Instructional Design – Under Siege?

When I think of the term under siege, it reminds me of Steven Seagal, a master chef, on board a US Navy battleship taken over by terrorists in the 1992 movie by the same name. Of course, he fights back and defeats the terrorists. Doubtless somewhat of a stretch of imagination here and completely unrelated, but I think that Instructional Design as we know of it traditionally, is under siege.

I wrote a post on eCube on Indian Education, contrasting the challenges in developing countries such as India with the remarkable developments in social learning worldwide. In that I refer to George Siemens’ article where he refers to the changing role of the instructional designer in the new milieu. From being an expert in applying design techniques on a body of content for a specific kind of learning experience and target audience, the designer is seen more as a guide and facilitator in bring animate (human) and inanimate (computer, device) networked knowledge closer to the learner and fostering learning through active reflection and search, more so than just (and in addition to) relying on traditional design activities such as content sequencing.

What becomes of the carefully and painstakingly created user learning experiences with emphasis on language, defined control imposed by corporate styles & standards, exclusion of irrelevant content, step-by-step elaboration, elaborate understanding of the target audience, pilot evaluations, focused group feedback et al?

How does the social learning experience address these aspects of design? By its very definition, the network is autonomously constituted, with no formal controls, with little or no accountability to ensure adequate coverage (or quality at this point) of any piece of the curriculum, but one where potentially the benefits of active reflection, learning engagement, expediency of learning and scale of community participation may far outweigh the traditional system. A designer who can simply point or piece together these resources, may be compelled to discard entirely useful contributions to knowledge just because the form is not conducive for presentation or there is too much redundancy between two critical but related articles. Obviously, without these interventions, research and reflection may take on too much time to prove useful in situations of learning immediacy (read workflow learning). One of the things that may work, perhaps, and that is that the designer provides the tools and frameworks to allow for an ever growing landscape of content in ways that she can make intelligible for her learners in a participative manner.

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