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IDR: Instructional Design Rut, it can happen to you…


This has been an enlightening past couple of weeks. First, creating the WebQuest and now I am working on a digital story. Digital stories are essentially that: stories created digitally using all sorts of tools. I happen to be using iMovie which is still fairly new to me. The best part of this assignment is that it can be about anything. I happen to be on vacation this week in Kaua’i, so I am doing some investigative reporting into the story of the Menehune.

I am having a lot of fun with this. Somewhere along the line, I forgot about the actual content of what goes into online education, or education in general even. I think what I am grappling with is that I have spent so much time on managing the "container" that we put content into, that I forgot about the content itself. I think I have been in an instructional design rut.
Somewhere between migrating learning management systems, setting up new assessment server applications, and dealing with accreditation and student student outcomes; I forgot how important the actual content is. But when I started working in online education, all I did was create content, primarily because the tools weren’t readily available to let instructors work on their own content. Now that instructors come to me with Powerpoints at the ready, our team’s job has morphed in to "guarding the gate." We provision the online course, instructors load their material, and we make sure things run the way they are supposed to. We used to produce and script videos, make flash games, and really have fun.

I think I have been in an "instructional design rut." That’s not to say the management component of our team isn’t important. In fact it has gotten more complex. We try to work with the instructors to make sure the content is up to snuff, and we also have some talented design chops on our team. We can be doing these sorts of things with our own courses: WebQuests, digital stories, more fun content. Of course, not everything has to be Web 2.0, but weaving those skills in can make for a much more compelling experience for our instructors and students than just loading the textbook publisher’s slideshows into the LMS. Even more so, we can work with our instructors to do this sort of media creation on their own. Back when I started, making web pages was still in the realm of the "web geeks." I sat up late nights fueled on coffee and other chemicals cranking out Perl, HTML, some Java because that’s what it took and people paid me to do it. Now anyone can do this, without the shakes even. So it falls in our (the collective "our"…the ed-techs who are displaced 1990s web jockeys) laps to show people the way: that creating original unique content is not a scary thing. That crafting something like a digital story or setting up a blog can take as much time as writing out the same old lecture notes, but the pay-off ultimately is engaged students, and time saved in answering questions or working the kinks out of classroom management. Maybe I don’t exactly have an answer to this yet, and the whole struggle with competing for time factors in too greatly, but what I’ve begun to realize is that I need to get out of the rut.

If it takes a Kaua’i vacation to do this, then maybe I should travel more.

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