03
Dec
14

Instructional Design: The New Normal

I fled this week from the blustery temperatures of Grand Rapids, MI to a warmer climate in Dallas, TX. Always the bridesmaid (facilitator) and never the bride (learner), it was a chance for me to turn the tables and become a participant in ATD’s Master Instructional Designer Program.

IMG_0784It all started at Gerald R. Ford International Airport. I was booked on a non-Delta flight with a brief stop in the Bermuda Triangle (otherwise known as Chicago). For some reason, my flights through Chicago are always delayed – or, in this case, canceled.

Nevertheless, I found myself on a direct flight to Dallas six-and-a-half hours later. Other than a screaming toddler, the flight was relatively low-key. I digested much of my pre-course reading assignment before landing just yards from an occupied gate. After what seemed like an eternity, the other plane departed.

By the way, is this the new normal of airline travel? I still remember as a kid traveling with my grandmother on flights that were nearly empty. At that time, I had my pick of an entire row, not a measly seat.

IMG_0785But I digress. While the cool evening air and the endless road construction tricked me into thinking it was all a dream, the elegantly decorated hotel lobby pleasantly surprised me. If you follow me on social media, you know just how much I’m digging the magic of the holiday season this year.

Which brings me to today: day one of the program. If you’re not familiar, ATD stands for the Association for Talent Development and the Master Instructional Designer Program is a three-part credential comprising:

  1. A self-directed review of instructional design basics;
  2. A three-day face-to-face intensive learning experience; and
  3. An elective and a learning project.

So, what is instructional design? Fundamentally, it’s a systems approach to analyzing, designing, developing, implementing and evaluating any instructional experience. Put another way, meeting professionals often focus on meeting management and logistics (e.g., food and beverage, AV and function space) while instructional designers focus on the content presented.

Think back to the last conference you attended. Do you remember what you had for lunch? I bet it was a chicken dish of some sort. Now really think about the sessions themselves. Answer “yes” or “no” to the following questions:

  • Were the speakers well prepared?
  • Did they hold your attention?
  • Did they draw upon your prior knowledge?
  • Were you aware of the learning objectives?
  • Was the content well organized? Well delivered?
  • Did you participate in an activity that tested your proficiency?
  • Did you receive feedback about your performance?
  • Have you applied this knowledge to your workplace?

IMG_0787If you answered “no” to a majority of these questions, I’m guessing your experience was less than desirable. It’s also likely that an instructional designer could have improved the sessions by coaching/mentoring those speakers in the elements that result in quality instruction.

Now think about the education sessions your organization offers. How would your attendees answer the questions above?

Whether you mostly utilize industry speakers or professional speakers, it’s likely they have content expertise. That is, they’re recognized as thought leaders within their respective industries. They’re generally not instructional designers, though. That is, they’re not familiar with adult learning, cognitive processing, learning styles and learning objectives – all of which are just the tip of the iceberg.

So, on Feb. 26, 2015, I’ll be further exploring what this means to associations in a webinar I’m developing for the Michigan Society of Association Executives. I hope you’ll save the date and plan to join us. I promise to answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” I’ll also help define what’s in it for your organization. Ultimately, instructional design is the new normal. Without it, you simply have chicken, chairs and water.


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meet aaron

Association learning strategist & meetings coach. Founder & president of Event Garde. Passionate about cooking, running, blogging, old homes, unclehood & pet parenting (thanks to Lillie the pup).

meet kristen

Writer, editor, public relations professional. Digital content manager. Proud mom of three. Total word geek. Spartan for life.

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