Initial Thoughts on Instructional Design

I have experience in graphic design, so for me the word design is both a verb and a noun. To design something is to conceive, organize, plan, envision, and dream up a product. It involves taking the end goal and abstractly creating a way of getting there. It is the process of actually putting those ideas on paper, so to speak, by whatever means is needed. As a noun, the design refers to how a product looks, its aesthetic appeal, its layout. Products may be anything from a brochure to a website, a business card to a brand identity.

While I am not an experienced instructional designer, or even a certified educator,  I have unknowingly used ID principles for years. Instructional design applies the above-mentioned principles to instruction. This instruction includes helping students, employees, or consumers reach specific objectives through the completion of the designed instruction.

Adding systematic in front enhances its meaning by providing a framework for the design. Hence, systematic instructional design is a model, method, system, or process for achieving optimal results.

Most recently I have had the opportunity to work with a program here in Nepal that helps teach English to motivated underprivileged teenagers. I received a grant to travel to outlying areas to expose students and their teachers to various technology tools that can enhance their learning and teaching. This has been an immensely challenging and rewarding responsibility. I was given no guidelines, no requirements to follow — only classes full of exceptionally motivated and willing learners. The majority of the students have never used a computer before in their lives, and I had a wonderful (but daunting) blank slate to start with.

Since I am not a trained educator, I have not written many lesson plans or designed instruction to this extent. For me the process involved starting at the end: what did I want these students to gain from my being there? What did I want them to learn, to take away from our short time together? Since I only had three hours with each class, and was not able to provide ongoing follow-up and support, I had to design an experience that would be useful and worthwhile for them in the short time we had together.

I have recorded my experiences here on my Learning Log, and have learned a lot from my mistakes along the way. As a result, each new class is better than the last. I have redesigned as I’ve gone along, often starting over completely, and have factored in what has and has not went well. I completely agree that “when applying instructional systems design to an instructional technology initiative in a developing country, it is important to keep in mind that the design process never takes place in a vacuum” (Arias & Clark, 1970, p. 52). There are so many other factors to consider, such as access, electricity, cultural norms, infrastructure, and so on. As such, instructional designers need to be “appropriately prepared to work with the unique challenges found in those environments” (Arias & Clark, 1970, p. 53). I have a unique opportunity to work with these students, and I hope the ID principles I learn in this course will support me in my effort.

Without being an expert yet in either field, I can clearly see the relationship between Instructional Design and Educational Technology. While it’s not a perfect analogy, I see Instructional Design as a toolbox and Educational Technology as one of those tools. Robert A. Reiser states, “Professionals in the field of instructional design and technology often use systematic instructional design procedures and employ a variety of instructional media to accomplish their goals” (2001, p. 57).

Educational Technology is generally the application of technology, the instructional media Reiser referred to, in a K-12 or higher education classroom setting. Instructional Design reaches further than educational environments. It is used in virtually every line of work from corporations to governments.

I like learning both Instructional Design and Educational Technology, and I feel that together they are powerful tools that will build powerful outcomes.

Short Description of my ID project
After ninety minutes of classroom instruction, ninth and tenth grade English Literature students will be introduced to five online multimedia presentation tools and choose one to use for their group presentation on a poet.

Arias, S., & Clark, K. A. (1970). Instructional technologies in developing countries: A contextual analysis approach. TechTrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning, 48(4), 52-55.

Reiser, R. A. (2001). A history of instructional design and technology: Part II: A history of instructional design. Educational Technology Research and Development, 49(2), 57-67. doi:10.1007/BF02504928


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