got three small kids and work full-time. That's plenty for now.

I don't mean any of this conversation to dissuade anyone from pursuing a higher ed degree in the field. I'm not on a mission to dis the degrees!

AK -- very good point about the hegemony of the online community as one's source for an informal education. It's a really easy and comfortable place/trap to fall into.

As to you, Karl. I know you can't stay away from the conversation. Look forward to hearing more from you!

Jenise Cook said...

I began in the training world (ILT) some years ago, and all we had access to for our professional education were ASTD Info-Lines. They served us well!

Over the years, budgets were not available to send my team and I through degree programs in ID, and even with tuition reimbursement, life always came up and got in the way. And, we had to make choices, like Cammy is doing.

Our dear friends in academia (Drs. John Curry and Karl Kapp) certainly want us in their programs, and it's true what Joe says about degree programs. They do focus and accelerate the learning process.

Yes, I want to get my M.A. in EduTech/ID 2.0 one day. I'm already looking at the program at San Diego State University because it's near me and has an online component after the initial course.

But, in the meantime?

I'm going to ask Cammy if I can be her "study buddy". ;-)

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora e Cammy

For as much as I respect the work and expertise of the instructional designer, I can't help but think that some often seem to move beyond their station when it comes to what they think is possible in teaching and learning.

Connie Malamed hits the nail on the head with her expectation of what an instructional designer should be able to do with the first point in her list:

Conceptually and intuitively understand how people learn.

If instructional designers honestly believe that they can acquire this acumen then they put themselves as geniuses and ahead of teachers, never mind the pedagogues, who have devoted their live's study and research to this very thing.

Let's get real here. It is an unrealistic goal to expect anyone to understand conceptually and intuitively how people learn. Even as an ideal, the idea that instructional designers could reach a stage where they have the learning in the palm of their hand like this is ridiculously theoretical. What this leads to is the belief that an instructional designer knows how to build material that learners learn from.

As Karl Kapp puts it, "The real value of an instructional designer is knowing when to apply what instructional strategies to what type of content. How to use elaboration theory to teach a fact or how to use metacognition to help learners develop problem-solving strategies." I think we should stick with these words of wisdom.

Instructional design is intricate and complex for it involves teaching and learning. There is no fast route to knowing what will work, and a degree in instructional design won't give an instructional designer the answers any more than a teaching diploma provides the answers to a teacher.

Catchya later

Apostolos K. ("AK") said...

Great comments everyone!

Someone (in another post, perhaps the other post on incidental IDs) wrote that there is a mismatch between school and work. If school doesn't give you the opportunity to practice. What you learn and it's all theory.

Higher Ed is all about theory (or at least that's what it has historically been) and people are left to their own devices to make it work in their own environment (because each environment is somewhat unique, so no cookie cutter approach), however many people these days seem to want higher ed to be vocational training (mostly hands on).

From experience I know that there is a sweet point in the middle where you get just enough theory that you need, you get just enough hands on AND you are encouraged/pushed to explore new things on your own (that taking yourself seriously thing I mentioned before) which helps it bring it all together for you.

I agree with Ken Allen when he says that no one person can learn all about pedagogy - There are other SMEs out there that we need to work with. Being close to finishing my ID degree, and an MA in Applied Linguistics, I would say that someone with only an ID background could not provide a cover-to-cover service for a language teacher. That teacher (the SME) would need to work collaboratively with the ID person to design training that will enhance the learning of that specific group. We (as IDers) are not an island - we need SMEs and they need us (even though they think they don't ;-) )

Joe Deegan said...

Cammy - Good job at getting a great conversation started. I completely understand why you haven't started on a degree in ID yet. It can be very difficult to find the time and money especially with the budget situation in my home state of California. I only take one class at a time and that is just about all that I can handle. Luckily, I have a great employer that helps share the load of the ever increasing tuition costs.

Karl - Glad my comment gave you some food for thought. I'm looking forward to your post.

Jenise - I just finished my certificate in Instructional Tech from San Diego State and I am waiting to hear back about my application for the MA in Ed Tech. In my experience, it is a great program at SDSU. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Sahana Chattopadhyay said...

I couldn’t stay away from the conversation either. Cammy, thank you for taking the discussion ahead.

To elaborate a little more based on what I observe in the e-learning industry here…

It is very similar to what Cammy says in her earlier post: Most people found themselves in the role of ID somewhat by accident – by “discovering that I had a knack”, demonstrating an affinity for ID, by being a good teacher, etc.

Thus, the field of ID has people coming from backgrounds that vary from journalism to teaching, from engineering to MBA degree holders.

And I think this is going to be the norm with “Online Training” gradually increasing in demand. With the e-learning industry expanding, a growing number of people from diverse backgrounds will find themselves a part of this industry. But expecting all of them or even most of them to “conceptually and intuitively understand how people learn” is wishful thinking.

Then, how does one ensure that they begin right?

Many organizations have training/induction programs conducted by senior IDs for the newbies. The senior IDs are those who have acquired their skills and knowledge through experience, similar training when they joined, and some may also hold formal ID degrees.

However, this training does not/cannot replace a formal, structured course that covers important theories of learning and other key aspects of being an ID. The induction helps a newcomer to get started while on-the-job experience and mentoring provide the ongoing learning.

Is a formal degree needed?
I think, Yes! The IDs by accident probably find out that they want to be IDs by intention after such an induction followed by some work experience. This, I feel, is probably the right time to get into a formal ID program if an opportunity exists. This allows them to apply their learning and helps them assess different instructional strategies through practical application.

And maybe we can assume that those seeking to pursue a formal course at this stage are dead serious about their career as an ID. I have also observed that it is mostly these people who go beyond a formal course and seek out knowledge—whether from their real-world colleagues and experts or from the expertise accessible via the online world of social media, blogs, and other platforms of collaboration.

Jenise Cook said...

Bravo, Sahana, well said!

I agree wholeheartedly.

However, there is one item that a few of my colleagues have mentioned while we're all in the current economic "situation".

A few of my colleagues with advanced ID degrees can't get hired by corporate because the assumption is made that they "cost too much" in salary dollars.

But, that may be off topic for this post.

Karl Kapp said...

Cammy, my answer got a little long so I posted on my blog. Kapp Notes: Accidental Instructional Designers May Want to Just Say No

Jenise Cook said...

This came out in the online news forums today (12/09/2009):

Too many degreed candidates; employers looking for skilled, experienced people:

"College Degrees More Expensive, Worth Less in Job Market"

How about a Work/Study approach, where incoming freshman in ID academic programs must have "real world" jobs in the field?

That way, both sides of the coin (and the debate) are satisfied?

Academia and corporate would have to make some changes to make this approach happen.

Cammy Bean said...

For the record, I want to say that have always liked school. I'm not anti-school or anti-degree at all. I've just been wondering out loud about the real-world applicability (is that a word?) of *some* ID programs.

Lately I've been thinking that what I need is an independent study program. Take a few courses here and there from the best online programs to fill in my gaps. So I get some formal background, but perhaps not the degree. A lot of courses on the degree track might feel redundant to me at this point in my career...

Andrew McAfee, in his keynote at DevLearn said we should be looking at experience, not credentials. Supports the article Jenise just posted.

Cammy Bean said...

Try this link for the article Jenise mentions:


mamaier262 said...

Ironically, I tend to agree with you Cammy. However, I've hit an odd impasse not having some ID credentials as I transition to being a freelancer. To fill that gap I am taking this online ID certificte program at UW-Stout. Just started this week. -- will keep you posted about how it turns out. =)