Five Reasons Why Instructional Design is NOT Obsolete
Do We Need Instructional Design?
I recently ran across a discussion on LinkedIn which asked the thought-provoking question: Do we need Instructional Design? The author claims that it only takes a few hours to “throw together” a Flash-based application that is capable of training employees in a fraction of the time it would take to build a traditional training program. I think this assertion is dangerously misleading, for the following reasons:
An online User Guide is not a training class.
Too much of what passes for “training” today – particularly online training – is nothing more than a glorified user guide (i.e., reading step-by-step instructions in a “page turner” fashion). This is information, not training. To really learn something, trainees must be able to compare, contrast, analyze, synthesize, and integrate new information with their existing knowledge. Merely reading through a presentation does none of that. Instructional Designers analyze the training need, and create a learning intervention that meets that need in an efficient, effective manner.
Hours will be wasted.
One of the primary tasks of a good Instructional Designer is to separate out the “need to know” from the “nice to know.” Putting everything but the kitchen sink into an online presentation is a huge waste of resources, from the individual learner’s perspective, as well as the organization’s perspective.
The learner is disrespected.
Putting together “training” that considers only content, and neglects human motivation and variability is like cooking food without considering who is going to eat it. Instructional Designers consider learning style, and pre-requisite knowledge (among other things) when creating training.
Training is not the same as education.
When you go to college, you read broadly to expand your horizons and enrich your life. When you are employed, you are expected to fine tune your learning and development, and zero in on what benefits your job and company. I once had a Supervisor tell me, point blank, that my Master’s Degree (which my company was paying for with educational assistance) was good for me “personally,” but didn’t directly benefit the organization. Instructional Design tackles the learning gap, and organizes instruction in ways that directly benefit your job.
There is no measurement or accountability.
The fifth and final letter of the famous Instructional Design acronym ADDIE is “E” for Evaluation (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ADDIE_Model for the entire model). Instructional Designers evaluate everything (or at least they should). They evaluate the course design, they evaluate the instructional outcomes, they evaluate training delivery. If you just put together a quick eLearning intervention “on the fly,” you get none of this. None. In particular, no outcomes are ever evaluated, so you will never know if the training need has been met.
In short, Instructional Design is very relevant in today’s fast-paced, technology laden business world. Perhaps now more than ever.