March 1, 2007

News of DIY killing ISD has been greatly Exaggerated

"DIY is killing ISD"Corporate eLearning

Having been directly involved with instructional design for so long now, it is difficult to jump on this bandwagon with both feet. Do-it-yourself learning, just like do-it-yourself accounting with Turbo Tax is absolutely here and here to stay and I totally support this statement.

"If you’re in the learning business, don’t try to build another LMS or portal. Instead, figure out ways that enable DIY. Believe it or not, learners can, and will, do the rest. They already are."Harold Jarche

There is no doubt that there is a great need for better tools to enable learners to gain knowledge and experiences around topics that they choose. As a disclosure, I am in the learning business and own and sell a LMS. This is no different today then it was 15 years ago when I got into the field as a college student. But the idea that the design of effective instructional design is a concept that has outlived it’s usefulness,

I don’t think so.

“I can over-simplify the issue significantly and state the following: ISD is only necessary when you are mandating learning to unwilling participants...for everything else we do indeed learn it ourselves.”Corporate eLearning

Is this really where we are at? This makes me wonder,

would I rather have a group of 3 people with all access to web2.0 tools pulling together information from all over the web and creating information on their own around the concepts they are learning


would I rather have the same group, with the same tools and technologies, and the same access to information, combined with a facilitator or monitor or coach (real or virtual) who is providing feedback and possibly structured content, which she built with web-based tools or access to dynamically-assembled content based on a repository of well tagged data?

Probably the latter.

What is Instructional Design?
So this drives the question, is instructional design about focusing learners, identifying goals, providing learning opportunities within various environments, checking for understanding, reinforcement, remediation, adapting learning to increase effectiveness? What about creating cognitive apprenticeships, social networks that support collaboration, and conducting analysis to determine impact?

I think it is.

Could too much structure kill the “free range” learner. Sure. In Orlando, I attend a session where Tom King defended the idea that instructional design has changed and those on the other side of the isle suggested that it hasn’t. It was interesting, but those supporting instructional design’s traditional place in the world sounded (to me) as those wanting to defend their turf. This is not a good place to be in my opinion. As technology changes so has designing effect instruction or effect learning environments.

What are we Designing?

As technology evolves the way in which we design instruction must also evolve. It is true that do-it-yourself learning is now possible. That is a great. Engaged or active learning is one of the most powerful forms of learning and is critical to the lifelong learning concept. Providing learners with the skills to engage in the learning process by writing a blog post, searching on Google and annotating the results, or creating a podcast or even just listening to and responding to it through an email or audio response is so powerful. Forcing the learner to gather their thoughts and express them and get feedback on that expression are all activities that improve the learning process and I am all for increasing those opportunities and reducing both technological and political barriers to this type of learning.

This is DIY learning at it’s best.

However, can that open learning model be too open? Will all learners engage in the DIY process? Will they do it effectively? Will they reach mastery, if that is important? So here is where we throw in the idea that some learning, like learning to be my pilot, my surgeon, or my attorney, doesn’t work well in a DIY approach.

No surprise really.

Designing the Learning Environment

So now we have to consider where is the line? When is do-it-yourself more then enough and when is more formal processes required? This, as mentioned above, typically depends on the environment and the required outcomes. For example, if your process requires a 6-sigma-level solution, you will probably require very structured and very formal performance plan. If you want the plane to land…. you get the idea. However, there are many environments that don’t require such structured outcomes.

Knowledge workers tend to have a little more variance in required performance and they must perform at a conceptual level more often then most. There for, the idea of learning through the creation of mashups and collaboration through social networks is very appealing and seemingly appropriate for this audience.

So, this idea, as with most of my ideas, is half-baked and still needs some attention.
  • Does DIY kill ISD?
  • Where are the lines of formal and informal learning?
  • Is designing the learning environment Instructional Systems Design?
Related Links:
Value of Instructional Designers
The Future of Learning is DIY
Oh God - the bit of my job I like and it's a dead end!
DIY vs. Formal Learning

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