Instructional Design – Past, Present, & Future

Posted on : December 20th, 2010
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In the field of education and training, the biggest challenge is how to effectively reach out to the audience. And this challenge is, more often than not, put forth to the Instructional Designers. This month, we spoke to one of the leading ID professionals and training consultants in the Indian training industry today, who brings with her the wealth of experience as well as an intuitive bend of mind. Chitra Chaturvedi has been in the training domain for more than two decades, working with some of the biggest players in the training and e-Learning industry. Talking of the Indian training and e-Learning scenario, she feels that newer ideas are definitely making their way into our system and will be, sooner than not, part of the way we learn. Read on for more …

The last decade or so has seen tremendous change in the field of training. What are major changes that you have noticed in content design, and how organizations are evolving their training function?

Though basic principles of instructional design have remained the same, organizations are increasingly customizing design of the courses for their specific needs and ways of learning. So for example, there is more focus towards ‘need to know’ kind of content, or movement away from earlier ‘PowerPoint’ era of learning to newer modes, such as serious gaming or simulation based learning.

As a field, there are now lot of courses and certifications in Instructional Design that didn’t exist a decade ago in India. Over this period, there also has been huge amount of work that has happened in customizing the methodologies that can be used for a particular kind of delivery media, and variants of the standard ADDIE model are being used much more sensitively now.

Regarding second part of the question, the interesting thing that’s happening is that many forward looking organizations are now moving towards competency based approach which is based on scientific analysis. This is different from a learner rating herself, supervisor giving some other rating, and they agreeing on something. Increasingly organizations are adopting competency assessment based training framework, where you get scientifically analyzed for your current or future job role, and training calendar is drawn based on assessment results.

Do ID methodologies change with changing audience – based on age-group, socio-economic background or even organizational hierarchy? How?

Talking about age-group, even a few years ago, there was really not much one could find on adult education because of lack of frameworks or expertise. But today, we understand adult education much more and know the adult education pedagogy much better. So it is easier to develop content, case studies, role plays and so on, based on the kind of audience. The basic ID framework remains the same but the applications can be modified with changing audience.

Similarly, socio-economic background too entails changing applications in the ID framework. A learner group from a lower socio-economic background expects a basic structure of learning, for this is what they have been exposed to as a way of learning. For example the ‘textbook’ approach – definitions, theory, advantages, disadvantages and practical applications. Discussions and activities don’t work so much with this audience type. This maybe a stark way of learning, but for the audience profile, it works. But even within the constraints, we can think up ways of livening up a training course. In the Indian context, one popular way of getting the attention of your audience and retaining it is Bollywood! Movie clips mapping with content messages are a major hit whatever be the audience type.

But the point I will like to come back to is that the basic ID model remains the same, you still have to do your analysis, design etc. One just needs to stick to the basics and customize application of the model for creating an effective training program.

Social media is becoming closely connected to education and training. Do you see this trend influencing how ID strategies are thought out and implemented?

Social media and social learning is impacting learning in a big way and rightly so. The water-cooler conversations and chats over coffee also need to be a part of learning. How to integrate that effectively in training programs is something that we as ID professionals need to master. This integration is bound to change the whole learning cycle, and this change must be embraced.

Measuring the extent of social learning starts in mundane ways of counting the number of hits a particular site has, or how many conversations are running in a group. Its real impact is felt when you see the result for yourself. In my experience, I can give an instance. I was working with a training company on knowledge management and we were facing a challenge in dealing with passive knowledge. We had instructors across India, and the channels of communication were not constant. We formed a Google Group and it became a platform for a series on questions and answers on the kind of problems we were facing in reaching out to our learner groups. The kind of positive response we had was amazing and it impacted greatly on the quality of teaching.

Knowledge is scattered around an organization in the minds of people or documents in shelves. To bring that to one platform of sharing is a huge task and Social media gives us a way of doing that. It is a huge opportunity for every organization to capture upon. In India, this trend is still in its nascent form but I envision that this opportunity will be cashed upon as the economy grows.

Young learners form a large part of the e-learning audience. What are the strategies/methodologies commonly followed to engage them?

To capture and retain the attention of the young learner is the biggest challenge. Small nuggets of information work best for this kind of audience, for their attention span is short. Also, some learner groups are different, being exposed to different ways of learning. Some still want and expect the traditional structure of ‘definitions and applications’. Some have been exposed to newer means and methodologies of instruction and are open to newer methods of learning. To understand the difference in expectation is then necessary.

Youngsters are also very intuitive and respond well to the ‘doing-it-yourself’ method of learning. Experiencing and discovering things on their own and then applying it – this is charming to the young learner. Interactive presentations, workshops and activities give them a chance to do that. Being exposed to a lot of information channels, the biggest of them being the internet, they come to class with some existing knowledge of the subject. This leaves the trainers or the content developers to assess that knowledge and then build the training or content accordingly. It is a challenging task but you can have a lot of fun with a learner group like that!

And finally, what are the future trends that are predicted in the field of ID?

Social networking and social media will be closely linked to learning. This will definitely be a future trend that developers need to keep in mind today. Also knowledge management and learning from passive knowledge should provide the framework of learning, if we want to move a couple of notches more in the quality of content being developed. Audio-Visuals, already do, and will continue to play an important role in making learning interesting and capturing the attention of the learner – across different learner groups.

Another major trend will be something that has already started. All of us carry mobile phones today, and that will become a medium of learning as well.

Another major shift will be in the role of the trainer in the learning industry. The trainer will change roles and become more of a facilitator to guide the learner.

These trends are being talked about today, and some forward thinking organizations have already started to implement them at their own individual levels. Implementing them across industry is not a small task and it will be a gradual process.

Arunima Majumdar

Arunima is the Marketing Head at G-Cube. She loves exploring and blogging about innovations in training & learning for the new-age corporate sector.

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