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Instructional Design: Not for the Faint of Heart

Sometimes it makes sense to ponder something that’s new or different.

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Question: What kind of tree has leaves like this?

We learn all the time.

But the whole process of learning is complex because individuals, environments, organizations, content, goals, and a host of other things vary.

Experts can help people to learn. But they do so many things automatically that it can be difficult for them to accurately explain how they solve problems, make decisions, or complete complex tasks.

It often takes a certain expertise to help them to help others.

We can use instructional design to help people learn. But it’s not so easy as some might think. It comprises a complex set of concepts, procedures, and principles that add up to a problem-solving process that is based on respected practice, science, the judicious use of technology, and most likely, a little art.

It’s really so much more than learning to follow boxes and arrows on some kind of model (although instructional designers cannot help but learn a number of models, how to follow them, how they map to one another, what to do, what not to do, and when to break or bend the rules).

In many ways, it’s not for the faint of heart.

Experts in instructional design can assist with solving some of the toughest learning problems.

To grow expertise in instructional design takes experience, study, mentoring and then more of the same. Like any other complex discipline, it takes more than a few years to master.

Plus, the best designers I know never stop learning. There’s always the next thing to learn.

Good designers help people to do their best work. Which in turn helps their organizations to achieve their goals. Which can have a positive impact on their communities—and beyond.

Some days the work helps to save lives. On those days you especially feel that the work to get there was worth it.

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  • karlkapp


    Insightful information. Experts do so much they often forget what it is they are actually doing or how they actually learned to apply their skills. An expert instructional designer can tease out the “real” knowledge and skills and develop instruction to pass-on that knowledge from the expert to the new learner in a fast and efficient manner.


    • jeannefarrington

      Thanks, Karl. And your comment is so true… especially if we use cognitive task analysis to separate how we really do things vs. what we think we do.