Think of the best learning experience you ever had. I mean the one where you will never forget the moment when you learned something so memorable you couldn’t wait to share it if I asked you that in a room full of people.
It might be when you learned how to weld a perfect bead
The time you understood that algebra homework without tears
The first college class you took where your professor actually knew your name because it helped you get the concepts
A long series of conversations with your mentor about life in your profession
or that video you watched when your septic system backed up and you needed to fix it right now.
Whether it’s a skill, like the first two examples, a personal approach to learning like the second two or an on-demand learning experience, there are many ways to learn the same thing.
I have several favorite learning experiences. I will never forget how my Dad patiently taught me how to understand math word problems in 3rd grade. Boom. No more tears. I can’t forget the moment I had my first, “I am going to the library to research ______.” I did that a lot, and yes, I’m old enough to be able to search a card catalog rather than having Google at my fingertips. I will never forget the rush I got when I was in my teacher training class and I saw the manipulative material used to teach long division, and the light came on for the first time. Yes, I was 28 before I truly understood long division – and I’m smart enough to have my Ph.D. Take that, world! But it took seeing it exactly that way before I truly got it.
Each learning experience described above happened just the way my individual needs required it. It could have happened no other way.
Think about what you’ve got in mind as your favorite learning experiences. Instructional designers were probably involved with designing those learning experiences.
If your favorite learning experience involved a teacher’s guide and some handouts – or any school experience, an Instructional Designer was probably involved in determining the knowledge that came before and after that as well as what the experience itself was like.
The experience was designed specifically for people who learn exactly like you to turn the light on for that concept.
Instructional Designers become intimately familiar with the intended audience for learning. We want to know everything about them – age, profession, level of education, the flow of their workday and workweek, whether they learn best from video, interactive graphics or text, whether they have dogs or cats…. Each of these things can serve as a means of reaching people effectively and efficiently with learning experiences.
That’s what Instructional Designers do every day.
We help people have memorable learning experiences.
There’s a lot of jargon, a lot of technology and even more assumptions (like how I assume everyone knows about Bloom’s Taxonomy) that go on behind the scenes. The goal is always the same – we want to design the best learning experiences possible for the audience we serve.