For as long as I can remember, I have been trying to approach Instructional Design in a manner similar to my approach for Software and Database design. There are many parallels including subtle ones as the use of normalization to create storyboard frames or the design of SCORM in an EJB-like framework. It is not oversimplification because both disciplines are inherently creative and have a sound predisposition towards innovation.
Similarly, development models and tools used in software do have a natural place in discussions around development models in e-learning. There are significant differences as well primarily in the emphasis placed on the user and the use of language, culture and context.
Software design and development faces challenges common with e-learning design and development. One important challenge really is common sense and intuition (see Jay Cross’s comments). However, a bigger challenge is that common sense is really not all that common. Nor, unfortunately is intuition.
Another important challenge really is around time to market / cost, which is sometimes used as a really common excuse for producing page turners, sometimes with just cause, but mostly without thinking design.
Software practices are, however, more deterministic than e-learning – if a purchase order needs to be created at the end of a data entry process, it gets created. The same cannot be said about learning outcomes resulting in actual learning.
One of my pet peeves really is that there are sophisticated methodologies, tools and techniques around not only in software (Agile, RUP, Waterfall; UML, ERD, DFD; Rational Suite, Visual Studio) but also in initiatives like Six Sigma (VOC, FMEA, QFD) that can be effectively employed in e-learning design and development.
However, tools for rapid e-learning (synonymous with code generators, object oriented development) must be used judiciously in the e-learning context, just as Reuben Tozman warns us.
I think the time has come for Instructional Design to devise effective and quick low-cost ways to do the page turners and routine stuff (like rolling out enterprise software training) using technology and design working together.
I strongly believe that technology is still playing catchup with Instructional Design and not the other way around. Its time we did something about it.