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Problem solving & analysis

At Athabasca University, I began to explore using analytics as a way to quickly respond to the needs of learners. At work, I need to adapt quickly to changing business needs and resolve issues as they arise. Together, these opportunities have allowed me to identify and tackle a series of process and performance issues head on. 

Learning designers are often sent in to design training to solve a little problem but as they start digging they find out that the issues may not be as simple as everyone would them to be. More recently I have learned that quality analysts, business analysts, data analysts and new media teams face the same challenges.

In one of my MEd courses, I had an opportunity to look in more detail at some of the challenges and issues facing my globally-dispersed instructional design team. Reviewing this assignment almost five years later, I continue to see many of these same challenges and issues almost everywhere I go.

This assignment gave me a reason to look a little more formally at the challenges facing my team. As always, the insight and good ideas floating around surprised me. I have included a concept map of a possible new approach to instructional design. (Step aside ADDIE)  Not only were we able to identify several significant roadblocks to the types of performance gains we’d like to see, we also made headway in creating some actionable plans to improve the impact of our work.

One of those actionable items was the development of the ID Playbook. It is a document that ties together a series of job aids and sets out expectations for content development within our vertical. The ID Process Flow in the middle column is one component of the playbook. Although we originally created this resource to meet the needs of newer instructional designers on our team (see the blog post in the right-hand column), it is now being used consistently by even my most tenured instructional designers to ensure we are not missing any steps in the development process. Thus, completing this assignment has made me a better manager and also improved the performance of my team.

I’ve included a condensed version of the ID Playbook we are now using for download and the complete assignment.

Instructional Design Challenges

ID Process Flow from Playbook


Blog Post: The Three Tricks of Instructional Design

After months of banging my head against a wall, today a realization…

Instructional designers need to learn to both think outside of the box and do as they are told. But there are three tricks:

1. Timing

Analysis and design is all about problem-solving, innovation and solutioning. It’s done best when the status quo with all of its assumptions are questioned.

Successfully bringing any project to completion, however also requires development. It’s best done best when a strong process to manage variation is developed and followed again and again.

The real problem however is that the best solutions become evident about 3/4 of the way through development (when we fully understand the content and have learned a thing or two). No matter the size of the project, the trick is to resist the urge to improve what’s been started, put on blinders and simply get it done – Thank goodness for deadlines!

2. Knowing when to to put the blinders on, and when to take them off.

When do you have enough information to move forward? Maybe one more question, SME meeting or document will offer that extra bit that seems to be missing… You often really don’t knw if you have enough until  you dive into development. When do the problems you are experiencing in development merit another significant crack at design? The trick is to resist the urge to keep the blinders on and hope someone else is paying attention at another switch – Darn deadlines!

3. How to teach the two tricks above – Any suggestions? I’d love to hear them 🙂