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Jul 24, 2007


You raise an interesting question. From my experience, I do agree that some level of technology orientation is important. In out business, many times the ID is the person that serves as the conduit between the client and the programmers. The client is just as likely to ask for the extremes you mention (simple to complex) as the ID. An ID with some level of tech can help to filter those request, either up or down in complexity, into "here's what we can do."

Having said that, the level of tech saavy for an ID needs to be mostly awareness. They need an awareness of what the various tools such as Flash can produce and even a sense of the differences in effort between creating a static image, a simple animation, a complex animation, etc.

I do not think it is necessary that an ID can actually use any of the tools. As a matter of fact, I have seen instances where limited tech skills detract from the quality of the ID work. The ID decides it is more fun to try and build an animation, with limited skills, than doing the appropriate.

Rob Stevens
eLearning Director

You noted an excellent point about how some extreme designs blossom from the client, but that the ID often fails to 'steer' those ideas/requests in a more reasonable direction (both instructionally and from a business feasiblity perspective (time and cost)) without seeming unresponsive or combative. It's a subtle but hugely needed skill, especially in the early phases of a project/relationship.

I also agree that the solution is awareness and not (necessarily) expecting all IDs to become practicing programmers. I, too, have seen what can come of (some) designers also wearing a development hat - not to say it's impossible, but expertise usually comes from focused attention and practice over long periods of time, so it's difficult to invest the time/energy required to be really good in multiple disciplines.

With that established, a semi-rhetorical question emerges regarding where that 'awareness' comes from, if not hands-on experience? Again, I'm not suggesting that IDs end up producing the gold version of deliverables. But what about communicating design concepts via quick/dirty/low-fi prototypes mocked up in a tool that requires a few IF-THEN's and variables? How much easier would an ID's 'vision' be able to be comprehended and implemented if the developer had some pseudo-coded version of what was intended? With a little first-hand tech experience, how many half-baked or flawed ideas would be pruned from designs before a client gets their hopes up or a programmer invests the time/energy to figure out that it can't be done (within time/budget constraints)?

Thanks for taking the time to share!

You raise a very important point.

If only the ID can express their thoughts in the form of wire-diagrams or some simple next-back linked mock-ups, it would be very helpful for non-ID members.

Some of the tools will enable non-technical folks to create some quick mockups.

Exactly what Rob mentioned, without compromising on the ID, if this could be achieved that will be a great help in understanding from the ID perspective.

How often have we heard "A picture is worth millions of words"?

Head - Systems Design


You have actually raised an important question.

I totally agree that IDs will have to have technology orientation.

An awareness about programming and technology in general would definitely be a plus for IDs.

A tech savvy ID will be in demand in the coming years.

This is an interesting point...

What kind of audience is this ID writing for? Is it a technical audience who likes to have lots of technical details? Or is it a technical course aimed at laymen?

I have seen some IDs with sound technical skills overkilling the course with so much of technical detail that they forgot the audience are laymen.

Then, there are IDs who make it soooo simple that for technically competent learners, it's like reading nursery rhymes.

I firmly believe that it does not matter (initially, at least) for IDs to have very good technical skills, so they do not forget the audience perspective. If they have to create a course, it is to educate. If it is to educate, the learners would obviously not know the subject beforehand. If you are looking at something with the learner's eye, helps to get the audience perspective.

This is not to discount the good benefits of some vital technical skills. But this in no way tells against an ID, according to me.

What do you think?

Thanks for the post and perspective. You've made an interesting (and unintended, orginally) interpretation on the meaning of "technical skills" in the posting.

I tried to focus my thoughts on *eLearning* ID's, and their ability to understand how WBT/CBT are actually built. I was attempting to claim that not knowing the difference between a WHILE loop and a knot loop hinders an ID (who is creating online training) from designing courseware that is innovative and sophisticated without being too complex (either inherently, or from a time/budget perspective).

You've brought out more of a point related to whether or not the ID is actually a SME (of sorts) on the tech-focused topics for which they may be designing. It's an interesting twist, and certainly a point that deserves attention.

In the fantastic book, "Made To Stick", the Heath brothers talk repeatedly about 'The Curse of Knowledge' - the fact that once we know something, we find it very difficult to remember/imagine what it was like to NOT know it. TCoK makes it very hard for us, as humans, to share our knowledge with others because we cannot vicariously place ourselves in the learner's state of mind. This is a challenge that strikes to the heart of what it means to be a good ID, I think. To not only be able to gather, prioritize, and organize raw content into some instructionally sound structure, but (arguably most importantly) to never forget what it was like to lack the knowledge of the material at hand.

So, while your comment seems to touch upon a tangential theme to mine (one more focused on communication skills and audience analysis), it does bring up a very important point that we (the ID community) too often gloss over.

Thanks again for adding to the richness of the discussion mix!

hey guys,
a good question
An awareness about programming and technology in general would definitely be a plus for IDs.

(product plug/spam deleted)

You make a good point, Jon. Here you're calling upon the ID to learn more of technical aspects so as to be able to veto any client requirements that cannot be implemented with the available technical resources.

But isn't it a part of the ID process to involve tech and other resources so that the feasibility of these features is checked immediately?

IMHO it would be better for tech to be involved from the start, even if for short periods, to define the limits for the ID to flex his or her design muscles.

There's no doubt that being comfortable with what tech can and can't do helps an ID immensely in the design process; but they'll always have access to people who've mastered tech inside and out. And with focused dialogue, they can flesh the thing out. In other words, its leveraging existing resources vs. learning a smattering of tech(useful, no doubt, but how relatively effective?)

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