Educational Developers. Learning Designers. Instructional Designers. These terms are often used synonymously to describe the profession of one who designs instructional experiences based upon the needs of the learner and the educational goals and objectives as defined by the instructor. Individuals trained in this discipline apply their knowledge of learning theories as well as basic cognitive and behavioral psychology to inform the design process.
While there are many models of Instructional Design addressing corporate, military, and educational environments, what remains consistent through each model is the importance of bringing together an Instructional Design team who work collaboratively each contributing their own skills and knowledge to ensure that the instruction is as effective as possible. While the composition of an Instructional Design team will vary depending upon the project, available resources, and often times the state or phase the project is in; teams may consist of Instructional Designers, Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), Multimedia Specialists, Programmers, Writers, Editors, Project Managers, etc.
As an individual whose discipline is that of Instructional Design, I was not surprised by the recent Chronicle article titled A Tech-Happy Professor Reboots After Hearing His Teaching Advice Isn’t Working. It is indeed true that few faculty as they progressed through their discipline actually received training on the application of learning theory to the design of learning experiences. Given the increasing responsibilities placed on faculty, whether as a result of the recent budget cutting measures or the rigors of tenure and promotion, it may also be stated that time to develop innovative or alternative methods of teaching is slim. As an Instructional Designer what I’d like to say is that you do not have to do it alone.
Unfortunately, it is my opinion that the skills and abilities of Instructional Designers often go unrecognized. I will admit that I am not an Astrophysicist, a Linguist, a Musical Scholar, or a(n) <<Fill in Your Discipline Here>>. But I am an Instructional Designer and maybe more importantly a life long learner. I follow the research trends in my discipline and when afforded the opportunity work to not only apply that knowledge in my work with faculty but to contribute to my discipline as well.
I am keenly aware that not all institutions have Instructional Designers on staff sometimes due to budgetary constraints, sometimes due to institutional culture. I am also aware that while very few institutions grant Instructional Design degrees, our services are in high demand. Interestingly enough, this demand is most frequently in the development of online courses and not in the design of face-to-face learning experiences. I find this perplexing since the focus of instructional design is not on the technology but on the design and scaffolding of instruction to facilitate learning within the learning construct.
That being said, it seems to me that working together as a supportive team to design instruction and wrestle with whether to and how to integrate and evaluate the integration of technology into teaching and learning would be far more effective than trying to go it alone.