Tuesday, December 1, 2009

In Response: Accidental Instructional Designers #dl09--Part I

I have been following the discussion on Cammy Bean's blog around the post Accidental Instructional Designers #dl09. It started around the attributes that make a good ID and then devolved into, as Cammy says, the "degree vs. non-degree" debate.

A few of the comments that made me go, "Yes! yes! I know what you are saying..." are:

1.Brent Schlenker: I see New ID as being more about aggregating and monitoring the existing content streams. And identifying the critical information, highlighting it, and improving upon the media that explains or clarifies the content.

2.
Cammy Bean
: Maybe ID programs need to come out of business schools instead of education schools.

3.
Karl Kapp
: Good ID programs create good instructional designers and an instructional designer from a good program can do some wonderful, creative and innovative instruction without having to gain experience over 11 or so years before they are able to do so.

I have been primarily thinking about point #2-Cammy's comment in the light of my recent business trip.

This trip was focused on meeting the client to understand the following:
1. Why is the client thinking of moving toward an online training/blended training format? (So far, all training has been instructor-led.)
2. What are the business needs they are trying to address via online training?
3. What are the key drivers behind this shift?

The more I thought about these questions and Cammy's comment, I realized what I had been doing for the last 10 weeks is somewhat different from the Needs and Task Analysis that are the classic first steps of a training project that an ID begins work with.

I had been working to understand the business drivers of an organization. Apart from the usual drivers that force organizations to move to e-learning with an eye to cutting cost (the wrong reason) like global reach, less time away from work for learners, easy dissemination and lesser logistics management, and so on, I had had to understand factors that impact on organization's operational efficiency and hence its productivity and bottom line.

This meant deep diving into the organization's existing processes, noting how things are done now and pin-pointing the gaps that can be filled to achieve:
1. Process Improvement
2. Process Standardization
3. Automation

One of the key needs expressed was to scale business through operational efficiencies which the organization felt could be achieved through effective training. A far-sighted organization indeed!

Reflection point:
Honestly, I have taken a formal ID training course and nothing there had prepared me for this kind of analysis. Most ID courses start with the content and the learners--both key aspects of effective training design. However, here I found myself starting with the organization first that "house" the learners, so to speak.

Even before I could think of what the desired performance output would be and the psychographics and demographics of the end users, I had to comprehend the organization's:

1. Business model
2. Current productivity level
3. Desired productivity level
4. Future plans of expansion, new launches, if any
5. HR policies as training would map to career progression

None of these are classic ID roles and require a grasp of how businesses function, especially in the light of today's economic downturn, the fears and desires that drive business goals, the key factors that will enable a business to survive today and prosper.

These fell into place like a jigsaw puzzle once I saw Cammy's comment...and I literally spoke to my laptop for a good few seconds sharing my agreement. Thanks to Cammy for helping me to clarify my thoughts...

I would love to hear what you think about the need to understand an organization's business model...

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