Read what I find interesting about all this and my thoughts about instructional design certification after the jump.You know, as I have started writing about instructional design, I have thoroughly enjoyed the mental exercise of it all. It's been quite fun. However, what has been a real kick is to see some of the comments people have said about it. First of all, I obviously wasn't clear enough in my writing. When I wrote about how theory and practice don't meet in academia, and about how to get an instructional design education without paying tuition, I was speaking directly to Cammy. I said,
"I would argue that if Cammy read this paper (The First Principles of Instruction) , it would be all the “education” she would need as a designer. After all, what is the aim of instructional design? In my book, it is to produce effective, engaging, and efficient instruction. If Cammy can do that without the master’s degree, then more power to her.
So back to her question: where would she be with academic training in instructional design? Probably at the same spot. She may or may not be making the same amount of money, but she would more than likely be in the same spot."
But as I said, obviously I wasn't clear. Karl Kapp wrote that we need a degree in instructional design and said,
John Curry wades in with an academic perspective but then backs off and concludes that by reading one single paper by Dr. Merrill that one can become an instructional designer.
So I don't know if I wasn't clear, but I don't think I ever said that, and I don't know if Dr. Kapp has read the entire conversation between Cammy and me, but I think his comment is an oversimplification and misinterpretation of what I said.
You see, I agree that we need an education in instructional design. What I'm not sure of is if a person needs a master's degree in instructional design to be an instructional designer.
I've been in this field for around eleven years, which I agree isn't very long, but as long as I've been around I've heard the back-alley conversation about how we need some sort of certification as an instructional designer. A cursory Google search shows the following: Darryl L. Sink & Associates, Inc. offers two tracks for certification; there are seven (SEVEN!) different certifications issued by Langevin Learning Services (but I can't get their URL to open); the Center for Effective Performance says you can gain all the skills needed to become a Certified Instructional Technologist; Washington State University issues a certificate in instructional design; Indiana University has a certificate in Instructional Systems Technology; Western Governor's University has a graduate certificate in Instructional Design; University of Massachusetts at Boston has a graduate certificate in Instructional Technology Design; Cal State Fullerton has their Instructional Design Technology Certificate; the Illinois Institute of Technology has a certificate in Instructional Design; Regent University says if you complete their online BlackBoard training, they'll send you "a Regent University Online Instructional Design Certificate and gift"; Lloyd Reiber, Rob Branch and the bunch from the University of Georgia have started professorsofinstructionaldesign.com, and they have three different levels of certification, and ASTD even has their own certificate and workshops.
I also found a number of people who say they are certified instructional designers, but I still don't know what that means.
I just don't understand why this seems to be so hard for our field to get together on this. If you look at the list above, you've got UGA and Indiana, two of the top academic institutions on board with some sort of certification, you've got one of the professional organizations in the field, ASTD, with certification (why isn't AECT in this mix?), and even ISPI has the Certified Performance Technologist. It's not like their isn't a precedent here.
But then comes the question: who's in charge? Who gets to say what is involved and how do you get everyone else to buy-in to the whole thing? Continuing the conversations with Cammy, what does someone have to know or be able to do to be a certified instructional designer? Is the ADDIE model the minimum requirement? What about the Nine Events? Do they have to know the difference between behaviorism and constructivism? Do the five domains of the definitions of the field have to be represented (Design, Development, Evaluation, Utilization, Management)? Or do they just have to be able to produce good instruction? And what is the definition of good instruction that we can all agree on? If you look at the criteria for the above listed certifications, most of them (not all) have less instructional design instruction than my undergraduates get in the preservice technology course.
I think this is an important conversation we need to have as a field. I think there will always be the need for our graduate programs, but as we all know, there are plenty of people with a graduate degree who couldn't design their way out of a paper bag, and yet, there are also plenty of people like Cammy who can do it without the degree.
If we are to continue to survive as a field, we have to answer this question: what makes an instructional designer, and when do they become one?