When speaking at conferences or events, I often focus on practical application – skills and tools that are critical to implementing the best solution. What I’ve noticed is that instructional designers are being pressured more than ever to learn how to be developers. I will have a room full of instructional designers in a mobile development session that get a glazed look when I talk about provisioning profiles or Xcode… and rightfully so.
It seems to have started with the combination of shrinking training departments and point & click/drag & drop interfaces. Suddenly, people who didn’t know programming languages were able to develop basic interactions for training. This was wonderful for adding depth to classroom training, but counterproductive in some respects when it came to moving the industry forward. Roles were mashed together and the expectation was that classroom trainers should learn how to be eLearning designers and developers.
There are many things that I love about rapid development tools – empowering teachers with ways to creatively deliver information to students. I also believe that these tools can be a gateway into real development. They can help someone get started and gradually build up to more robust development in other tools.
But, I’m not writing about development.
Let’s talk about that step that we keep avoiding. You know, the one that takes planning and research (and effort). The step that we often miss because we are trying to “get it done.”
Why is design so important? I mean, we have all these pre-built interactions in our toolset. We have templates and themes and everything has already been given to us by the SME in a PowerPoint – they even put it in order for us! Can’t we just plug it into the template and publish it to the LMS?
No! You (hopefully) have a goal – what problem are you trying to solve with this training solution? What are the major pain points? What is it that your audience really needs to know?
Now, take all of your research and analysis and design the best solution for the job. The reason I’ve spent so much time in the mobile space lately is that it is built around the concept that less is more… and it is designed to be just what I need with an option to give me more if I want it. Why isn’t that the case for other types of training? We are starting to do it more with instructor-led (see flipped classrooms) and even with manuals and job aids (see interactive ebooks), but it’s typically not the case with eLearning.
My challenge to our field is this:
- Partner with the right people on your project (don’t try to be everything to everyone – there is a time for instructional designers to team-up with real developers on projects).
- Ditch the linear, plug-in-the-text eLearning templates. There is no template that exists that will be perfect for all your needs.
- Create a storyboard or wireframes and partner with your small team to gain buy-in and agreement before moving forward. If you spend time thinking about the best solution and designing it, you’ll save time everywhere else (including avoiding a butt chewing later when your “click next to continue” eLearning didn’t help anyone).
- Learn more about design tools and practices. For example, I just found some free website sketching paper templates today via Nick Floro on Twitter. A couple of my favorite design tools offer free accounts (Mindjet and Mockflow).
Putting effort into thoughtful design first will result in developing better solutions every time.
Interested in mobile design? Check out my upcoming events.