Updated: Aug 30, 2020
A recently posted infographic on LinkedIn stirred up a lot of great conversation. It focused on the skills and disciplines that Instructional Designers (IDs) use daily. Initially listing five main sections: Educational Theory, Design Theory, User Experience, Digital Tools and Project Management. That list has since evolved from the contributions across the instructional design field (coming soon!). What is evident is that in between the points of kicking-off a project and the pilot we engage in a wide skill set.
However, one of the group members raised an interesting problem. She is well versed in learning theory related to Instructional Design (in fact she holds a PhD in it!) but was unsure how to best turn that into development. It highlights a common chasm in our ranks between designers and developers. Technically both are required to be an Instructional Designer but as the requirements constantly change and grow we sometimes naturally fall into one camp over the other.
Simply put, design covers theory; the blueprints that guide how best to apply the content to the aims of the learning. While development covers application; constructing an appropriate product for users to experience that learning. It is common for those who learn ID in university lack the opportunity to develop courses and those who learn on the job miss out on a lot of crucial theory. Both aspects naturally come together as one in Iterative Building.
So what does Iterative building mean? Similar to how Agile has transitioned from software circles into ID, iterative building methodology also came from software teams.
In waterfall development, the role of designing the learning is a set stage (discovery through to story-boarding). In iterative building, once the prototype is built, it is put through rigorous UX and learning testing. Then it is brought back into the design stage to tweak and create another prototype. And Repeat.
On the surface, this appears to take more time, in practice time is saved from avoiding big late-stage changes. It also builds a deeper understanding of the product and a better relationship with the SME. The actual product itself becomes polished, and you mitigate the risk of surprises in the pilot stage.
As an Instructional Designer, this also allows you to fully establish and apply theory with real application to create the best product. If you don't get the chance to build with various media, you may be left with a theory that seems perfect on the surface but is untested. However, if you aren't aware of multiple relevant theories, you may continue to build in a way that does not suit the learning goals.
To best improve our practice we must be like every other professional body and keep up to date on the latest theory, whilst allowing ample practice in various mediums.
For the latest in theory, we will soon be adding a research section to our Useful Links section. If you have any papers or articles that have influenced your design, share them on the forums!