This one's for you, Cammy Bean! Or, is the role of the instructional designer changing?

I've never shied away from my adoration of Cammy Bean and her Learning Visions blog. If you don't know who she is, she describes herself by saying:

I'm Cammy Bean, the author of Learning Visions. My business card currently says "Manager of Instructional Design", but I do a bit of everything. If you're interested, read my current job description.

Learning Visions is my place to explore topics related to e-Learning, including things like web 2.0 technologies, Second Life, wikis, Facebook, and other new tools that can be used for training and development. I attempt to share my experiences with current e-Learning projects and challenges I might be facing. I ask a lot of questions. Like most bloggers, I also tend to write about blogging.

I've been working in the corporate training field since the early- to mid-90's. Most of that time, I've been working for the e-Learning vendors: companies that design and develop e-Learning programs for a wide variety of projects. I've served as instructional designer and project manager on programs for banks, airlines, department stores, consulting firms, construction companies, training companies, and more. These days I work at InVision Learning in Westborough, Massachusetts (USA).

I started blogging in earnest in February 2006. A lot of really smart people were talking about some really interesting things and I wanted in! Every day I learn something new from the blogs I read and from the comments people leave here.

Please join in the conversation and leave a comment on my blog if you've got something to say. Don't be shy!

I think the thing that I love most about Cammy's blog is that she does what I do, and yet, I went to school and earned a Ph.D. that says I'm an instructional designer, and she didn't. I don't know why that to me is so fascinating, but it is. I've often thought that in academia we act too much like we're curing cancer when, in fact, we're not. I think instructional design is something that is a talent. Some can do it without the training. I could. I knew what effective instruction was before I ever took a class. At the same time, however, I also think it is a skill that can be developed. I've told my students for years, "I can teach anyone to hit a golf ball, but Tiger Woods was born to be who he is." I can teach anyone the clinical side to instructional design, and they'll be able to write good behavioral objectives, align it to a proper assessment, etc., but if they don't just *get it*, I can't teach them to.

Well, in my posts Links for 1-26-08 to 2-01-08 and Links for 1-6-08 to 1-12-08 and in my Google Reader Shared Items I've often marked her posts as one's I've found interesting and that I needed to get back to and comment on. Imagine my surprise when I found a comment on my Links for 1-26-08 to 2-01-08 post from her. She said:

Hey there! I’m delighted to see that you’re getting so much out of my non-educated musings on instructional design. I’ll look forward to reading your musings on ID from the other side of the fence. Cammy

At first I thought, "Holy Cow! Cammy Bean came to my blog!" and then I thought, "Geesh, here I'm the academic, and I should 'know it all' and she's a much better thinker about a lot of this than I am." Then I got over that, because, you know, blogging isn't about competition, but rather an exchange of ideas.

So I'm taking Cammy's bait.

Today she blogged about the instructional designer as a consultant. Her basic question is: "Are designers beginning to help others author content? Are IDs starting to serve the role of consultant more than the role of creator?"

The answer, Cammy, is yes. And for us as academics, this is a real concern.

You see, when I went through graduate school, I was in one of the top five programs in the world (at the time), Utah State. The guys with Master's Degrees were getting recruited before they could finish to go work for Arthur Anderson and the like, and they were making $45,000 a year to start with expense accounts. Guys like me with Ph.D.s were starting in the six figure range. (Side note: When I took my first job teaching--in 1999, I had to choose between $36,000 for a nine-month contract and $160,000 a year in the corporate sector. Methinks those days are gone, unfortunately.)

In my EDTC 5203 Foundations of Educational Technology class, we read a point/counterpoint discussion between my major professor, M. David Merrill, master of all things instructional design (and author of Component Display Theory, Instructional Transaction Theory, Pebble-in-the-Pond Instructional Design, and the First Principles of Instruction; frequently lumped with Robert Gagne in the history of the field; major professor to guys like Charlie Reigeluth and Bob Tennyson) and Brent Wilson on the future of instructional technology. In it, Dr. Merrill comments that academia has to make this shift in order to survive. He states that we need to change from training instructional designers to training project managers. We need to train our students to manage those, as he calls them, designers by assignment (those who fell into the role of instructional designer), which is where I assume he would categorize Cammy. I don't necessarily think our academically-trained students will always manage designers by assignment, because good work speaks for itself. In my opinion, I'd take well-designed instruction from a designer by assignment over mediocre instruction designed by an academically trained instructional designer any day. Isn't that what we're all about? It is for me. I only care about effective, efficient, and engaging instruction. I don't care how we got there, just that we do.

So, now that I've gone to San Fransisco by way of New York City in answering Cammy's question, YES. Times are a'changin' for us. And we in academia need to wake up and smell the coffee. It's time to stop teaching such a rigid, systematic approach to design and start teaching it as a fluid process like it is when you "really do it." We need to teach design like Cammy does design. And I, for one, when I teach my next intro class, am going to see if Cammy will conference in with us to talk to our students.

Wouldn't that be cool?

Now let's see if she takes MY bait . . .


  1. [...] Instructional Designer as Consultant? from Learning Visions I think this one inspired one of my longest posts to date: This one’s for you, Cammy Bean! Or is the role of instructional designer changing? [...]

  2. Hey, there's no baiting here! Just conversation among colleagues.

    I do think the reality of instructional design for many of us in the corporate trenches is project management first, ID second. When I started back in the early/mid-90's that was clear from the get go. Instructional Designers at my company had to wear a lot of hats, so to speak: writer, client schmoozer/relationship builder, sales assistant, video producer, project management, and -- yes -- instructional designer. This is still the case, but I don't know if that's largely because of the types of companies for which I work (small eLearning vendors).

    My post on instructional design as spectrum wonders out loud how different it is in different sectors. I can only speak for my own experience, really.

    But some would argue that one needs, or at least certainly benefits from, the solid foundation of academic training in ID. I've done alright without it, but I wonder where I would be if I had a Master's?

    I'd be happy to keep this conversation going in whatever form you'd like it to take :)


  3. [...] commented back on my post about the shifting roles of an instructional designer and said: “But some [...]

  4. [...] thought it was just cool that Cammy had actually come and seen my blog. So I ponied up and wrote my This one’s for you, Cammy Bean! Or, is the role of the instructional designer changing? I began thinking about Cammy and others in her situation who are instructional design practitioners [...]

  5. The Government of Mozambique in its long-term development strategy, defined central goals. The main one is "poverty reduction through labour-intensive economic growth". The highest priority is assigned to reduce poverty in rural areas, where 90 percent of poor Mozambicans live, and also in urban zones. The Government recognizes also that, for this development strategy on poverty eradication to succeed, expansion and improvement in the education system are critically important elements in both long-term and short-term perspectives. pay for essay