This is the last formal post in a series of thoughts on some broken areas of ID that I’ve been posting for Mondays. The intention is to provide insight into many ways much of instructional design fails, and some pointers to avoid the problems. The point is not to say ‘bad designer’, but instead to point out how to do better design.
We’ve been talking about lots of ways instructional design can be wrong, but if that’s the case, the process we’re using must be broken too. If we’re seeing cookie-cutter instructional design, we must not be starting from the right point, and we must be going about it wrong.
Realize that the difference between really good instructional design, and ordinary or worse, is subtle. Way too often I’ve had the opportunity to view seemingly well-produced elearning that I’ve been able to dismantle systematically and thoroughly. The folks were trying to do a good job, and companies had paid good money and thought they got their money’s worth. But they really hadn’t.
It’d be easy to blame the problems on tight budgets and schedules, but that’s a cop-out. Good instructional design doesn’t come from big budgets or unlimited timeframes, it comes from knowing what you’re doing. And it’s not following the processes that are widely promoted and taught.
You know what I’m talking about – the A-word, that five letter epithet – ADDIE. Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation. A good idea, with good steps, but with bad implementation. Let me take the radical extreme: we’re better off tossing out the whole thing rather than continue to allow the abominations committed under that banner.
OK, now what am I really talking about? I was given a chance to look at an organization’s documentation of their design process. It was full of taxonomies, and process, and all the ID elements. And it led to boring, bloated content. If you follow all the procedures, without a deep understanding of the underpinnings that make the elements work, and know what can be finessed based upon the audience, and add the emotional elements that instructional design largely leaves out (with the grateful exception of Keller’s ARCS model).
The problem is that more people are doing design than have sufficient background, as Cammy Bean’s survey noted. Not that you have to have a degree, but you do have to have the learning background to understand the elements behind the processes. Folks are asked to become elearning designers and yet haven’t really had the appropriate training.
Blind adherence to ADDIE will, I think, lead to more boring elearning than someone creative taking their best instincts about how to get people to learn. Again, Cathy Moore’s Action Mapping is a pretty good shortcut that I’ll suggest will lead to better outcomes than ADDIE.
Which isn’t to say that following ADDIE when you know what you’re doing, and have a concern for the emotional and aesthetic side (or a team with same), won’t yield a good result, it will. And, following ADDIE likely will yield something that’s pretty close to effective, but it’s so likely to be undermined by the lack of engagement, that there’s a severe worry.
And, worse, there’s little in their to ensure that the real need is met, asking the designer to go beyond what the SME and client tells you and ensure that the behavior change is really what’s needed. The Human Performance Improvement model actually does a better job at that, as far as I can tell.
It’s not hard to fix up the problem. Start by finding out what significant decision-making change will impact the organization or individual, and work backward from there, as the previous posts have indicated. I don’t mean to bash ADDIE, as it’s conceptually sound from a cognitive perspective, it just doesn’t extend far enough pragmatically in terms of focusing on the right thing, and it errs too much on the side of caution instead of focusing on the learner experience.It’s not clear to me that ADDIE will even advocate a job aid, when that’s all that’s needed (and I’m willing to be wrong).
Our goal is to make meaningful change, and that’s what we need to do. I hope this series will enable you to do more meaningful design. There may be more posts, but I’ve exhausted my initial thoughts, so we’ll see how it goes.