Via a post I found through Workplace Learning Today, Rob Wilkins asked whether “instructional designer” is really an accurate title for what we do. He suggests that “information and instruction architect” might be a better description, especially as we move to more learner control, personal learning environments, and Web 2.0 tools. I agree with at least some of what he’s saying; instructional designer does carry some connotations of formal, instructor-led learning.
Wilkins focuses on the “designer” part of the title in his post. He says that designer implies “that an outcome, as a result of receiving the instruction, will be achieved,” but that an architect builds without knowing exactly how a structure will be used. It’s an interesting analogy, but I’m not sure I quite agree.
To me, if there’s an issue with the title “instructional designer,” it’s with the instructional part rather than the designer half. “Instructional” is the word to me that implies formal learning: a teacher or trainer in front of a classroom or a self-paced tutorial where learners must follow the software leads.
Of course, most of what I’m doing for my job is very much formal training. Graduate courses still have quite a bit of formality, even online. However, when I’m designing courses with Web 2.0 tools that (hopefully) help people build their personal learning environments, it’s not quite the traditional course. I’ve had some great success with student-led blog discussions and wiki galleries of peer work and feedback. Our facilitators definitely do more coaching and mentoring than direct instruction. I do try to design courses where students can be empowered to direct their own learning, at least within some framework.
At least as far as my own work is concerned, I think it’s always focused on learning but not always direct instruction. Does that mean that “learning designer” or something similar would be a better description?
Like Wilkins, I’m not sure. What do you think? Is your job more about learning or instruction? Are you an architect, a designer, or something else?