Shel22’s Weblog

Short Paper 2: Changing roles of educators
November 10, 2008, 11:08 pm
Filed under: Short Papers for CCK08 | Tags:


My point of emphasis is that of an independent instructional designer, instructional Design as the systematic process of creating a learning output making use of a variety of delivery channels to meet a defined outcome agreed with a client. The task range is wide from needs analysis, tech specification documentation to areas as broad as game, simulation and test design to helping follow-through learning happen within organizations.              


The role of ID for many of us has changed greatly. Early days and technologies allowed mechanistic, dull looking, formulaic page-turning particularly in elearning.  The tide of new ways of thinking about what makes good design, advances in cognitive and brain science, research and debate and new theory on the nature of learning, intelligence, and knowledge has forced a constant examination of what the role must strive to do.  Web 2.0 has engendered the biggest shift.  Not only do IDs now have access to better resources, people, and tools, they are now challenged to use this content and community in their relationship with and product design for learners. Brown and Adler (2008) write that the most profound impact of the Internet is its ability to support and expand the various aspects of social learning, contrasting the traditional way of looking at knowledge and learning ‘I think therefore I am’ with the social view of learning ‘We participate, therefore we are’. So the challenge of keeping abreast in ID requires at a minimum competencies in widely diverse areas from writing audio for pod casts to simulation and game design, but it is the community and social learning element that is the real change to be taken into consideration and included in desired outcomes.  


Constantly upskilling in an ever widening range of areas is not possible, the response is a multi-disciplinary team highly specialized. As for social learning, ID must decide on the implications of this aspect for learning, become competent with the tools and creative with the possibilities of their combination. So, ID must participate in social learning experimentation, joining communities of practice, ‘learning to be’ within these social learning spaces, monitor progress, effects, and implications for learners.   


There are many impediments to change. They include limited knowledge and experimentation in the new technologies for both vendor and client and a factory type model of production of learning that limits creativity and scope.   


There is a frequent lack of debate about the nature of the learning interventions required.  The traditional model of learning holds sway and is made evident in the e-learning production process whereby, a hand over of content [document, brochure etc.] assumes a process of transformation or republishing into a different medium by ID. As Geoff Mulgan writes in Connexity Revisited (2004) for all the talk of the network economy, most businesses are organized as fairly tight hierarchies.  This hierarchy means that that by the time ID comes into the picture on a learning solution, the creative direction may already be decided on, not to be revisited easily. This tight hierarchy is reflected in a production model that often once kicked off does not allow revision or change of scope.  In a question posted by Elliot Masie in, What changes in Learning Strategies is your organization planning for 2009? It’s notable that in the 20 comments posted, the term Learning 2.0 appears once, Communities of Practice once and Collaborative Spaces once. This is still, uncharted waters for many vendors and clients.   


Issues of privacy, power and control also raise their heads.  Many technologies are blocked or unavailable.  This may even be at a basic level, e.g. audio and video.  


Elearning is frequently an externally sourced service, seen as limited in scope and meeting a short term need. The finish line is seen as the end of the program. Questions on  how learners will transfer what they’ve ‘covered’ in the course into their work life or an examination of factors that might ensure they do, doesn’t often fall into the realm of the external ID.  Research suggests that these issues may even be more important than what’s contained in the learning program.  Newstrom’s (1983) survey of trainers listed a serious of barriers including ‘lack of reinforcement on the job’. 


How can we change what we do? A walk on the wild side?

Learners in large organizations will always be given specific learning aims to achieve. Learning will always be structured to some extent. Educators will always have a range of function as George Siemens describes in the session on Curatorial Teaching, compiling good structure, facilitating and mentoring people, encouraging, helping and so on and ID fits into that structure.  But we must offer learners at least the experience of social learning and participation.  To do this, I suggest a national or international holiday from all formal learning programs. This is a fallow period to render the future more fertile.  During this time, no official learning with specific learning outcomes will be delivered.  Titles of educators would be revoked for the period.  Learning sentinels replace the above. Their priority to expose people to the role of their own personal agency in learning in order to become autonomous, self-led learners, competent in a range of digital tools relevant to their goals.  As George Siemens said in discussion week 9, we need to redeem the notion of individual context and agency. This is what the sentinel would protect during this brief learning holiday.  No prescription in most matters but learners might look at the Top 100 tools for Learning 2008 for suggestions.  The expectation is that all participants would ultimately create and design a personal learning environment that they share, exchange and evolve with colleagues.  The sentinels operate as modellers on this task seeding and encouraging participation with the various communities of practice and networks. Nancy White [2008] in the recent Elluminate session talks about a variety of activities for participants, usefully participating, finding and creating content, expressing identity, being in and using communities and networks. This period is used to attempt to grow the open participatory learning ecosystem, Seely Brown and Adler talk about.  By taking this break in the structured learning curriculum, we prepare better for going forward, it is as they say in french ‘reculer pour mieux sauter’.   



John Seely Brown and Richard P. Adler (2008). Minds on Fire, Open Education, the Long Tail and Learning 2.0, Educause Review, January February 2008


White N.  (2008).  Nancy White in Elluminate Discussion for CCK08 with Stephen Downes moderating.


Hart J. (2008). Top Ten Tools for Learning 2008. Retrieved November 9th, 2008, from


Masie, E (2008). What changes in Learning Strategies is your organization planning for 2009? Retrieved November 9th 2008,  from


Calhoun W. Wick, Roy V. H. Pollock , Andrew McK. Jefferson, Richard D. Flanagan (2006),

The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning: How to Turn Training and Development Into Business Results, Pfeiffer, A Wiley Imprint.


Mulgan, G (2004) Connexity Revisited, Demos.


Newstrom John W. (1983) – please note I could not get access to this survey of trainers or the related document, so my reference is based on reading about it in above source and web enquiry.


Siemens, G (2007). Curatorial Teaching, George Siemens in Elluminate session, September 18th, 2007


3 Comments so far
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What a great post Shel. I liked the scope of this post and was very impressed by the French. I translated ‘sauter’ as leap rather than jump. I think what you are proposing is an exciting leap of imagination and practice.


Comment by Keith Lyons

[…] Elsewhere a number of course members have completed Paper 2, including Tom’s serialisation, Maru (and her delightful context paper), Grant, Jon, Jcrom, Steve, Jorgan. Shel […]

Pingback by CCK08: Week 10 Wild Flower Garden « Clyde Street

Thanks Keith for kind comments. How do we get large organisations truely interested in such leaps? Perhaps recessionary period will bring enthusiasm for doing things differently. But most recessions haul in conservatism in ideas, i think. Shel

Comment by shel22

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