Humans learn every minute of every day. We learn without overt effort or intention. We learn by existing, by seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting. As long as we are conscious, we are learning. We can’t stop ourselves.
So, why does anyone need instructional design? Why not just provide content and let people learn it?
If you read any articles about the importance of instructional design (ID) you will find them peppered with the words engage and process, and yes, basic requirements of instructional design are that it engage learners and help them process specific information. But that’s not why you need ID. I have completed countless ID projects for a variety of industries, and I have found only one reason for instructional design. That is to attract a learner. The value of instructional design is in its ability to attract, because attraction has the power to change behavior.
I can develop the most robust, salient training content in the industry, and if the instructional design doesn’t attract participants to the content and the process, they will not be changed by the training experience. They may engage during the sessions and process the information presented to them, but if they are not attracted, they will not change. That’s because people can engage and process in response to external expectations. We all know that we’re expected to pay attention, or engage, so we do. And in order to succeed at workshop activities and exercises we have to process the information presented to us, so we do. We push the lever and we get the pellet. But within a short time after the training workshop, we stop pushing the lever. We settle back into our old ways and resume our old behaviors, and this is why you need great instructional design.
Great instructional design attracts learners to the content, to the performance ideal, and to the change process. This attraction is essential for changing behavior. Change is difficult at best and painful at worst. But when we are attracted to something we are willing to change for it. We want to absorb it and ingest it and become it. Not because someone tells us we should, but because we want to. Because we are attracted. I write a lot of content, and I can tell you that even the best content is no substitute for design.
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Copyright © 2011 by Sally Bacchetta. All rights reserved.