When I meet someone a typical conversation sounds like:
THEM: What do you do for a living?
ME: I’m a training consultant. I design training – primarily for law enforcement.
THEM: Oh, so you do physical training programs?
ME: No, I design their other training like investigation, interviewing etc.
THEM: So you’re a cop?
ME: No, I’m an instructional designer. I have spent years studying how adults learn. I work with subject matter experts to design training. It’s their job to provide the content and my job to figure out how to teach it.
THEM: Oh, I get it. That’s really interesting.
ME: Yes it is. I love it!
This is a typical conversation when I meet anyone, but I also have this conversation with instructors, trainers and others in law enforcement. I got in to this field the same way everyone did, I was a subject matter expert hired in to a training unit. When I first started I had a lot of ideas on how to improve our current training programs, and I received a lot of positive feedback when I facilitated sessions, but I had no idea how to actually design and develop training.
What do you do when you need to develop a new skill? You sign up for a course. I loved working in training, so I decided to pursue a university certificate in adult education. I was excited for that first course because someone was finally going to explain how to do this job. Instead it was 3 days of, “you can do it this way, or that way, or this way.” The course gave me more ideas and great examples but I left even more confused than I was when I arrived. As I continued to work through the program (and then on to a second university certificate and now a Master’s in Education) I realized that this level of education provides the foundation of theories and methodologies, but it’s up to you to figure out how to apply all of this to your environment. Eventually, through practice, guidance, and lots of feedback I figured out how to design and develop training.
The challenge of instructional designers is to establish ourselves as a profession. If this was a recognized profession, the conversation I have with people when I meet them would be much shorter. For most people when you ask them what they do the response is one or two words, e.g., teacher, police officer, engineer, accountant. For all of those jobs there is an education or training requirement which must be met, but anyone who knows something can teach or instruct adults. Why is that? The reason is because the world needs their subject matter knowledge. We need these people to share what they know with those that want or need to learn.
The reality is, it is accepted a person needs a university degree to teach children but anyone can teach adults. Recently I decided to divide my business to serve two purposes. I continue to work on contract as a training consultant, advising, designing and developing training programs. I also decided I wanted to help teach subject matter experts how to design training and be effective facilitators because it’s not realistic to expect all subject matter experts to pursue a degree in adult education, and as I stated, it takes more than a degree to be a skilled instructional designer. In addition to presenting at conferences, I developed a 5 module program based on what I wanted when I first started – a process for designing training.
I offered a free webinar on May 18 to provide an overview of the process.
The video can be viewed here