Does It Matter Who Designs Learning Programs? Part 3 Of A 3-Part Series

In the first post of this series, I explained how the “language of business” isn’t really about the terms we use as learning and development (L&D) leaders. Rather it’s a failure of education. In the second post, I explained how to use education to change the perception of L&D for the better. In this post, I’ll explain further how we change that perception with our instructional design professionalism and skill. Let’s delve into who designs learning programs for businesses.

Does It Matter Who Designs Learning Programs?

From my experience, the answer to this question depends on who answers it. If you work as an instructional designer, you’d say, “Yes, of course it matters who designs the learning program.” You understand it requires skill to design a program that enables participants of the program to learn. Specifically, you may point to the required skills and abilities of instructional designers. These include the ability to:

  • Determine the appropriate content and level of content to achieve the learning goal.
  • Architect learning with clearly aligned goals, objectives, and outcomes.
  • Connect learner prior knowledge to new knowledge.
  • Conceptualize the necessary learning time and activities needed to accomplish the objectives.
  • Incorporate adult learning principles (discussing, reflecting, applying) in program design.
  • Use a variety of instructional methods to address multiple learning styles to meet required learning objectives and outcomes.

However, if you are not an instructional designer, you may answer, “No, it does not matter who pulls the material together for a learning program.”

Where Is the Instructional Design Disconnect?

The discrepancy comes from a long history of practice. Historically, corporate training has not viewed instructional design as a professional skill. In fact, anyone could join L&D and create learning programs if they were either a subject matter expert or could gather content from subject matter experts. Naturally, people began to believe that designing learning only required the ability to know or gather the content. Good communication and organizational skills were needed, but no formal education and no instructional design credentials were expected. The business felt as long as there was content and someone who knew the material taught the class, learning would happen.

To add to the disconnect, the training profession offered few quality control measures. This meant there was no way to measure if a program was designed well or poorly. Learning measurements consisted of data that showed no impact on the business, like number of programs designed, number of attendees, and how many attendees liked the training.

These pointless measures placed the emphasis on how quickly an instructional designer could pull information together and how entertaining the facilitator was in the classroom. There was no focus on objectives, instructional methods, or real and measurable business outcomes from the learning program.

How to Reconnect L&D with Professional Instructional Design

With this history, is it any wonder that those of us in L&D get little respect for our craft? Is it any surprise that training requesters want to dictate the content, learning activities, and time budgeted for delivering the program without input from the instructional designer? When budgets get tight, can we really expect the training department to remain intact when our expertise is unknown and unproven?

Today, things are improving. Businesses with tight budgets are no longer content with ambiguous results. Business leaders now demand expertise. They look to L&D to identify what learning methods do and do not work. They want to know what creates good learning outcomes that contribute to business results.

The New Opportunity for Today’s Instructional Designers

The training industry is facing a new opportunity. Today, we have the attention of business leaders. Our stakeholders want us to step up and show our expertise and value. Now is the time for instructional designers to embrace our craft, to own our skill. If we entered L&D roles without instructional design competency, we should gain it. If we already know the science of instructional design, then we need to educate others by measuring outcomes.

If instructional designers begin to own their competency, decisions, methods, and outcomes, then they can start to shift the mindset of business leaders. They can establish instructional design as a professional skill just like the engineers, accountants, and IT staff in an organization.

If instructional designers can do this, then the next time someone asks other business professionals if it matters who designs a program, the answer will always be yes!

Are you competent in instructional design? Have you mastered learning design and measurement? If these are skills you need, then contact us at eParamus. We can teach you instructional design skills.

Please follow eParamus on LinkedIn and feel free to connect with me, Laura Paramoure, PhD. I’d love to know more about your training challenges.

Photo copyright: wavebreakmediamicro / 123RF Stock Photo

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