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Instructional Designers – Your job just got disrupted

Mani Gopalakrishnan 0

Disruption is happening almost everywhere. A new wave of technology is taking over our lives and in many ways turning it upside down. Corporate L&D is no different. When I first started my career writing instructor-led materials (ILT), the benchmark of my goodness at work was driven by simplicity and getting to that impeccable English along with following writing style guides. Then came an era of following Bloom’s, Gagne’s, ARCS and applying ADDIE as a development methodology to create learning that was interactive, engaging, and leveraged all forms of multimedia. So I wonder what is it now? Frankly, I am not sure as the latest wave of changes are challenging the core of Corporate L&D or Education skills.

  • Creating Content is getting democratized: Somewhere in the eLearning era, learning began to get commoditized – the tools, templates, interactions, content and just about every aspect. Now it is moving towards democracy. Today, you don’t have to be an instructional designer to create content. Accessibility to technology and simplification of tools has empowered anyone with an intent to share knowledge to be a great content creator. If you are a staunch instructional designer challenging this theory wait till you have to fix your next thermostat problem, a minor plumbing problem or you have to reset your Internet router. You will probably look up a video from an individual who is not an instructional designer. In that context, Instructional Designers are really being pushed to get content out in non-traditional ways.
  • Learning (or) Education is getting more open: If MOOC providers like Coursera, Udacity, and EDx brought highly qualified professors in direct competition to instructional designers, Content Marketplaces like Udemy, Open Sesame, SkillShare, and others just threw open the entire content repository to people. General Assembly for example is innovating on virtual and instructor-led learning. If open wasn’t enough, technology advances have increased employee accessibility to it. In that context, Instructional Designers are really being pushed to up the game.
  • More delivery methods the merrier: Not until long ago the toss up of choosing a delivery method gravitated between instructor-led, virtual, or eLearning. Now that is changing too. Today, you have blogs, videos, eBooks, reference guides, mobile learning, discussion forums, Q&A forums, social collaboration, good ol’ communication campaigns, externally curated links, MOOCs, and so on. Each of them bring a certain perspective to the learning domain. This is just opened up new vistas and challenges for instructional designers. As if this wasn’t enough, corporate L&D tools still remain archaic. So a bigger challenge is how do you use these myriad of delivery methods in any given context in the most effective way.
  • Technology ignorance is no more a bliss: There was a time wherein many prided their instructional design skills alone. Technology enabling or writing learning for a certain technology was the other tech. teams game plan. Even today, you hear many people say – I am not technology savvy and they have a iPhone or Android in their hands and the power they bring to the table as user is short sold. Anyways, as an instructional designer, you really cannot survive on instructional design or subject-matter skills alone. As a matter of fact many instructional designers ignorance to AICC/SCORM and its implication on learning design is an interesting topic of debate. Technology acumen and expertise is a must.
  • Worlds are converging; Are we are extending ourselves?: Increasingly social media, creative writing, marketing/communications, digital, mobile, subject matter expertise, non-convetional ways are all converging and blurring the ecosystems. Creating a short video for 5 minutes is about quickly tell what you want to say in a compelling fashion. That is digital savvy and creative writing in one package. Creating content on a topical area and fostering engaging conversations requires us to borrow from how marketing and advertising agencies work. Now a bigger question is are we continuously learning and extending ourselves?
  • Bloom’s, Gagne’s, Adobe Flash, and others are a passé – just get over it:Many short video nuggets and informational materials do not articulate objectives the way corporate L&D does. They get to the root of the topic, share details to the viewer, and get out of it really fast. The sequence of let’s gain attention, talking about a subject, testing and reinforcing, is changing to continuos engagement. That shifts the metrics, behaviors, and the performance that is expected from a corporate L&D group.
  • Localization, Cloud, Mobile Geo Fencing all have a new meaning: In the old days, localization was about making training relevant to a particular language/culture/ethnicity. Today it is ALSO about leveraging learners’ geography and providing them learning within that context. Similarly it is also about building programs within the realms of existing cloud tools and further personalize learning for the employees via Mobile toolsets. It is different.

As I think about this phase of disruption, people who will successfully ride through the wave will be open to various delivery avenues, retool their thinking/creativity/skillsets, constantly challenging oneself to move away from a typical thinking of how an learning should look like but pick from one or more digital training delivery options, and more importantly continuously learn and grow.

If you haven’t already looked at the impact of these disruptive elements and many others not captured here to your skillsets – you should. What do you think?

Credits: Image sourced under creative commons license. Click here for the actual image source.

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