On being an ID: A cautionary tale

I am an instructional designer. I am a multimedia developer. I have my Master’s degree in Instructional Design & Technology and have been working in the field for five years. I’ve seen plenty of learning examples, from paper to CBT to rapid e-learning and everything in between. I think I have a pretty good sense of what works stylistically and from a UX point of view. I have a fairly good grasp of the technology and the theory behind instructional design. With that being said, it’s hard sometimes not to be a little smug and sit on top of my Vygotskian throne dispensing wisdom to the inept SMEs who cross my path. “You want to do THAT? Oh, well, {insert choice learning theory here} states you should do THIS…”, or “we tried that approach 4 years ago and they didn’t get it” (as if it is the exact same approach with the exact same learners, tools, time frame, etc.).

I know I have been guilty of this type of thinking in the past. I became aware of it in my first career working with homeless folks in Minneapolis. I wasn’t condescending to the homeless folks, I condescended to everyone who didn’t work with the them. I was the arrogant liberal, the one that thinks it’s all or nothing. If you weren’t actually working with the homeless as an occupation then you weren’t truly social justice oriented. I knew social justice and I was going to look down upon you if you weren’t fully invested. I could sit on my high horse because I was making a difference. Yeah, I was a smug bastard and had the pay ($18K/yr) to prove it. Now don’t get me wrong, I am still very much a liberal. I just think I have tempered my views a bit and am not as quick to rush to judgment of others who aren’t “doing as much.” Besides, who am I to judge who does what, how much they do and whether it is “enough?”

I guess the point I’m trying to make here is to keep an open mind. Don’t rush to judgment about an idea a SME presents. Don’t think that because you are the ID that you are the sole arbiter of what works. Yes, you have a pretty good idea, but the best of us ALL of us can be wrong sometimes. Think about the learner. What does (s)he need to be able to perform his/her job optimally? How can you partner with the SME to provide the best product? It’s not about the SME and it’s not about you as the ID. Strangely enough, it’s about the learner.

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