My role as an instructional designer for corporate learning involves creating resources to meet learning objectives that positively impact our employees and the organization. I rely on computer-based, theoretical, and methodological tools along with some important personal skills (superpowers) to accomplish this.
In a perfect world, every design project would start with an exhaustive exploration of tools where I am able to contemplate and choose the best tools for the project. However, in practice, most of my decisions come down to time and resources.
I use several computer-based tools including collaboration tools (MS Teams), project management software (Monday.com), professional forums (i4PL), template creators (Presenter Media), design programs (InDesign), and more. Two computer-based tools I use that are most specific to instructional design are the Learning Management System (LMS) and an eLearning authoring program. The use of these tools is complementary. I need the LMS to host and manage the eLearning content authored in the authoring tool and I need the authoring tool to create content for the LMS. There is most often a rational explanation as to why I use specific computer-based tools, function, price, and usability (Boling et al., 2017). Most of the tools I use for instructional design are computer-based however there are conceptual tools used as well.
Theoretical and methodological tools I use in practice are those that have been part of my formal or informal education and experience. Even if I do not make a conscious decision to apply these theories in all my work, my knowledge and experience influence my design decisions. For example, in my experience I know that learners get frustrated when they are forced to learn content that is not relevant to them based on feedback in course evaluations, this aligns with my knowledge of adult learning theory that adult learners want specific and relevant information and therefore these things influence my design decisions. No matter how many models or theories are developed, the designer will ultimately have to make decisions about how to adapt, apply and integrate these principles and processes into their work (Laccheb & Boling, 2017). In choosing methodologies, I adapt instructional design processes from ADDIE and incorporate principles from other models that allow special affordances for the specific nature of the project.
As a designer, I have several tools available to choose from, how I decide what to use depends on the situation. Stolterman’s 2009 study observed about ID practice that the right or best tool to use is often not the one that is actually used and sometimes tools are used simply because they are more enjoyable to use, or the designer has better knowledge of them (Stolterman, 2009). Most often in my practice, not using the right tool is due to a lack of time, knowledge or, resources. I chose the image below to represent my instructional design tools because within my reach are a number of useful tools and even if I do not have the best tool for the job I can certainly find one to get the job done.
An instructional designer must decide how to adapt and apply computer-based and conceptual tools and this requires sound decision-making skills among the many other skills required to be a successful ID.
In my work, I play the role of project manager, researcher, interviewer, translator, mediator, advisor, graphic designer, content developer. and online learning support. Struggling to find where within those roles lie my designer superpowers I reflected on an article written about me when nominated for an award of excellence last year. I created a word cloud image to represent some of the highlights.
Melissa takes an optimistic approach to everything she does. Colleagues have described her as “a pleasure to deal with”. They say, “She can find the silver lining in everything and always comes back to us with solutions”. She is a true team player and can adapt to whatever group she is collaborating with. Melissa is respectful in all her interactions, whether dealing with senior management or drivers. She values input from others and respects the feedback about the training content she creates. Care and passion are shown in her work to create respectful training and Melissa has the utmost respect for the people that deliver our services daily. Melissa is involved with multiple teams and collaborates with all business lines. When developing course content, she works closely with subject matter experts to deliver an outstanding, time-tested educational product (CCoE, personal communication, July 15, 2020).
Surprisingly, I was not nominated by my peers for my splashy course creations, tech skills, or even my knowledge as a training specialist. It is apparent that what my colleagues remembered and appreciated was how I made them feel while collaborating on instructional design projects. Building trust and relationships this way will set me up for future successes on instructional design projects across the organization. Based on this article, I conclude that my superpower comes from being an adaptable, compassionate, positive, problem solver, and team-builder. These things are possible when you have empathy. Empathy means having deep care and understanding of the needs of others and this is what helps me succeed as an instructional designer, my superpower.
Instructional designers lean on the computer-based, methodological and theoretical tools available to support the creation of effective learning solutions to meet learning objectives however there is more to consider in designing impactful learning solutions. Vann (2015) stressed that to be successful, instructional designers must consider empathy for the learner, not the learning objectives alone. Successful instructional designers care about and understand the needs of the learners, SMEs, other stakeholders, and the organization and put those needs at the forefront of all design decisions.
Boling, E., Alangari, H., Hajdu, I. M., Guo, M., Gyabak, K., Khlaif, Z., … & Techawitthayachinda, R. I. (2017). Core judgments of instructional designers in practice. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 30(3), 199-219.
Lachheb, A., & Boling, E. (2018). Design tools in practice: instructional designers report which tools they use and why. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 30(1), 34-54. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12528-013-9074-6
Stolterman, E., McAtee E., Eoyer, J., Thandapani, S. (2009). Designerly Tools. In: Undisciplined! Design Research Society Conference 2008, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK, 16-19 July 2008. http://shura.shu.ac.uk/491/1/fulltext.pdf
Vann, L. S. (2015). Demonstrating empathy: A phenomenological study of instructional designers making instructional strategy decisions for adult learners (Doctoral dissertation, Capella University).