Anyone can be an ID. But should *anyone* be an ID?

Posted by gminks in instructional design | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

This is my response to last week’s #lrnchat. I was inspired to write it after watching an internal (EMC) discussion about training.

Anyone can perform the ID function

You heard me correctly. ANYONE.

I have to say I was so disappointed in last week’s #lrnchat when everyone kept dissing SMEs.

For my readers who are not education folks, ID means Instructional Designer. In pure Instructional Design, the ID would follow the Instructional Design process to Analyze needs, Design the learning strategy to meet those needs,  Develop the proposed learning strategy, Implement this strategy, and then Evaluate the effect of the learning that was delivered.

That’s right, I said ADDIE.

An SME is a Subject Matter expert who is interviewed (usually in the “develop” stage) in order to get the technical details needed for the instruction.

If you had been a fly on the wall at #lrnchat last week, you may have been surprised to know that typical IDs really do not respect SMEs. They think that SMEs could never understand the complicated science of designing learning.

I have a problem with that attitude. First of all, I am a technical SME, and I am an ID. Second of all, do IDs really think that people who build, implement and manage things like email servers, data center management applications, san management applications, storage arrays, etc are not intelligent enough to learn the science of designing instruction?

Give me a break!!

You can teach people how to design instruction way faster than you can teach them to get around a UNIX operating system or how to get around the insides of a CLARiiON! I have news for you, at least in the technical arena, we don’t need dedicated IDs. Technology moves too fast to be burdened with that extra process. Teach the techies basic principles of instructional design, have some folks with ID background running inteference to get learning assets into the LMS, and then get the heck out of the way!

Should just anyone perform the ID function?

OK, all you geeks who think writing training is easy, now its your turn.

You don’t want to wait for the official training to come out. Heck, you have these cool open source tools that let you create slidecasts that you can post to youtube or slideshare. Maybe you are THE authority at your company on a certain technology and you honestly believe that you will be helping the company by producing your own training.

ID is not that easy. ID should be aligned to the business, so that training reflects that key messages that the marketing, product management, and support teams want to convey. ID should create a learnscape that is easy to navigate, and easy to repeat for each individual learner. That takes time. My degree – Instructional Systems – is an MS (Master of Science) degree for a reason.

There is more to corporate education than recording a knowledge dump and sticking it on YouTube. You have to take all your technical skills to know the product intimately, and then think about how people will use the technology. How “should” people use the tech? Does this change if you are talking to people in different job roles? What is supported and what is not supported? How will this training alignvto their job and more importantly to the overall business?

Do you really have time for that? Aren’t you supposed to be selling, or coding, or something else?

Do you really want to deal with people when they argue with an acronym you used? Or with your spelling and grammar?

No, you don’t. Leave that to us, the folks who think about all these things as we design a course. Let us navigate the instructional design process, but for goodness sake pick up the phone when we need a set of eyes to review what we have created!

Moral of the story

We cannot move to Learning 2.0 (or whatever you want to call it) if there is such disdain for SMEs. Maybe we don’t need the ID function. Maybe we need to teach SMEs to be the IDs. That is what we’ve done at EMC.

12 Responses to Anyone can be an ID. But should *anyone* be an ID?

  1. Manish Mohan says:

    I think the ID’s disdain for SMEs is due to our own insecurities. Or perhaps because IDs don’t get the same respect for their work from SMEs as the IDs are expected to show to the SMEs. Like you said, anyone can be an ID. But anyone can’t be a SME.

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  3. Hi Gina,

    I am not sure what was said during lnchat, but you seem mighty upset with IDs. Your post seems to say do away with IDs because they have little respect for SMEs. I do not think this is foundation enough to reach such a conclusion. I am sure the IDs have experiences of their own because of which they feel the way they feel.

    Having said that, I have respect for SMEs and do feel that they play a very crucial role. But if both the SMEs and IDs are egoistic and more worried about throwing their weight around, the product is bound to suffer.

    Finally, I do not agree that you can do away with IDs. Being an ID involves a lot more than what you have listed here. It is about identifying the needs of the learner, identifying solutions that will help solve a problem (it may not be training related at all), deciding the instructional design approach and the medium of delivery, understanding the learner’s reality, working closely with the SME to understand the content and relevance of it to the learner, testing the product to check its learnability, and so on. ID is not just about designing a few slides.


  4. Sue Taylor says:

    If ANYONE can perform ID then shouldn’t all online instructors who have been taught the basic principles be able to effectively put them into use when they create their own online courses? ID is a skill. It isn’t just about knowing how to run the ADDIE process. It is about presenting information in a way that everyone wants to learn and can understand. Maybe that is a skill that can be taught but it isn’t a skill you can force into action. The person creating the training/course has to believe in the process or it comes out looking like crap and doesn’t teach anyone anything.

  5. Clark Quinn says:

    Gina, I’d like to re-characterize the feelings about SMEs. It’s not that we don’t respect their knowledge, it’s that it can be difficult to work with them for several reasons. Ignoring the fact that some can be difficult, because that’s true of anyone, they often resent the time spent being a SME. Second, they can’t have good access to what they’re doing as a SME, because their expert performance is compiled, and when an ID does what they’re supposed to in digging deep, it can be difficult. On the other hand, SMEs can be a wonderful source of insight into the motivational side of the task, finding out what makes this particular information interesting.

    I do want to quibble with the thought that being a good ID is easy. It’s clear from all the bad learning design out there that it’s not easy. You sort of say both that anyone can do it, and it’s not easy. It’s not obvious to me that there isn’t some art in ID that makes it beyond just ‘anyone can do it’, but as you admit you had to get a Master’s, which makes me think that NOT anyone can do it.

    I think that what you saw was some upwelling of frustration with SMEs that’s not really a lack of respect for their expertise. It’s just that it’s nice to vent with like-minded folks.

    • gminks says:

      @Clark Quinn, I don’t think good ID is easy. But I think its easier than configuring HBAs on a UNIX host, zoning a Fibre Channel Switch, and running commands on a storage array so data can flow from an application to a disk. Information flow for ID, or information flow with 1s and 0s…..what’s the difference? Just a different set of concepts.

  6. Ellen Wagner says:

    Gina, I think you really nailed this one. For better or worse, it kinda sorta sounded like everyone forgot that working with SMEs is a job requirement in enterprise learning.

    With all due respect to IDs, the practice is designed to help transfer knowledge/competencies/attitudes. Gotta get the info to transfer from somewhere, and more often than it it comes from SMEs. Anyone who gets frustrated by working with SMEs really needs to reconsider their choice of profession.

    My .02

  7. amandallen says:

    I agree in a way. I think everyone, and anyone, should be educated about the instructional design process (whether it be ADDIE or something else). Maybe not to the MS level like us, but at least know the basics.

    I certainly respect SMEs because even though I sometimes claim to, I don’t know everything about everything. But I think some of the friction comes from SMEs not understanding the ID process. They need to know why we’re asking all those “silly” questions.

  8. Steve says:

    In my experience, the experience and relationship between the ID and SME is all in how it’s framed. I’ve worked as an SME with difficult ID’s and have worked as an ID with difficult SME’s.

    There’s value on both sides in the provision of perspective and the validation of strategy that ensures focus and relevance.

    It’s not an either / or proposition. I would like to say, however, that it would be as difficult to make an SME into an ID as it would be to make an ID into an SME. The opportunities vary, the focus is different.

    There is value (completely necessary value) in having focused perspectives and not having everything reside in one body for the sake of balance.

    If we train SME’s to be ID’s we also need to establish outside validation to help the SME’s develop as ID’s and prevent tunnel vision (I do it as an SME sometimes too) that ends up contributing what the SME thinks others need to know based on what the SME knows – and not what the performer actually needs to know to do, be, or believe in order to PERFORM.

    For the record, I love SME’s in any form. I’ve learned how to work with practically any type of SME. I also love good ID’s. I have different feelings for bad ID’s.

  9. Steve says:

    Grrr… Feedback on this app. If you neglect to enter the anti-spam word the app doesn’t retain the entry.

    Here’s a less elegant stab at my lost post:

    I think this comment doesn’t accurately reflect reality:

    ‘I don’t think good ID is easy. But I think its easier than configuring HBAs on a UNIX host, zoning a Fibre Channel Switch, and running commands on a storage array so data can flow from an application to a disk.’

    One isn’t easier than the other. It’s not an apples to apples comparison. That’s making the judgement that anyone can be a good ID and anyone can be a good tech. Simply not so. Affinities matter and you gotta be built that way (background, interests, world-view) to be good at either one.

    The comment implies that a complexity comparison can be made and this is a poor assumption in my opinion. Good ID isn’t easy for everyone. Tech configuration IS easy for those that have experience and affinity for it. Tech configuration is IMPOSSIBLE for those that don’t. I would wager that good ID is ALSO impossible for many of those that have great technical capability.

    Not a fair comparison.

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