I have come to the realisation that Instructional Design (ID) has become a bit of a unknown to a lot of traditional training organisations. Some feel that ID is simply common sense design while others see it as a land grab to own the fun bit of the design process. This is all complete nonsense of course, sure we have fun but there is also much more than that. It is also obviously nonsense to argue that the field of ID doesn’t exist as there are hundreds of books devoted to the practice as well as thousands of people with ID as their job title.
I think one of the big problems is that instructional design isn’t one thing; it is several things at once. On a basic level every item that has been designed creates an experience through use with an underpinned educational pedagogy attached to it. For those that don’t know what pedagogy is, essentially it is the art, craft and science of teaching. The art of teaching – meaning the responsive, creative, intuitive part, the craft of teaching – skills and practice and the science of teaching – researching, informed decision making and the theoretical underpinning of education etc. So some people naturally assume that every act of what I do is in fact an act of just visual design. As you may not know, it’s entirely possible to design something without thinking about how it will be experienced. In fact I believe this is still the way most things are designed in a lot of way. Bad experiences are rarely the deliberate choice of the instructional designer. Instead they are usually the unfortunate outcome of bad management and lack of understanding what an ID does.
As well as being a measure of the quality of an interaction and educational outcomes, instructional design is also a field of practice. Or more specifically an umbrella term that covers several fields of practice including Education, User Experience, Information Architecture, Interaction Design, Usability, Interface Design, Information Design, Psychology and several more. All of these practices go into designing good deliverables.
Because of this I think it is important for experts to hold mastery of complex skills aloft, rather than convince people that we are all effectively doing the same thing, when many of us clearly are not. That is why I rather call myself a Learning Architect as opposed to an ID. That way it is useful for me to separate my skill sets and be able to tell people that what I do. Like all job titles, they are much more useful for people progressing through their careers than they are for people who have already reached the pinnacle.