Instructional designers on instructional design

It was extremely interesting to sit in on a group of instructional designers at a brainstorming session hosted by UBC’s Centre for Teaching and Learning a few weeks ago. Discussion themes centred on instructional design and included innovation and creativity; Web 2.0. and social media; mobile learning; learning environments outside of structured courses; and the future of instructional design.

This was obviously going to be pretty open ended discussion, with no beginning and no end. My impression is that trying to nail things down is a little like trying to survey buildings under construction while perched on the roof of a passing train where the track is being built just in time in front of the train—and no-one has the plans for any of this. Universities are under huge pressure to change, adapt and reinvent themselves out of an age-old tradition where the badges of success are still largely based on narrow definitions of learning and scholarship. Teaching is challenged by the massive influx into the classrooms of mobile devices that can confound the standard model of educational delivery. Distance education and e-learning are swamped with the potential of new tools, social networking and mobile devices. Enterprise systems retain their distinction as lumbering behemoths sucking in all light, energy and sound, and learning management systems keep swirling around the periphery looking for some way to land. Alongside, the very real issues of privacy and copyright legislation in a digital, post 911 era are just beginning to rear up into challenges so big they have the potential to block out the sun.

And yet…who isn’t having some fun with all this! It’s our job to stay with it – keep learning, testing, experimenting and in many cases muddling along to the best of our abilities. Further, we need our own communities of practice to keep us balanced, on track and maybe even sane. I think Tony Bates nailed it with this magnificent wrap-up of the session: “All these problems were solved in the pub after the meeting, but unfortunately no record was kept.”

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