Reflections on #clouduc8– Access vs Design

Each time I am able to participate in Twitter Chat discussion I try to post a summary of the discussion to my blog. I do this both for my personal development as well as sharing with the Learning and Development Profession at large.

This summary is based on my own interpretations of the chat; others who participated may have differing opinions or interpretations of the discussion. I welcome those that do to add your ideas to the comments.

The topic of this month’s #clouduc8 session was Access vs Design.

I find looking at the questions that are used to loosely guide the chat as a nice way to see the overall theme of the chat. Here are the discussion questions that were presented to the group:

1. Has Google changed the importance of content design, to shear access to content?
2. Has your organization or your role changed in terms of how you are designing content) with respect to content in the last 3 years?
3. What skills do IDs need for designing ‘access’ to content?
4. Using your crystal ball, what role will you be playing 5 yrs from now?
5. If you were to provide advice to a new instructional designer, what would it be?

Years ago ‘Access to Content’ wasn’t really a factor often considered in instructional design. For better or for worse, content was distributed through some sort of linear manner. It was pushed out from a CD, and LMS, or some other mechanism controlled by those deciding what individuals need to learn.

Things are rapidly changing. We live in a world of NOW. If I need information or performance support, I want to be able to get it quickly and easily… And mive on. ‘Learners’ have already figured that part out.

Last week I was helping a co-worker design an EXCEL worksheet. He was struggling with trying to separate a single cell of names into separate cells with first and last names. Suddenly I saw the screen to our LMS on the screen. When I asked what he was doing he replied “I think this was covered in the online course. I’m going to go check.”

Good for him for showing the initiative to solve his own problem. Unfortunately, his reward for the initiative was me saying “Oh hell no. Please don’t do that.”

He didn’t need to take a course. He certainly didn’t need to spend time logging in, going to his assigned courses, launching the course, searching the table of contents, and maybe… just maybe… finding the information he needed.

What he needed, as it turns out, was Google.

One quick search on a couple of words -“Split names into first and last in Excel” – gave him multiple sources of support targeted to the performance issue he was having. It gave it to him quickly, and without burying it in the midst of mass amounts of content unrelated to his performance issue.

That’s the environment we live in today. Business moves too fast for things to stop so we can address a learning or performance need. More and more, if individuals in need of performance support need to stop working to access a course or remote resource, they will simply find alternative support tools.

Instructional designers need to factor this new paradigm into their efforts. We need to design support tools that can be quickly and easily accessible when needed. We need to design so that individuals can access the nugget of information they need without sifting through the full manual.

I’m not saying courses are never needed; in many cases (such as someone completely new to a role, they may be. However we need to factor in ongoing access when we design. There is a difference between taking a course and accessing performance support.

this is very different from the packaged course model that most IDs utilize. It involves parsing content down to specific needs, setting those pieces up so they can be indexed and searched upon, and placing them in a location that is easily accessible as par of the existing workflows. Many of the existing ID tools don’t support this model… Yet.

The discussion concluded by asking what advice should be given to a new instructional designer.

For me, one critical piece of advice is to flip things. Most instructional designers start designing by looking through the lens of what their chosen tool can do. That’s a mistake. We need to be looking at what performance problem we are looking to solve, figure out how to solve it in the least disruptive way, and find a tool that can accomplish the task.

I understand that many of us have restrictions on which tools we do and do not have access to. I live in that wod myself. It’s still a mistake to start with the lens of the tool. Doing so immediately constrains your thinking from what is possible, and prevents you from discovering new ways to use existing tools.

Instructional Designers need to break free from the habits of the event-based-course and find ways to design content in a way that individuals can access the information they need, when they need it, and where they need it… and then move on.

thankfully there are tools that will enable us to better recognize and respond to performance needs as they arise. These tools are coming (or in some cases, are already here).

But again, the tools are secondary to the mindset. we need to shift our definition about what instructional design is. perhaps if we changed the name to “Performance Support Design” it would help shift our thinking in the direction it needs to go, to change how we look at content, and consider how the content is going to be accessed to support performance.

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