Is Everyone an Instructional Designer?

This is a re-post of writing that appeared here: as part of the 9x9x25 challenge. Admittedly, I’m not an Instructional Designer, but I am. Here’s the post:

Am I an instructional designer? I work in educational technology, talk to people about using tools and help people design better learning, but does that make me an instructional designer? Educational technology is a place that can often drive pedagogical change, and it’s strange how often it goes unacknowledged as an accomplice in converting people to better pedagogy. How often do you as an instructional designer have a conversation about a piece of technology that forces the person you’re working with to rethink what they’re doing, and how they’re doing it? It may not be the great revelatory exclamation of “Oh my, this is going to change my life!” – but sometimes drastically, sometimes subtly, a change is made.

EdTech forces change.

It’s change that is opted into, by selecting the tool or technology, but it is change nonetheless. I can hear the counter arguments; “that’s not change, it’s choice!” I’d counter, that it’s a choice to change. Often in the adoption of a new tool, you have an opportunity to make large scale changes; most people don’t do that, but they make a smaller, incremental change. Sometimes change stops there. Sometimes, it pushes further, changing assessment strategies, approaches to instruction, facilitation techniques. That’s where you (or I) are able to help.

My role has been traditionally to help people with the how of things; how to set up a gradebook in the LMS, how to use classroom response tools to do things in the classroom – and early on I realized that lots of people really were looking for how-to, but never thought much about the why they were doing things. Sometimes the answer to why was simply, “the department asked me to go online” – but the people who did think about the why ended up much more satisfied. Looking to help in a more productive way I’ve become somewhat annoying in consultations, asking things like “why are you doing this?” and “what do you hope to accomplish with this change?” Those questions are less about technical details, and more about design of learning. It’s been interesting to note how instructional design intersects with media development, technical support, systems administration and of course, teaching. Each of those intersections can be opportunities to talk about how that particular learning experience can be improved. Creating a video? Why, what can that help you accomplish? The questions open up a rich conversation filled with the proverbial box of chocolates. In some ways, that make me, a (looking at my work badge) Learning Technologies Analyst, an Instructional Designer.

It’s unfortunate, that I didn’t know that until six or seven years ago. Honestly, it would’ve made my early career make a lot more sense. So those of you who are working in educational technology, supporting the use of a tool and putting in tickets to bug vendors to fix things, you might be an Instructional Designer.

Jon Kruithof is a Learning Technologies Analyst at McMaster University

The Job Market for Instructional Technologists

So, I’m looking for a job – each day I log in to several different job searching sites, and every week I go to each of the area post-secondary institutions and scour the job postings for appropriate things that might fit with where I’m at. I have about a decade’s worth of work in e-learning development, mostly in the training side of things, but even with that level of experience, I’m not getting a ton of bites without a degree. It’s thin all around and I think we’re seeing the beginning of the economic hurt that everyone else has felt the last few years in education right now. I can think of five or six other people who are laid off, or had their contracts dropped in the last seven or eight months.

So with things in the education sector looking soft, I’ve been looking at business based opportunities. Of course, lots of training goes on in business, and a lot of that training is going web-based, or has gone web-based already. It seems to me that there’s obviously a fit there, but the one thing that all the business e-learning jobs don’t seem to use the same technology as what the post-secondary institutions use. Why? Surely Blackboard would want those contracts? Why haven’t they moved into the training realm? Or maybe they are there and I just am not seeing it.  And why wouldn’t businesses use Blackboard, Wimba and Elluminate (now Blackboard Connect)? Why are they using Cisco and WebEx? Is it because that those are the market that Cisco has gone after? Switching to a new system is never hard for me – it’s just a matter of getting the muscle memory to switch to new actions and learning some new terminology. I can’t wait to start on something new.