I was asked a somewhat challenging question the other day, and it led me to reflect. As usual, I’m sharing that with you. The question was “How can IDs keep up with everything, feel competent and confident in our work?” It’s not a trivial question! So I’ll share my response to overworked IDs.
There was considerable context behind the question. My interlocutor weighed in with her tasks:
“sometimes I wonder how to best juggle everything that my role requires: project management, design and ux/ui skills, basic coding, dealing with timelines and SMEs and managers. Don’t forget task analysis and needs assessment skills, making content accessible and engaging. And staying on top of a variety of software.”
I recognize that this is the life of overworked IDs, particularly if you’re the lone ID (which isn’t infrequent), or expected to handle course development on your own. Yet it is a lot of different competencies. In work with IBSTPI, where we’re defining competencies, we’re recognizing that different folks cut up roles differently. Regardless, many folks wear different competency requirements that in other orgs are handled by different teams. So what’s a person to do?
My response focused on a couple of things. First, there’re the expectations that have emerged. After 9/11, when we were avoiding travel, there was a push for elearning. And, with the usual push for efficiency, rapid elearning became the vogue. That is, tools that made it easy to take PDFs and PPTs and put it up online with a quiz. It looked like lectures, so it must be learning, right?
One of the responses, then, is to manage expectations. In fact, a recent post addressed the gap between what we know and what orgs should know. We need to reset expectations.
As part of that, we need to create better expectations about what learning is. That was what drove the Serious eLearning Manifesto [elearningmanifesto.org], where we tried to distinguish between typical elearning and serious elearning. Our focus should shift to where our first response isn’t a course!
As to what is needed to feel competent and confident, I’ve been arguing there are three strands. For one (not surprisingly ;), I think IDs need to know learning science. This includes being able to fill in the gaps in and update on instructional design prescriptions, and also to be able to push back against bad recommendations. (Besides the book, this has been the subject of the course I run for HR.com via Allen Academy, will be the focus of my presentation at ATD ICE this summer, and also my asynchronous course for the LDC conference.)
Second, I believe a concomitant element is understanding true engagement. Here I mean going beyond trivial approaches like tarting-up drill-and-kill, and gamification, and getting into making it meaningful. (I’ve run a workshop on that through the LDA, and it will be the topic of my workshop at DevLearn this fall.)
The final element is a performance ecosystem mindset. That is, thinking beyond the course: first to performance support, still on the optimal execution side of the equation. Then we move to informal learning, facilitating learning. Read: continual innovation! This may seem like more competencies to add on, but the goal is to reduce the emphasis (and workload) on courses, and build an organization that continues to learn. I address this in the Revolutionize L&D book, and also my mobile course for Allen Interactions (a mobile mindset is, really, a performance ecosystem mindset!).
If you’re on top of these you should prepared to do your job with competence and confidence. Yes, you still have to navigate organizational expectations, but you’re better equipped to do so. I’ll also suggest you stay tuned for further efforts to make these frameworks accessible.
So, there’re my responses to overworked IDs. Sorry, no magic bullets, I’m afraid (because ‘magic’ isn’t a thing, sad as that may be). Hopefully, however, a basis upon which to build. That’s my take, at any rate, I welcome hearing how you’d respond.