This blog is about the role of instructional design in the eLearning development process. If you are working with instructional designers to create eLearning content, this blog will help you to understand the value IDs bring to the eLearning development process. If you are ever tempted not to use an ID, you might think twice!
The role of the modern instructional designer
An ID takes your raw information (training manuals, presentations, policy documents, videos etc) and works out ways to present that content in an engaging, memorable and transferable way. By transferable I mean – making it easy for your staff to apply and use in their everyday jobs. IDs devise interactions, animations, examples, questions and takeaways to elevate what may otherwise be dull or overly-detailed information into interesting and digestible chunks of learning. The IDs job is also to really get under the skin of the target audience - what needs to be learned and why?
If you are working with an eLearning team, which includes IDs, they will really dig into the detail of your intended target audience. Expect to be asked about:
- Their job role(s)?
- What's their existing level of knowledge on the subject? (Test-out options may be required)
- What do they currently find difficult or confusing about this content/process?
- Where are they based geographically? (Maybe translations or localisation is required)
- Will some of all of the course be mandatory?
- What device(s) will they use to view the course?
- What will the learner DO with this information at the end of the course? Or, how will they work differently because of this?
The key reason for all of these questions is to avoid what we in the trade call, ‘the information fest’. Learning is not information; learning is about challenge, stimulation, visual engagement, helping people to think and do differently.
With all of that established and with the right focus set, the ID may feel that they have all they need to create great digital content. And they might well create a great a great learning experience that your staff both enjoy and complete in big numbers. But is that enough to constitute success?
eLearning as a business tool
The critical omission from the example above is the business interests. When you look again at the list of questions, they are dominated by the 'whats'. While the 'what' questions are necessary to tease out the detail, another critical question is 'Why?'.
Why are we creating this digital resource in the first place?
What value will it add to the business?
The question most clients struggle to answer is the last one:
What will the learners do with this information?
Or, why do they need to know this?
So often the response we hear is that the learner doesn't need to do anything; they just need 'an awareness of' the content. But 'awareness of' doesn't lead to lasting change or improvement, so there can be very little positive impact for the business as a whole.
Imagine this example
An ID has content to create a course on how to write a personal development plan. The ID and subject matter expert tease out the detail and create a course that instructs learners how to verbalise their career goals and work on their weaknesses to achieve them. The course is released, is well-received and is used to assist the annual review process.
When Head of HR sees the Personal Development Plans coming through as part of that process, she says,
"Why are none of these personal development goals linked to our business goals?”
While individual employees may have aspirations for development in line with their own career goals, the business wanted to channel those aspirations and development activities in a way that directly supports the business strategy. By not asking that crucial, 'Why is this needed?' question, that point was missed and the course would be largely redundant.
The importance of business acumen
The best IDs are more than good investigators and writers; they also bring business acumen to the role. If you were buying a new phone or laptop, you would expect a good sales person to ask you questions about your intended usage so they could recommend the most appropriate model.
If you as a client says:
'I just want a 10 minute course on X',
We’ll spend time some time asking the relevant why questions to determine if X
What clients really value in eLearning
Clients tell us that they value the conversations they have with our IDs; it really makes them think differently about how people learn and how the business can better support improvement and lasting change.
From one of our global clients:
“I was really happy with that call. It’s exactly the kind of conversation that I, and this is purely my agenda, need to happen more here. It demonstrates what a learning designer is for. All the right questions, some challenges to held assumptions and looking at the underlying need not just the provided content.”
If learning is theoretical only and cannot be applied in reality, it's of very little use, certainly in a business context. The ID’s role is to help our clients think through all aspects of the learning requirements – including asking you about your business. And that is the difference between good eLearning or digital content and great content – a great modern ID asks better questions, acting like a ‘Learning Consultant’.
As with any business, the key to providing not just good but great service comes from really understanding clients' business needs and problems and creating solutions to solve those problems. That's what we strive for at Logicearth; to partner with our clients to create not only great solutions that learners will enjoy, but great business solutions too.
Have a great conversation about learning with us
If you want to take a fresh look at your options for training and modern digital content, take a look at our Content development services.
For the time it would take you to have a quick cup of tea or coffee, we can show how to save time and money on your training, while still making an impact for your staff and business.