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Who Needs Instructional Designers Anyway?

Are instructional designers really necessary? Wouldn’t it be a lot cheaper and quicker to do away with them altogether? After all most subject matter experts can pull content together into a course, or can they?

In today’s world of work, speed is everything. Apparently, workers don’t want learning provision in two or three months time, they need it when they want it, which could be yesterday or even the day before! “We need a training course on <name your subject>, eLearning would be good but we need it fast!” Have you come across this type of request before and seen what happens next? It’s likely that a subject matter expert is found, handed some really easy to use rapid eLearning software, and told to design and develop the course. What could be easier or more expedient?

Rapid isn’t everything

Rapid for rapid’s sake is doomed to be a disaster. Although the subject matter expert (SME) probably knows everything there is to know about making widgets, they probably don’t know much if anything about how people learn, what their target audience’s learning needs are, or how to design effective and engaging eLearning.

Anyway, they beaver away, cramming as much content as they can into the ever-so easy to use eLearning software. Although they haven’t got much space left for any pictures, so these are conveniently forgotten, they do put together a very long end test consisting entirely of multiple-choice questions. So, there’s a lot of text to read and a lot of clicking ‘Next’ to access all the screens but, overall, they are pleased with the end result because it contains everything they think people need to know about making widgets. Imagine then, their shock and total surprise when they find out that most people who used their cleverly crafted work only looked at the first few screens before they gave up!

So what went wrong?

Essentially, there was no one who:

  • asked what the problem was and whether a training course was the solution
  • examined and analysed the problem to determine those performance gaps that could be addressed via training/eLearning
  • came up with a high-level design for an eLearning course that would address what people really needed to know and be able to do in the workplace
  • could design and create effective and engaging eLearning, by using text, visuals, voice-overs, interactivity, scenarios etc as appropriate
  • knew how to design meaningful assessments by which people could test their progress and understanding.

So, who was missing from the equation and who would have prevented the inevitable disaster? If your answer was “an instructional designer”, then you are correct.

Is there an architect in the house?

Now, ask yourself whether you would ever let someone build you a house without any architect’s plans? Probably not if you are sensible, and wanted a house that was fit for purpose and that wouldn’t fall down! Now ask yourself whether you should ever let someone build a course, or any learning provision, without a design plan? Again, probably not, if you wanted learning provision that was also fit for purpose and that would result in improved performance.

Instructional designers are architects of learning because they know what it’s all about, when it’s needed, how to provide it and, above all, how to make it effective. No one should ever tell you otherwise and, if they do, then get them to read this blog post!

A false economy

Of course your organisation could save both time and money by doing away with the involvement of instructional designers, but at what real cost? What is the point of providing workers with training, or any form of learning provision, that is not needed and, if it is needed, is not effective because it is badly designed?

SMEs are important people in the total mix of things but very few know much, if anything, about instructional design, let alone are they able to perform all the roles required of such a person.

Who needs instructional designers? The answer is simple – your organisation and everyone in it does, that’s who!

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