The eLearning designer/developer – a dinosaur?

 I originally posted this on the LTUG site (see links) on 29 April 2008

 I am becoming a dinosaur. Some of my colleagues have unkindly intimated that the term ‘becoming’ may have been true a decade ago; and have suggested I delete it and just leave the “am” … OK. I am a dinosaur.

Why? Because I used to I like my job. Now I’m turning into a miserable curmudgeon who bitches and moans about the way things were because I don’t like the way things are going. I guess the dinosaurs felt the same way about the asteroid or whatever it was that blew their cosy reign apart as well.

I’m an instructional designer cum developer cum educational technologist cum LMS administrator. (Multitasking rules in today’s institutional mindset – besides, it’s cheaper than hiring four people). What I used to do was help staff crystallise their ideas as to how their courses could achieve desired learning outcomes more effectively. Using an arcane blend of instructional design modalities, commonsense pedagogical frameworks, engaging activities and interesting assessment strategies, I could work with subject matter experts to develop a robust framework for their courses. As a bonus, I could throw in a navigation system that was reasonably intuitive and worked for students regardless of their learning styles.

Then of course it had to look good, so a bit of DHTML pizzazz, a dash of Spry stuff, some Flash interactivity, embedded Web 2.0 collaborative tools, good graphic design and some customised icons helped to put some tinsel on an already functional Christmas tree. Oh yes, and built-in evaluation opportunities for students to let us know when we were becoming overly precious and forgetting their needs …

And now? The emphasis is changing (at least at my place of work). New policy now dictates a “minimum presence” in eLearning. That is arguably a Good Thing. One would naturally think that learning support services would be boosted to provide the necessary increase in, er, learning support. But the trend that seems to be developing is that designers/developers are increasingly encouraged to turn their energies to talking about their core activities rather than actually performing them.

So now, we run workshops. In just a few hours per staff group we get to introduce overworked teachers, lecturers and trainers to the joys of being an instructional designer cum developer cum educational technologist as well. And we get to mention to them (in passing) that it would be helpful if, in their spare time, they familiarised themselves with WebCT/Blackboard, Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Flash, Articulate, Captivate, Respondus, Wimba Create/Course Genie, Web 2.0 technologies and any other new stuff which may happen to be useful.

My colleagues are right. I am a dinosaur. I believe passionately that specialist support services are essential for quality learning. And I believe that any erosion of those services is a retrograde step that has the potential to reduce quality and unfairly burden teaching staff.

Maybe that’s why going back to private eLearning design consultancy work is starting to look sooooo attractive!

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