Wednesday, February 13, 2008

How to get an Instructional Design education without paying tuition

Well, yesterday Cammy has responded to my post on the disconnect between academic instructional design and practical instructional design. Subsequently, the last five hours or so has been interesting. First of all, I see that Stephen Downes has mentioned our conversation on OLD~Daily, and that has led to a number of comments on my blog as well as others posting about them on their blogs.

I've got to admit, I'm enjoying thinking about these questions.

Wendy Wickham from In the Middle of the Curve has joined the conversation. Wendy has an MA in Instructional Technology from Towson University (I don't think I know anyone on that faculty). Wendy makes a good point saying:

How I use theory - selling my instructional design ideas.

People respond to jargon. And, interestingly, people love learning other people's jargon. I had never seen such an excited group of people as the day I introduced ADDIE to the Project Management group and related that process to how they do business.

Do I use ADDIE? Not always - but it does seem to be a nice way to keep track of the status of my ID projects.

Citing academic theory makes it sound like you are putting more effort into it than "I dunno - this just made sense. Whadya think?"

Do I need my MS in Instructional Technology to practice? No. The theoretical ammunition I received in that program helps.

Great point. I had the same experience working with some military officials earlier this year. But later Cammy responds:

I completely agree that this stuff impresses clients. I use it all the time.

But one can learn the jargon without going to grad school. And one can cite the academic theory by reading and staying informed.

Perhaps the (somewhat cynical) question to ask is -- what's the right amount of jargon needed to get by? Do I need to know all of the things on John's list?

Personally, I don't think so. I've gotten by well enough without most of those theories, it seems.

This comes back to my quest from last year of getting an informal masters in ID.

If one were to construct an informal, self-paced, DIY instructional design curriculum, what content would you include?

So Cammy, only because I'm a big fan of yours, I present How to get an Instructional Design education without paying tuition.First of all, let me reference some previous posts from my blog.

On April 1, 2006 I posted What my graduate students need to know. Specifically, on that post I'd pay attention to the suggested self-study program for Instructional Systems Development (ISD) by M. David Merrill (Yeah, I know, I keep referencing him in things, but it's hard not to, he taught me design!). It's outdated to a degree, but it has a solid foundation. He's since given me a list of books to add to it, but I can't find it right now. (Note to self: LOOK FOR IT!)

Next, when I was designing the EDTC 5203: Foundations of Educational Technology course here at Oklahoma State, I posted my Reading list for Foundations of Educational Technology. I later followed that post with Foundations readings revisited, in which I pointed people to Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology, 2nd Edition. Specifically appropriate for this discussion is chapter 32 of the text: The Future of Instructional Design (which I referenced in my original post). Also in that chapter was Merrill's breakdown of the proper study of instructional design. I posted my responses to the chapter in June 2006. According to that chapter, I would be considered an instructional scientist to Cammy's instructional technologist.

With that said, if I wanted someone to get an instructional design education without paying tuition, here would be my list of must haves:

Disclaimer: In these last series of posts, I am in NO WAY saying that it isn't necessary or beneficial to have academic training.  I actually had Tyler Wardle, of our Ph.D. recruits,  tell me last night that I shouldn't have posted what I did until he actually entered our program (or someone else's).  So perhaps I wasn't clear.  I do believe the theory informs practice, and that knowing the theory should make you a better designer.  When I commented that it wouldn't make a difference, I was speaking directly to Cammy.  I was saying that she seems smart enough that it probably wouldn't make a difference to her situation.

So there you have it, Cammy. I hope this helps.

Comments, anyone? What did I leave off?


  1. John, wonderful, wonderful list.

    Here's my two cents' on this topic; it's a beef with many instructional designers today.

    I think many instructional designers use their knowledge of instructional-design theories and models to make the conversation about learning today smaller rather than bigger, especially about new technologies.

    I think there are conversations about new information, communication, and entertainment technologies that instructional designers, by and large, don't participate in.

    My conversations with instructional designers about search (Google), video (YouTube), immersive environments (Second Life), social networking (Facebook), games, blogging, wikis, etc., etc, typically consist of the instructional designer frowning and saying, "That's not instruction," or, "That doesn't fit with what we know about good instruction."

    Instructional-design theories and models seem to create partisanship, kind of like a French chef who doesn't have anything to say about pizza because it's not French cooking.

    So we have these short, this-does-not-fit-the-tradition-I-was-raised-in conversations.

    I never hear anyone say anything conceptually pluralistic like, "I come from a Gagne perspective so I don't see Google as a learning tool because it's not instruction, but I can see from a performance-support perspective how it's the world's biggest learning tool."

    Or, "I come from an instructivist perspective and think in terms of delivery, so I don't think of Second Life as an instructional platform, but I can see how constructivists are interested in learners constructing 3D experiences in Second Life."

    I think it's fair to ask, what do others know about instructional design.

    But I think it's also fair to ask, what do instructional designers know about game design theory, information design theory, performance-support design theory, social network theory, and so forth.

    So that when we encounter different world-views in our field it's the beginning of the conversation, not the end of it.

    End of rant. Thanks again for the great list.

  2. Maybe including competencies of an instructional designer would be a good addition to the list? The International Board of Standards for Training, Performance, and Instruction ( published the "Instructional Design Competencies" (2001) by Richey, Fields, & Foxon that I use.

  3. Dr. John -- what a daunting list! Where is a poor girl to begin? Frankly, I think I'd have to be in a program in order to maintain the discipline and focus to get through it all. What are the basics? Whittle it down even more for me...

  4. [...] How to get an Instructional Design education without paying tuition [...]

  5. [...] the thought of making my writing “tighter.” So while the purpose of my initial post on how to get an instructional design education without paying tuition was meant as a “here’s what you need to know,” I still missed the [...]

  6. [...] How to get an Instructional Design education without paying tuition | [...]

  7. [...] it’s worth it. Now, just to be clear, this has nothing to do with John’s post, “How to Get an Instructional Design Education Without Paying Tuition“. Really, it doesn’t. I just love my current job and am scared about what life will [...]

  8. Hi Dr. Curry,

    Thank you for your list. It looks like I have a lot of reading to do.

    Although I cannot claim I am an "instructional designer," I design instruction daily at the front lines of public education in the classroom.

    IMHO, there is no other method to mastery in any field than apprentice with a master or several masters and then practice, practice, practice.

    So who are the masters?

    Here's a list of several of my favorites:

    Physlrnr - a listserv of dynamic physics educators discussing what works at the cutting edge of science education.

    VanTH/ERC - an engineering research consortium between Vanderbilt, Northwestern, MIT and Harvard promoting challenge-based bioengineering curriculum development based on the "How People Learn" Legacy Cycle.

    Concord Consortium - a group dedicated to deep, persistent understandings through the use of interactive math and science visualization tools

    One might argue that these are domain specific, but I would point them to your idea so well expressed above:

    "What Engineers Know and How They Know it, by Walter G. Vincenti. A book on how engineers solve design problems. After all, aren’t we educational engineers?"



    1. I agree with you that teachers design and practice instructional techniques daily. I do think that the term "instructional design" is more geared towards the business industry rather than education. Not to say that education couldn't use a dose of ADDIE or SAM but as a teacher myself, we are often told when and why to build a course. We as educators do not dig for that information ourselves although we are expected to analyze results. Maybe that makes us partial instructional designers.

  9. [...] would be a great fit with Cammy Bean’s dialog with Dr. John Curry and [...]

  10. Have you see this ( ) which is the Top 10 ID books from some of the leaders in ID?

  11. [...] instructional design and certification. They were interested in the conversations Cammy Bean and I have had about those topics, and wondered where those conversations were going. Today Cammy e-mailed me, [...]

  12. Doesn't a list of books dismiss the whole idea of a need to practice and experience to enhance learning? It's a bit of a putoff....

  13. Wow that is quite a list.However it is helpfull one for a novice like me staying in country that has few programmes for Instructional designing.

  14. Thanks you for this post and the list of ID 'must haves.' I have an M.Ed. in Instructional Technology Design. Recently started re-reading my old ID textbooks. And doing some internet searches for Instructional Designer Competencies. There is so much.

    I have only been a 'degree-d' ID for 3 years--but I know it is my professional obligation to stay knowledgeable about past and present practices and research. For instructional design and eLearning. This post really means alot. Its 3:42 am. I can rest and start on this list tomorrow.

    Thanks again,

    De Anna

  15. I love this topic. Can't avoid weighing in.

    Full disclosure-- admit that I have taught ID in an EDTEC program at SDSU for 30+ years. Time flies when you are having fun.

    Obviously, I have much invested in believing that what we did there was meaningful to our students and to the field.

    It's not just the student experiences and growth, although that is first and foremost. It's also the expectations that faculty will contribute to thought leadership. You write about Dave Merrill. Great example. Consider my colleague Bernie Dodge and his work on Webquests. This list could go on and on.

    And one more thing.

    A book list (and this is a nice one) does not a curriculum make. How about practice, feedback, repeated practice over time, and a community? Good programs do that.

    By the way, you mention my old book Training Needs Assessment. I've written two since: editions 1 and 2 of First Things Fast: A Handbook for Performance Analysis.


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