This post is a generalization. Now that I have that out of the way, here I go … I’ve been in the instructional design/technology/etc business for over a dozen or so years and I’ve seen lots of models in place to help people get their teaching, training, and learning materials together. In the corporate space it was a very contract driven approach with Subject Matter Experts (SME) being pushed to provide content by a project manager or instructional designer. In higher education the SME is typically a faculty member and they are typically being pushed to provide content by the instructional designers — a very corporate approach to learning design. It is my thought that this relationship is, in many ways, very unhealthy. I say that only by watching what I see around me in countless course design projects.
Back when I was an instructional designer at the Penn State World Campus I worked with a faculty member to build an online Reliability Engineering course. It was made very clear to me that a big part of my responsibility was to get the faculty member to write and deliver content on some (arbitrary) timeline. I was an Instructional Designer that had been reduced to a content task master. The faculty member on the other hand was an internationally known reliability engineer whom we reduced to the notion of content provider. I can tell you the relationship was contentious at best — for lots of reasons. One of those reasons was that we didn’t find a way to build a professional relationship that centered around us talking about what our areas of focus and expertise was all about. I find it unfortunate looking back on it as I wished I would have taken the time to work to a common ground. I could tell I made him mad and he knew that I loathed his pace in the delivery of the holy grail of eLearning materials — raw content.
How disturbing is that? Raw content … it just sounds insulting, that we would categorize what this man had to offer was nothing more than several written pages of raw content. I am sorry for ever reducing the brilliance of this man’s work into a term so demeaning as that. It is no wonder he looked at me like I was nothing more than a “computer jockey” slinging his prose into some HTML container. What a crock of shit the whole thing was.
After the conversation that broke out here this week about working to see perspectives when we come together I want so badly to offer an alternative approach to what we do in a typical instructional design process, but rarely feel like we have to time to accomplish — work to come together, build a relationship, and trust the passion, energy, and expertise we all bring to the table.
On Sunday I spent some time talking with my good friend and colleague Keith Bailey about how nasty the relationship can get between an ID and a faculty member for this very reason. We work so hard to create schedules and then push faculty to just hand over some content (and we’ll take it from there) that real anger emerges. The question that emerged centered around how do we push through and learn there are many more powerful ways to go about this task?
One I’ll offer is to embrace the notion open content. What I challenged Dr. Bailey with was at the start of the next course his team in the Arts and Architecture eLearning Institute designs is to take the content outline and first go to wikipedia, wikieducator, and other open content spaces and see what exists with the faculty member as a partner. Use that moment to explore what is and isn’t there, to start the conversation about what is different and what is similar about what they discover together. It should lead to a real conversation about why it might make more sense for us to skip designing in a closed space and instead actually using what is available and contributed what we make into these open spaces? If an article about a concept doesn’t exist, construct it collaboratively and contribute it there. The idea of a Creative Commons licensed article is much more powerful than the existing lock down we place on learning materials from within the academy.
Would the overall process of working together to identify existing content and working to contribute new knowledge into the commons lead to an opportunity unlike what our current approaches provide? I’m not sure, but would like to explore that further. Any thoughts?