A few years ago, I was working with a company who needed to revamp their project management training. The old training department had very little power, and basically was tasked with feeding whatever slide decks subject matter experts (SMEs) gave them through Articulate, exporting the result into SCORM, and calling it an eLearning module. The result was 160 slides, each having an average of 50 words. Unsurprisingly, few people learned effectively from this monstrosity.
The lesson that it should not surprise us to learn is that SMEs are not instructional designers. There’s a big part of me that is surprised that this even needs to be said. However, there is a popular notion in the learning world that if you give a SME an authoring tool that is simple to use, that useful learning objects will be pooted out the back end. We call this rapid eLearning, and honestly all too often I think that what is pooted out the back end is what one would expect is usually pooted out the back end.
How does the instructional designer add value?
The instructional designer (ID) is charged with designing learning activities that will teach a person with certain defined entry-level abilities to manage a project. Thus, the ID needs to:
- Identify the knowledge and skills required to do the job. (This is almost always a small subset of the knowledge in the noodle of the SMEs.)
- Express these as learning objectives that distinguish what type of behavior is required, e.g., create a project’s work breakdown structure v. analyze project risks v. use provided reference materials to find the answers to obscure questions that come up from time to time.
- Identify which elements need to be taught during the course, are assumed as prerequisites, need to be available as references, or are skills developed during post-training reinforcement.
- Determine the best sequence for teaching the knowledge and skills.
- Decide on the best modalities for instruction.
- Determine the most appropriate way to assess how well learners can apply the skills on the job.
Call me old fashioned, but I think these things are important if we want people to actually be able to take new concepts and skills and apply them on the job.
Abstracted from Speed to Proficiency: Creating a Sustainable Competitive Advantage. In press. (c) Bill Bruck, Ph.D., 2015