Saturday, May 05, 2007

Five Easy Ways Instructional Designers Can Hone Their Skills

Asim’s article really got me thinking into what should instructional designers do to make themselves valuable in the industry. Especially in the face of such a paradox – so many eLearning professionals yet NOT one fit our bill!

It was only yesterday I was ruing the fact that there seems to be a vacuum of good instructional designers in the industry. This thought is echoed by most good eLearning companies who practice meaningful eLearning and not the giant eLearning production houses.

While there are many experienced eLearning professionals, there are very few who can fit into a company that practices innovative eLearning. These professionals come with a disadvantage. They have experience working on canned eLearning projects or working on templatized, assembly line work. The moment they are put on projects where they have to think independently or think creatively, they are clueless.

Most eLearning companies today have writers who can “execute” but very few instructional designers who can “think.” The way forward for these “writers” is to graduate to “thinking instructional designers.” Changing the stream may help those who want to retain the pay packet that they earned earlier. Technical writing is much more paying than instructional design, but so is a BPO job!

However, for those who are serious about pursuing eLearning as a career and are passionate about tackling the design challenges, they need to hone their instructional design skills. A quick five things that eLearning professionals can do to hone their skills:

1) Start by questioning every idea, every strategy, and every step in the eLearning process. You should be crystal clear about the relevance of every activity in the development process. Do not execute tasks blindly or dumbly (if that’s a word!).

2) Do not run behind a crash course in instructional design. Rather spend a couple of years in a good eLearning company learning the trade. You may get paid lower but treat it as an investment into your eLearning education. The more you learn, the more you’ll grow. The more you grow, the more you’ll earn! Focus on learning (and not on earning) at all stages in your career. You’ll realize yourself that if you learn more, you’ll automatically earn more!

3) Develop that passion for eLearning. It’s not a mechanical chore; it is a designer’s job. You need to pour your heart into it. At every step, think of creative ways to put your theoretical knowledge of instructional design into practice.

4) Be a voracious reader and viewer – books, internet, blogs, magazines, movies, infotainment channels on television – everything that you can lay your hands and eyes on. You’ll be surprised at the varied ideas that you can gain from these sources. The other day Archana (our instructional designer, an avid reader, gamer, and movie-buff) came up with the idea of “Black Beast” (remember KANK?) for one of our courses on Fraud management! It can be bizarre but if it works for the learners, it’s effective!

5) Good instructional designers must have a world view. While they should strive to be a “master” of instructional design, they ought to be the “Jack of all information”. Believe me, your clients, bosses, peers, and vendors will look at you with respect!