Sunday, June 3, 2012

Instructional Designers: Think Like a Software Developer


Lately, I have been a little obsessed with speeding up the instructional design process. As I am sure many of you have also experienced, I have grown frustrated with the gap between how much learning is needed and how much learning can be designed using existing methods and resources.

Though I do not expect (nor will I seek) additional resources, I have been doing a lot of reading on software development methods. No, let's not go crazy here. I have not been reading about how to write code, but about development methods. My goal is to learn from what good software developers do...and that is to ship code fast. I owe a lot of this thinking to Theresa Welbourne's work on FAST HRM in which she has argued that HR professionals need to learn from AGILE programming to speed up development cycles of anything from launching a new compensation program to a new HRIS system. She has even conducted research that shows evidence that business partners in organizations prefer speed to accuracy. 

Of course, speed *and* accuracy is preferred, but that is not always possible. So if a choice must be made, speed should be chosen. And if you think about how software is released, bugs are a part of the game. No software is perfect. It comes with bugs. But that's OK, because talented software developers, using sound processes, listen to user feedback and update the software to fix bugs and enhance features. 

So I ask myself, why can't instructional designers think like software developers when they design and release new training courses? After thinking about this question, I start thinking, "how" can an instructional designer think like a software developer?  What methods that software developers use can instructional designers use to design, develop, and implement learning designs? 

In my research, I am finding methods that could be useful, and I am drafting a more complete blog post on the subject. I think this could be a great topic for a conference session at Learning 3.0 and ASTD Techknowledge. I expect to write this post in early June, so stay tuned. 

Comment below if you think there is a need to speed up the instructional design process.

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