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Instructional Design From Professional Development to Academia

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I don’t know if I’ve said it enough, but I am so thankful for those two years of work at my previous job. I had great supervisors and supportive project managers and I was able to learn so much about becoming a good instructional designer. Now, at my new position, I’m in the world of academia and one of the things that I’m grappling (happily) with is the how and why of taking my experience with me and applying it in a new environment.

I recently finished Kathy Sierra’s Badass (highly recommended!) after waaaay too long a time. I loved what Sierra did with the book, they way she represented the concepts. And I saw a lot of the ideas from Cathy Moore’s action mapping (which I have used with great success) described again from Sierra’s point of view. She did a wonderful job of dealing with possible concerns over each piece, as well.

The thing that kept coming up with me was thinking about how I could translate these ideas into academia. As it stands now (for better or worse), much of an academic course is information design and delivery. I know that I can handle that, but I am eager to also apply what I know works from the practices of a truly user-focused, do-based design approach. I’m wondering, how do I sell these things to a faculty member?

I think, going forward, I will have to think about applying the essential information and presentation design concepts, but also carefully apply the timing concepts that Sierra describes in the book. For example, she writes that while we should bravely cut out anything that isn’t a NEED to know or doesn’t map to a performance task (which are also major concerns of action mapping), she also writes that there is a place for considering WHEN does a user need to know this information. It may be that a useful way of framing the learning experience design process in this new context is to talk about when to introduce concepts, as well as to encourage the creation of activities, in whatever form, that help users apply that knowledge. The key is to design the experience so that the information “gets past the spam filter,” as Sierra writes.

I’m still fleshing all of this out in this mind. I appreciate that Sierra practices what she preaches. She anticipates concerns over the techniques she’s encouraging. By addressing suboptimal approaches, like having to put in knowledge that someone else wants the user to know, I think Badass will continue to be a great resource to go a step beyond what I know of action mapping to apply the important things in a very different world.

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