I’ve been practicing instructional design for my entire professional career; I just didn’t realize it. As a teacher, I had to analyze the situation each day, design and develop a lesson, implement it, and then evaluate the lesson. The next day would depend on whether the goals were met the previous day. As a writer and editor for educational publishing companies, I did pretty much the same thing, but I wasn’t able to analyze the learners and their needs as effectively since the products were intended for a general audience. The companies that I worked for did not implement an evaluation process either, so I did not really have the opportunity to determine whether the instructional materials I created were effective, how they could be improved, which methodologies actually worked, etc.
The lack of analysis and evaluation felt wrong to me and led me to search for more meaningful work. I felt that it was more about the quantity rather the quality, what could sell instead of what actually worked. During my job search, I came across several job postings wanting instructional designers. The work sounded exactly like what I was doing as a writer and editor for an educational publishing company but with the analysis and evaluation processes incorporated.
As a test to see whether this field was for me, I read Julie Dirksen’s book, Design for How People Learn, and that’s what cinched it: I wanted to be an instructional designer. The field involves everything I love to do: writing, editing, designing with technology, learning, and teaching. And it places great emphasis on effective design practices and learning methodologies. Ever since then, I’ve been on a wonderful educational journey, learning more about those effective design practices and learning methodologies, the research that supports it all.
I’ve been able to learn more about what I’ve been doing right and wrong all these years and why. I’ve been able to meet with several subject matter experts, learn what they know, and then spread their knowledge with successful applications of instructional design. The entire analysis, design, development, implementation, evaluation cycle is a lot more time-consuming than the design projects I performed early on in my career, but in the long run, I know it is still worth it, because what I am doing ensures that the instruction will actually work and be used more often. Instructional design is a fascinating field that will continue to grow as more and more organizations realize how much time and money effective instructional design saves. I am excited about its future and my future in it.