Yesterday my profession made the New York Times Upshot section. Instructional designers help prepare faculty for teaching online. Well, all of a sudden, we are in demand and are being called out front and center. My phone was pinging non-stop yesterday with appeals for help from my teacher friends. Yes, we can help. For most of my career, I have been dragging reluctant people kicking and screaming into a world that they don’t want to inhabit. Forgive me if I enjoy being chased a little for awhile.
I got my Masters in Instructional Technology at Purdue in 2006. The class demographic was 50% corporate employees and 50% public educators. We all fought the tide all day long in our day jobs. And we lost more battles than we won. Corporate America had a business case driving the change but old habits die hard. Online learning and eLearning was considered a “cost savings” by most and accepted about as happily as email was 30 years ago. I remember being unable to figure out why I would email somebody when I could just walk over to their desk. Our education professionals fought an even more difficult battle in their work environments. But we knew that technology not only enabled more flexibility in learning, it could also increase its effectiveness. The key was designing it to fit the delivery method. And that’s why we were there.
“What is it that you do?” I’m often asked. Industrial what? You teach? Huh? I don’t get it. Designing online learning is a unique skillset and hidden behind the talent, the teacher or facilitator. It requires unique skills that traditional classroom teachers don’t have. But organizations don’t think that way. “Just do it,” they mandate to shocked educators – without providing the training to support them in the change. This gap drives a lot of bad online learning design which produces a bad experience which makes people think online learning is horrible. That has always been our fight.
Coronavirus turned the tide this week. I knew someday it would come. Unfortunately there will be a lot of bad online learning out there for awhile. But I think instructional designers will be having a heyday for the next few months. Hopefully the case will be built long-term for flexibility after we get out of this panic. We can help you. And, right now, we can stop fighting resistant people. We have your attention, America.
Let us make you shine!