On March 12, Dr. Curt Bonk and I are going to be featured debaters at the eLearning Guild Annual Gathering's ID Zone in Orlando, Florida. I'm very glad to be a part of this debate - am amused that I am going to be an ID defender. Instructional design has always been a big part of my professional life, one way or another. (e.g., I did my doctoral research on instructional message design; I was a professor of instructional design, taught graduate level instructional design classes and supervised doctoral dissertations for more than a decade. I worked as a commercial ID practitioner throughout the dot.com era. In the last number of years I have worked on software designed specifically with professional IDs in mind. I've also been in a position to hire IDs for various projects in recent years.)
Long way of saying that I can be an ID's worst nightmare - I know what I want, I know what the theoretical constructs of the field should be able to provide, and I know the results I should be able to expect. I know what the research says. I don't really want to be converted to the "Church of ID". I don't "love" ID. I usually just want a concept specification that can tell me if there is business value in pursuing a particular course of action before I make a commitment to spending my money. I really don't want to discuss all kinds of theoretical alternatives when I have a project that needs to be completed. And I want results NOW. Or at least I want to know when I am likey to get results.
I realize that as an ID stakeholder, I get a little cranky when industry pundits poke fun at us. And yet I acknowledge that there is fun to be poked. Some have even suggested that instructional designers suck all the fun out of learning (and yes, I will name names, Mark Prensky !!)...but my point is not to demonize he who who famously took this potshot at ID professionals at an ELI meeting in the not-too-distant past. And to be fair, if all an ID does is to rote memorize the ADDIE model and then expect to be successful then they run the risk of being major fun-suckers.
Because it's not so much that we are fun-suckers so much as we we simply being accountable, looking for the point where cost gets offset by benefits, where time on learning task must be balanced with the impact of learning outcomes. How creative can you really be when keeping an eye on the bottom line? How far outside the lines can you color in your organization before the line of business folks start reeling you in?
Let's consider the challenge of the instructional designer, being so many things to so many people and not really getting the respect deserved.
Think about it - these days a good ID needs to be able to write instructional objective. Conduct a content analysis. And an audience analysis. Measure job/performance outcomes. Write a criterion referenced test Create a shared collaborative experience and measure its impact. Script a simulation. Create Camtasia movies. Know a .swf from a .flv. Produce a virtual webinar on any number of web platforms. Develop a website. Administer a blog. Program in Actionscript 3. Administer an LMS or two or three. Metatag your content so that everyone in your organization can find it. Create a video and post it to YouTube. Write a report. Evaluate the impact of a performance support initiative in your workplace. Manage a project. Handle a budget. Fix the copier. Trouble-shoot the network....
With all due respect to the university faculty who have taught each and every one of us how to be instructional designers....very few faculty types have ever had to actually produce learning content for a living. With all due respect to the greater minds among us, sometimes the trick of ID is not coming up with the most unique, creative, forward-thinking, innovative response to a learning problem or opportunity. Sometimes a repeatable, scalable approach to solving a performance problem for the greatest number of people at the least amount of cost really IS the best answer.
So...what to YOU think and ID should be able to do? Are we technologists? pyschologists? evaluators? programmers? DO we need business skills? theoretical cognitive skills? IT skills? Are we artists or engineers or a little of everything in-between?