Preparing instructional designers for the realities of the business and industry workplace
Lechner, Thomas Reed
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This study explores the gap between the educational preparation of instructional design students and the competency demands of the contemporary business and industry sector workplace. The overarching purpose of this study was to provide instructional design faculty with an inventory of contextually detailed ID competencies from experienced instructional designers to use in ensuring a greater alignment between the learning objectives targeted within the curriculum of instructional design programs and the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and intentions that are expected to be practiced in the workplace. Ten instructional designers, with an average of 11 years working in the business and industry sector, were invited to participate in this study to: (1) identify what knowledge, skills, and attitudes are critical for success as an instructional designer in the contemporary business workplace, and (2) what strategies instructional design practitioners would use to prepare students for the realities of the ID workplace. A qualitative research interview method called the Critical Incident Technique was utilized to enable instructional designers to provide rich descriptions of the critical instructional design competencies they feel contributes to their success and/or failures as an instructional designer. However, the Critical Incident Technique was not successfully used in this study, and therefore it was abandoned in favor of a more general qualitative interview approach. Asking participants to take the perspective of an Instructional Design instructor proved to be particularly useful in obtaining participant ideas about how to better prepare instructional designers for the realities of the business and industry workplace. In respect to the competencies identified as most critical for success as a business and industry instructional designer, participants discussed in greatest frequency and detail the need for instructional designers to adroitly navigate the tricky terrain of SME Relations and Client Relations. These interrelated competencies were also the areas where participants were most emphatic about the gap between the realities of their practice and the academic environment. In response to this gap, participants talked about the importance of involving alumni and other graduates in co-teaching classes, serving as mentors, and supervising internship programs. Participants also recommended using a variety of simulations and role-playing in the educational preparation of instructional designers to prepare them for the sometimes unpredictable realities of the job.