Are Instructional Designers Still Relevant?
The growth and quick adoption rates of eLearning authoring tools like Articulate, Captivate and Lectora have raised questions in many organizations as to the relevancy and value of instructional design services.
The assumption is that good eLearning authoring tools make good training programs and that a resident subject matter expert (SME) with a rapid development tool can remove the need for an instructional designer in the development process.
So, if anyone who knows how to use a rapid development tool can produce an eLearning corporate training program, are instructional designers really needed anymore?
Instructional design is the science – and the art -- of creating an instructional environment and materials that help create a learning environment and actively facilitate achievement of certain learning outcomes. It is based on theoretical and practical research in the areas of cognition, educational psychology and problem solving.
Anyone can take a hammer and bang a nail into wood. Even though the tool is good and it is being used properly, the end result is only part of the building process. It takes an architect’s or skilled designer to plan out how the pieces should fit together to create a final product that meets thought-out current and future needs.
Similarly, rapid development eLearning authoring tools are exactly that – tools. The real value is achieved when those tools are part of a big picture approach that matches learning solutions with specific business strategic goals. Without the knowledge of an instructional designer, a person using a development tool is just stuffing learning material into a predefined box. There is no accounting for the many factors that affect learning, such as variation of learning styles, which is crucial in achieving desired results of any learning activity.
Read more on eLearning authoring tools by clicking on our "Top 5 Custom eLearning Development Programs/Authoring Tools" blog.
Ultimately, instructional design services are about quality and effectiveness. An instructional designer seeks to ensure that critical concepts are explored through appropriate content presentation and learning activities. Specifically in eLearning, the instructional designer’s greatest role is to bridge technology and education so that concepts are properly developed for effective learning to take place.
An instructional designer will ask questions and make linkages. He or she will design the learning based on specific goals such as a cultural shift, a behavioral change, or knowledge exchange so that it brings about the desired result on the intended audience. This may require selecting and using appropriate technology solutions, rewriting discussion questions to promote better conversations, implementing a specific learning methodology, performing a thorough needs assessment to deliver to match specific goals and designing appropriate evaluation tools based on predefined learning objectives.
A subject matter expert’s knowledge of the material is crucial in preparing the appropriate learning content. However, an instructional designer is a learning expert and has the ability to develop an engaging learning experience. By systematically breaking down content so that it best matches the learning styles of the intended audience, an instructional designer creates courses that engage students mentally. This is a definite benifit as, wneh they are mentally engaged, they are more apt to remember and learn.
In an organizational setting, the cost of any learning endeavor needs to be justified through measurable outcomes. instructional designers possess the education and practical experience to create a learning experience that matches these outcomes.
The success of any eLearning endeavor depends heavily on quality design of instruction, enabled by interactive technology. It is in this way that instructional designers bring measurable value to students, instructors and organizations participating in e-learning initiatives.