July 27, 2015

Instructional Design (ID) is so much more than the formulae taught today in many universities.

ID, in order to be effective, combines creativity and analysis that, ideally, places the profession into an interpretative arts category.

Yet, higher education — dominated by its Enlightenment-influenced academic departments — tends to look down on fields of study that cannot trace their research directly to the scientific or mathematical disciplines.

As a former faculty member, I witnessed these not-so-veiled attacks on the creative and interpretative arts. Worse, I saw the faculty in those departments succumb — minimizing the creative components of their disciplines while concentrating on the history, formulae and jargonistic theory relating to their field of study — in order to buy “legitimacy.”

I once had the unique pleasure of working with Dr. Harold J. Bailey, now retired, who understood that Instructional Design was much, much more than pedagogical formulae.

Hank was founder of Bloomsburg University’s Institute for Interactive Technologies and coordinator of its Master’s program in Instructional Technology.

In our many conversations, as well as in the numerous presentations he delivered and the articles he has written, he captured an accurate description of ID: “Most instructional design models include the following phases: analysis, design, development, and evaluation.”

Christy Tucker, Instructional Designer, and author of the “Experiencing E-Learning” blog ( has gone into even greater detail about what an instructional designer does:

“ . . . If all you’re doing is dumping content into PowerPoint slides or text to read, you don’t need an instructional designer. The Subject Matter Expert or whoever knows the content can just write it, and the students will be passive recipients of that content. What the instructional designer adds to the process is the experiences of learning and practicing; IDs know how people learn and have ideas on how to help them learn better. If you are looking for engaging learning activities or ways to make practice closer to real life skills, that’s when an ID is who you need. . . . “

Tucker — as well as Bailey — recognizes that the role of Instructional Designer is much more than simply applying the rigid formulae that have become such an unfortunate centerpiece of the ID Departments that frequent so many universities.

While those universities are trying to turn ID into an engineering function — the best instructional designs also incorporate aesthetic choices — choices that heighten the sensations of the learner in order that he may feel more integral with the learning process.

As Dr. Bailey concluded: “Designers organize content into meaningful, interactive learning experiences.”

And, a big part of an ID’s success will ultimately depend on the aesthetic choices she makes — born from the degree of trust she has in her own creativity.

More on Wednesday – – –

— Bill Walton: co-Founder, ITC Learning
(Mondays & Wednesdays)