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Can a Classroom Instructor be an Effective Instructional Designer? – Part 1

Written By Shalini Merugu

Can a Classroom Instructor be an Effective Instructional Designer? Part 1

In yesterday’s webinar on Integrating ILT Initiatives with eLearning, this was one of the questions asked by a regular attendee. The context for this question was that of an organization that had recently adopted eLearning or an organization that was getting ready to start developing and implementing an eLearning initiative.

Coming to the answer to the question of whether a classroom instructor can make an effective instructional designer – it depends on a couple of things…

How motivated are they?

In an effort to control their training spend, organizations try and reuse internal resources without considering their motivation levels. As with any other job, motivation matters as much as skill or potential does. For the instructor to be committed to contributing to the eLearning effort, the starting point is his/her buy-in. I was involved in a project 8 years back where the assigned SME was an exceptionally gifted classroom instructor. He, along with many other instructors, was likely to be moved to a non-instructor job as soon as the eLearning modules being developed replaced the regular classroom sessions. It was a tough situation to be in and motivation levels understandably were very low. Your situation may not be fraught with that degree of ambiguity or complexity this instructor found himself in. But even then, before getting your instructor on board the eLearning team, do remember that a mere organizational mandate will not go very far if the instructor himself/herself is not keen on being a part of the eLearning venture.

Do they have prior experience in designing course materials?

Assuming that the required motivation is in place and it is just a matter of skills we are talking about, it helps greatly if the instructors have prior experience in the design of classroom teaching materials. I’m not referring to high-level lesson plans here, but experience with developing content for manuals and designing learning activities. In reality, very few instructors have this kind of experience, because course materials are typically developed by the instructional design team. With the instructor probably serving as a reviewer – giving his feedback and suggestions – and being used as a participant for beta testing a course. However if your instructors have experience in designing course materials, there is every chance of them being successful courseware designers for the online medium, once they are oriented to this delivery format and its demands.

A success story worth mentioning here is that of the Department of Distance Education of a premier institute in my city. Till recently, they had been using only print-based materials for their correspondence courses and they finally decided to move most of their courses online. When the requirement for eLearning came up, the existing faculty of the department rolled up their sleeves and got right into the business of designing the eLearning solution, even writing the storyboards themselves to begin with. What helped? They had external assistance initially, but having a sound theoretical framework in the design of instruction did help – being the faculty on the subject of Distance Education does give you an enviable advantage because you are in touch with key learning philosophies, principles of adult learning and ideas of theorists such as Gagne, Knowles, Bloom (of the Bloom’s taxonomy fame) all the time! Ideas and principles that are the foundation of what we do as instructors or designers of instruction.

What if the instructors have no prior experience but show tremendous potential?

Can an instructor without any experience in developing classroom materials or minus a strong theoretical framework in the science of instruction make the transition to being an effective instructional designer of eLearning?

I will explore the answer to this question in Part 2 of this blog. In the meanwhile, would love to hear your opinion on whether you think a classroom instructor can be an effective instructional designer. Or what you think it takes for this transition to happen.

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  • Glen

    Concerning the integration of Trainer with ID; This brings up a very important point as I have been both a Systems Trainer and ID at the same time, and prefer it that way. I think both aspects should be interlinked in order to ensure the trainee’s not only obtain a full understanding of the processes BUT also learn how to use the documentation, until they become proficient. You may laugh at this, but I have had to train students on how to follow a simple quicksheet by using a ruler to assist them in moving from step #1 to step #2.

    Too often trainee’s are presented with the training aspect, but are not provided the documentation (quicksheets, manuals, CBT’s, etc.) needed to guarantee they retain what was presented in the training. Also, many times the presentation (maybe a power point) is slick, but it doesn’t translate into good backup documentation, after the training. And, to expect anyone to remember all the details presented, over a number of hours, days, or weeks, without this documentation, is scary. It can lead to a quick degradation of trainee’s retention and word of mouth becomes a poor supplement.