Tuesday, 11 April 2017

The Instructional Designer as a Bespoke Tailer

'Instructional Designing is boring!' I often hear many younger teammates complain. The lack of creativity often turns many towards trying out other more creatively-paying jobs abandoning ID by the wayside.
But, I have always disagreed that argument. An ID's job is NOT boring. On the contrary, it is no less interesting than that of a Fashion Designer's or Bespoke Tailor's!
"Training becomes boring without interactivity." This was the very first input I had received when I started off around 14 years back as an ID.
"But, how much interactivity?"
That is a pertinent question to ask especially when you are creating content for classroom training purposes. Because, in a classroom, the trainer is the helmsman who keeps things going. S/he needs to have a grip over the class. If the content is too interactive, the trainer may have a tough job keeping things together. Unless of course it is an outdoor training camp or a theater workshop. Then of course, the approach changes.
Similarly, while developing creative content which could be either, game-based, story-based or audio/video-based, it is important to know your audience and then, think what would work for them before running with a current fad.
Remember that the latest in fashion does not work for everyone. A stylist or a fashion designer would suggest different clothes to enhance the personality of each client. A dress is often designed keeping in mind the demography, body type, age, season, fashion, purchasing power and finally the outfit to make an impact by enhancing the personality of the one wearing it.
Similarly, Creating training content is like high-end or bespoke tailoring. You need to cut the cloth according to the requirement and keep in mind the personality of the wearer. It may not be as glamorous a job as a fashion designer's but, it is very similar. The idea is to cut the cloth according to need.
Many IDs often think that theirs is a very non-creative line of work. They are not thinking out-of-the-box. A good course material always reflects the ingenuity of the Instructional Designer. They are like well-tailored suits. The cloth is cut and stitched to accentuate the wearer's body and highlight their best features while hiding the flaws. Similarly, a well-designed course should also work for the end user by not just being good to look at but, also allowing them to learn and apply the newly-acquired skills at work thus enhancing their career.
If you don't study your end users or recognize their needs, the training content you create for them is unlikely to make any impact on the learner. No matter how creative, interactive, beautiful, knowledgeable your training material, it will only work if it is relevant for the end-user and enhances their skills and boosts their careers. Just like a beautiful but flashy outfit would look out of place on an elderly person but, works wonders on a younger wearer and vice versa.
To be able to make hard-hitting training course, an ID needs to get inside the mind and working life of the end user. The ID also needs to speak to the manager, the customer and the company head honchos to understand what is it the vision of the organization and where does the target audience fall in the scheme of things. As a dress must be designed keeping in mind the need and the occasion when the wearer is going to put it on. A party dress cannot be worn to work.
Then there is the content itself. It pays to remember that a Subject Matter Expert (SME) is NOT an ID. An ID needs to pick and choose the relevant and discard the rest this is very important. It is often difficult for the SME to do so. Not every tailor can be a designer. Can they? But, a fashion designer need not be an expert tailor. Their job is to make their clients feel confident of facing the world in the clothes designed for them.
Finally, the medium of instruction, how will the training be delivered? Will it be on an online platform? Will it be delivered face-to-face? On a mobile phone? As a book or workbook? As a hands-on training? These factors also have an impact on the course design. Each medium needs to be handled differently and an interactivity used in one for the same course cannot be reused in another - at least not without making proper adjustments to make the activity/ game/ story fit in with the medium. As cloths are designed keeping in mind, season, trend, age, lifestyle and many other factors.
If your assessment is correct then your course design solution is definitely going to make an impact on your learners' careers just like a designer dress on a fashionista. At the end of the day both the Instructional and the Fashion Designer help their clients by making them face the world with confidence.
But, don't forget the Jazz. It helps keeping the story moving in the classroom or in a self-learning session.
Happy designing folks!

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