Effects and challenges of using a real-job project approach to teach instructional design and technology
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Developing a responsive training strategy has become critical in order to keep professionals secure and competitive in a rapidly changing workplace. The current study investigated project-based learning incorporating job tasks as pedagogical and curricular strategies in an instructional design and technology certificate (IDT) program. The real-job project approach within the IDT program involved participants in the process of actually designing responsive solutions to instructional problems in their job settings. The two primary research questions were: 1) What are the effects of a project approach with the real-job characteristic on trainees’ experience of learning instructional design and technology? 2) What challenges do trainees encounter during the various project stages (project initiation, project development, and subsequent workplace applications)? The study employed a mixed-method and used questionnaires, interviews, documents, and artifacts produced by the participants to answer the research questions. The study surveyed the experiences and perceptions of professionals representing more than 30 business areas and included 11 on-site face-to-face interviews representing 10 business areas. The results showed that the real-job approach is perceived as a fairly effective training model according to the self-report values of appreciation and achievement, although participants’ actual use of their class projects on the job was not common, less than 10%. Class projects served more as a template for participants’ future design work when they returned to their workplaces. The participants also reported an increased appreciation for learning and a greater conceptual understanding of the instructional design process through the real-job project approach. A t-test comparing the real-job project group and the hypothetical project group favored the former group in terms of perceived appreciation, achievement, and application. While this approach allowed participants to increase their sense of ownership of learning and to initiate responsive solutions to their job settings, five elements (project vision, formative assessment, scaffolding, design community, and workplace clients) merit further consideration in order to help trainees develop more successful projects and achieve a greater impact in their workplace. Future research efforts should continue to make an experimental investigation of the authenticity factor and should explore the potential of project-based learning in the online context.