The Instructional Designer Dilemma – My Attempt to Elucidate
In May 2002 I decided I wanted to become an instructional designer to help faculty develop online learning. I still have the job ad in a folder neatly tucked away with a copy of my application for a position I was much unqualified for. It required a Masters degree and I wasn’t even finished with my AAS. But – it was my first encounter with the job titled “Instructional Designer” and it sparked a fire in me, a passion – to become one. The dream hasn’t died – but I now have a dilemma:
Now nine years after I first saw the job positing I have degrees out my ears: AA, AAS, BAAS, and a MS. Indeed, my journey isn’t even complete: Today I am working on my Ph.D. with a degree plan as carefully chosen as all my previous degree plans: targeting my areas of interest: web design, graphic design, and instructional design. After nine years I have evidence from 6 credit hours that I took instructional design courses (admittedly with another 6 hours in the works). An unwise choice in my undergraduate courses leads me to not be able to get a certificate in Instructional Design at UNT, also therefore was I unable to get a my Masters Degree in Instructional Design: I took one course I wanted to take in my Bachelor’s instead of saving it for my Master!
Meanwhile, what is an instructional designer anyway? In short, he or she is a person who designs and develops effective, efficient, and memorable learning. He or she is sometimes, a teacher or instructor as well, teaching courses or provides training. But not always. Using technology tools and proven learning theories the instructional designer, however, almost always helps develop learning modules, courses, or training for others.
Today something happened that cast a big shadow over my dream. The event made me much at unease and I stopped to wonder if the instructional design paradigm has perhaps shifted while I, in my mad dash to reach into the field, had been studying. Had it perhaps eluded me that I was in fact running a dead race? Perhaps we not need instructional designers in higher education anymore?
Faculty is very competent today in technology, much more so than ten years ago. They use the computers daily for email, online discussion boards, learning management systems, graphics, video, and all kinds of web2.0 tools. They carry cell phones that allow them access to the Internet, social media, and resources. For work they log into complicated systems to manage students, check their pay stub, update their website, go through mandated annual training etc. etc. Training is more than ever available online and faculty is asked to train themselves and to design their own courses, sometimes in collaboration with their students as they progress through semesters.
So tell me – do we need instructional designers in higher education? If you are an educator reading this, please leave a comment and say if you think there is still a need for instructional designers within higher education helping teachers create effective, efficient, and memorable learning. Or is it a position we can do without?