Today, most of our e-Learning designers are coming out of colleges and universities with degrees in Instructional Design. As a former university instructor (Speech and Theatre) for eighteen years, I will tell you that is not necessarily a good thing.

Too often, majors in the humanities have adopted the preachings of “the Enlightenment.” And, while that movement successfully propelled science and mathematics into the advancements we enjoy today, it does not work for most courses in the humanities.

And, since most humanities’ faculties have tried to apply Enlightenment theory to their own offerings, we are getting graduates committed to statistical analysis and formulae. Consequently, when those techniques are applied to Instructional Design we get cookie-cutter courseware with an almost total lack of focus on the Learner.

When we look back on the first couple of decades of media training — before higher education offered those advanced degrees in Instructional Design — we get a different picture.

Instructional Design has a long and successful history with media training. First with videotape — then with Laser Interactive Videodisc — and followed by CD-ROM production — designers effectively utilized all the powerful learning components afforded by media into the most effective learning lessons the world had ever known. Payback was amazing. Trainees learned faster and more successfully than at any time since the days of “ol’ Charlie” with his one-on-one hands-on instruction. And, the incorporation of full motion video led the way.

Today, the e-Learning designs we create should continue to be focused on “The Learner” and on individual learning styles. We must demand that our e-Learning courseware be designed around full motion video and includes optional word-for-word audio accompaniment to the written text along with “teaching pictures,” animated graphics, plus music and sound effects.

Please never forget all those potential learners we should be addressing with our instructional designs. They have grown up in a television age and learn readily from multi-sensory media courseware. To regress into a reading-based design (i.e., repurposed PowerPoint) will seriously erode the advances our earlier designers created with Videotape, Interactive Laser Videodisc and CD-ROM.

As instructional designers our goal must be to serve “the many” with dynamic multi-sensory media that results in knowledgeably designed e-Learning — rather than serving just a privileged “few” with adapted written procedures, adapted PowerPoint presentations and twentieth century CBT designs.

I hope that higher education soon recognizes that courseware creation is an individual process that focuses on: a) the makeup of the group to be trained; b) the specific tasks to be performed: c) the skills needed to complete those tasks, and c) the learning culture of their trainees (full motion video). Only then will those degrees in Instructional Design actually mean something!

More on Thursday – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder, ITC Learning (Tuesdays & Thursdays)