It’s quite common these days to hear people speaking about content curation (versus content creation), and therefore to assume instructional design is no longer needed. Clearly the old model of asking Learning & Development to custom build all of the content for every performance need for every business unit is not viable (and even if you outsource some or all of the work). So what is the role of instructional design in today’s changing L&D environment?
The traditional processes for internally developed learning content have struggled to keep pace with today’s speed of business. But before you relegate instructional design to only the dreaded “compliance training”, and assume it is not relevant for anything else, let’s take a look at this a bit differently. I think you will see that great design is an integral part of any great learning solution.
It is true that a lot of existing content exists which can be curated to help support specific learning needs. And it is true that learners have the ability to create and search for content on their own. But for company-specific, work related knowledge or skills, such as strategy, products and processes, you can’t just search the Internet, buy some third party content, or simply share user-generated materials and expect to change behavior. Just because you can find some existing content doesn’t mean it will impact the desired outcome. And that is where good design matters.
There is currently a fair amount being written about the “disintermediation” of learning and development organizations. Business units empowered to address their own learning needs, bypassing L&D. And while this is true to a different extent in different organizations, it doesn’t mean the death of L&D or instructional design. But it does mean changes are mandated, and a good parallel for L&D professionals to study is the “disintermediation” of Information Technology (IT) over the past few years.
You may recall that as cloud solutions emerged as the preferred model for launching new applications, IT was struggling to remain “in control”. Business units wanted to move fast, and at first, IT pushed back, insisting they have the final say on whether or not the proposed solution should be procured. But this command and control mentality gave way to “advise and guide”; leveraging the significant knowledge IT has about security, integration and compliance (which does not typically exist in a business function). Roles in IT changed. More architects, less developers. The same transformation of L&D is upon us. Focus on outcomes, leveraging expertise, not doing the work for them.
Instructional design is a core competency inside of a broader “Learning Experience Design” future. If L&D is going to be true business partner, rather than being relegated to the dreaded compliance training, it needs to leverage its design skills in new ways. More architects, more designers, less developers in L&D. Without great designs, you are wasting precious time and the resulting content will not achieve the desired performance improvements.
Imagine if instructional designers had the tools and technology to be able to advise and guide business units about great learning design. To enable more effectively collaboration between business stakeholders, subject matter experts and learning designers. To leverage instructional design skills across many more learning projects, across many business units. To help businesses quickly analyze needs, and drive meaningful, measurable outcomes. To work at the Speed of Business.