Thursday, September 25, 2008

Let's Spread the ID Word

One of the biggest challenges the e-learning industry in India faces is a lack of awareness about the industry and instructional design. As a part of the recruitment panel in my organization, I've experienced, first hand, the difficulty in finding and recruiting good IDs and writers.

Manish Mohan has written a post containing helpful resources and tips for aspiring instructional designers. The post is very useful for someone trying to break into instructional design from other careers or straight from college. On the topic of instructional design courses in India, Manish says:

“I am not sure how good the courses in India are. I recommend getting a job
instead. Symbiosis is quoted more often in conversations and so must be gaining
some popularity as an instructional design course. But honestly, as a manager
who has had to recruit for ID, I look for prior experience, and if there is no
prior experience, I look for their core writing skills and ability to learn.
Having a diploma is good but not essential.”

I couldn’t agree more. I strongly believe you can learn much more and better on the job than by taking a distance learning course that only gives you the theories and not the application. In fact I’ll go one step further and state that core writing skills and ability to learn will stand you in better stead than simply taking instructional design courses. I’ve frequently come across candidates with a certificate, diploma, or even master’s in ID, but close to zero writing skills. On the other hand, I’ve recruited several freshers with a strong command over the language, an enthusiasm to learn and above average analytical ability. I’m not saying that the courses being offered are not good. I haven’t seen the material for any of them too closely. What I’m saying is that just the course won’t help. You need to develop some basic skills above and beyond that. The theories and principles behind the strategies being used can be practiced and learnt on the job. According to me, to be a good instructional writer and designer, you need to have the following skills at the very least:

  • Strong writing skills
  • Effective communication
  • Logical and analytical ability
  • Enthusiasm for learning new things

It’s not that we don’t have enough talented people, the problem is that they are hardly aware that such an avenue exists. In most interviews with candidates who have no exposure to e-learning, I end up spending a chunk of the time explaining what the job of an instructional writer or designer actually entails. Most people I talk to tend to confuse it with content or technical writing. It may have some connections depending on the subject matter of your courseware. But, otherwise they are miles apart.

With e-learning becoming more and more accessible to people in India, people are sitting up and taking notice of this learning medium. Distance learning, which until recently meant couriering booklets of notes and assignments, is fast turning into synchronous and asynchronous e-learning modules. If people start engaging in e-learning as consumers, they may also want to become producers. And, now, with several big names entering into the e-learning domain in India or setting up their own e-learning training departments, things might change further. Maybe the day will come when people won’t give me the blank look of incomprehension when I tell them what I do for a living.

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