Instructional Design. Learning Design. Educational Design.
They're terms that are cropping up more and more in multiple education settings and sectors. Are you an Instructional Designer? Or a Learning Designer? Or an Educational Technologist?
Chances are, if you have anything to do with designing and implementing learning activities with some sort of technology-based facilitation, you're one of those terms above or (more likely) a bit of all of them, but perhaps not all the time.
In any case, this whole notion of instructional/learning/educational design is a rapidly emerging and growing field. You may feel (as an educator working in a world increasingly surrounded or embedded in technology) that you could certainly benefit from knowing more about it all.
And while it may sound quaint, given this whole topic, one of the best things you can do to help you get your head around it all is... read more books!
I recently invested in a number of e-books on the topic of instructional/learning design. Here are three I'd recommend (depending on your relative level of entry into the field).
John Araiza (Amazon/Kindle $2.99)
I purchased this one as part of a permanent belief I hold personally that, irrespective of experience and expertise, you can never really not benefit from looking over the basics again from multiple points of view. At $2.99 (and based on the quick 'inside' review) I thought: what the heck?
I wasn't let down: this is a great little book. Whether you are just starting to foray into the realm of E-Learning and want to start with some practical concrete tips and examples, or consider yourself to be something of an expert, you're very likely to find some useful stuff here. Each of the tips is well explained and rationalised, written by someone who really does know what he's talking about (and, just as importantly, knows how to get that across to others).
A good example of something I picked up from it was the tip about using images in learning design proposals. As in, if you're doing the right thing and purchasing the rights to any images you may use in an online learning product, don't go actually buying anything until you know for sure it can be used in the end product. At the proposal and sample stages, use the watermarked versions in any examples. Later, when you know what will and won't end up in the final product, go ahead and order (and pay for) the ones you'll actually use.
That might sound like a no-brainer, and it was something I used to do but have somehow sort of overlooked in the last couple of years.
That's a simple example; there are a whole range of very relevant and practical tips there and (as I said) while it would be particularly useful for self-confessed 'newbies' to E-Learning, there are potentially some useful gems for the 'veterans' as well.
John Araiza (Amazon/Kindle $0.99)
I probably didn't really need this one, given I (feel I) have a pretty solid grasp of many of the instructional design models out there, but at that price (and based on the good impression of the author and his approach in the above review) again I kind of thought: what the heck?
What turned out to be a pleasant concise review for me would, I think, be an excellent read for people starting to enter the field. John defines the term Instructional Design, provides some history, rationalises the use of ID, describes who is involved in ID processes, and some of the more compelling advantages of it. He then does a bit of a tour through some of the more popular models (ADDIE, ARCS, Gagne's Nine Events of Instruction, Kolb's Experiential Learning Theory, the Kemp Design Model).
It's a very short book and doesn't dip very deeply anywhere as a result, but this could be just what the ID Doctor ordered for emerging learning technologists out there. It's approachable and covers some of the main areas and points to pay attention to if this is an area you would like to check out and become more involved in.
Julie Dirksen (Amazon/Kindle $17.59)
Okay, we're going up the price scale here, but we're also getting a lot more pages and ideas to really sink our teeth into.
This book is an absolute gem. I'm only about a third of the way through it, but so far it has been that riveting, relevant and clearly useful that I have no hesitation in thoroughly recommending it now to any educator out there thinking about learning design (whether for e-learning or face to face educational settings).
As the title suggests, this gets right into the whole notion of learning and how people learn, identifying and building out the design principles from those central tenets. Delicious detail and concrete exemplification is applied to the whole notion of learning 'gaps' based on knowledge, skills, motivation and environment. It explores the central importance of how things are noticed, remembered and facilitated into longer term memory (or not).
If you've caught yourself thinking that too much of the learning design chit-chat out there has become mired in bells and whistles, Learning Management Systems, rapid authoring tools, (and the list goes on) then I think you'll really appreciate this expert's insistence on getting back to what really matters: the what, why, how, where, when (and which) of learning itself.
The E-Learning aspect is still certainly there, but in its rightful role as a medium and mode built around that central prioritisation on learning.
I also found it interesting (and impressive) how Julie's approach in the book really exemplified her own expertise in this area: the learning design of the book itself is evident to anyone who knows a good teacher when they see/hear/read one. She makes everything crystal clear and the transition from principle to real world application and relevance (or vice versa) is seamless, non-threatening and respectful of audience even as it stamps the author's own firmly held beliefs about learning very clearly on the scene(s).
I was in the middle of designing an online resource when I started reading this book. It's added four days to the design process and production already as I get reminder after reminder and rationale after rationale about what different learners (potentially) really need. I guess I did already know about these priorities, and have certainly seen or put them into action in one training/learning scene or another, but the book and its content have been a very timely reminder to put greater effort into seeing that more of the little things that matter actually happen in an online learning experience.
Excellent read and bursting with potential to change the way you both perceive learning and go about facilitating it.
So, hopefully there's something there for the budding and/or busy instructional/learning/educational designer to think about!
More reviews to come...