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Getting your Instructional Design Team out of the Rut

Written By Shalini Merugu

I think at some point or the other we’ve all been there. Become too comfortable with the way we approach instructional design. What is a demanding creative process soon begins to function as a mechanical routine of assembling all the various pieces together and integrating them into a course. The results are predictable enough – yet another product training or process training or sales training course that is reasonably good (meets the learning objectives and so on), but which fails to generate any long lasting excitement or which fails to create any ‘aha’ moment during eLearning design and development.

With multiple workplace demands, creativity can too easily end up on the back burner. So how do you unleash your instructional designers’ creativity once again? Here’s how we tackled this at CommLab India. Anili George, the Learning Design head decided that the team had worked enough on client deliverables and that it was time for some fun. She organized a simple session in which each instructional designer had to showcase a 10 minute course on a topic of their choice (created in PPT), to the rest of the team. The goal was to demonstrate how to teach a principle or process based course. Here is the brief given to the team:

Learning Design Assignment: Create a principle – or process-based course.

1. Audience: a person who doesn’t know anything about the principle or process

2. Course requirements:

  • Create a training to teach a principle OR a process. In the process of teaching this principle or process, your course also needs to teach all supporting knowledge required, such as concepts, facts, and procedures. Each information type should be taught using the appropriate methodology.
  • Present outline or flow at the outset.
  • Courses should be taught at remember and apply levels.
  • Courses should be created in a PPT with animation + audio.
  • Course should demonstrate application of principles from the book Developing Technical Training as well as the first few chapters of elearning and the Science of Instruction. Incidentally, these were the two books being currently covered by our in-house book reading club for instructional designers.
  • The PPT should look, feel, and sound like a complete course except that it does not require the navigation instruction screen. But it may have navigation elements and other interactivities.

3. Duration: Not more than 10 minutes

4. Rating: Scale of 1 to 5 for the following:

  • Flow of content: content organization + coherence
  • Clarity of content: Language, meaning, potential to enable retention
  • Layout + presentation: Overall appeal to the eye, readability, visibility, relief (white space)
  • Instructional Strategies: Clear and consistent instructional strategy
  • Visual elements: Relevance, appeal, meaningful, potential to enable retention
  • Engagement: Fun, interest, enjoyment + memorability factor – how unforgettable is it?

Here are a few slides from the presentations:

Getting your Instructional Design Team out of the Rut

As one of the judges on the review panel, I can say this – the presentations made by the team simply blew us away. The design (right from the look and feel to the various strategies used) was refreshing. This fun assignment met more than one objective – it once again set creativity flowing and served as an excellent showcase of the team’s individual as well as collective strengths. The first-hand account from each member of what went into the creative process also proved to be an excellent way to demonstrate to the new instructional designers who had just come on board on what it takes to create compelling courseware. All in all – it was the most worthwhile 2 hours I have spent in any training/learning activity in a long while!

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