Instructional Design is Not Interface Design
|Note that neither is really about picking good colors.|
Which in educational technology is actually kind of a problem. I didn't realize it was an issue until a few years ago. I used to tell people that instructional design and interface design are at their core the same thing. That was pretty naive on my part, but it was based more on practical observations than graduate-level research, so I don't feel too bad about it. At the end of the day what I saw most instructional designers doing was helping people build learning experiences that were intuitive for learners to work through. Get rid of weird navigation, structure the content with a natural flow, don't use ugly fonts. Stuff like that. Building an intuitive, elegant workflow that doesn't trip people up and lets them focus on what they're trying to accomplish. Learning interface design.
|Image searching for "instructional design" is disheartening.|
See, learning is different than learning management (don't get me started on "LMS", it's a term I've always hated but never bothered to change). If you're just managing your learning experience then yes, by all means, focus completely on optimization. Log in, get stuff done and close that browser tab as quickly as possible. But if instead you're trying to facilitate learning then you need to be concerned with more than just saving someone time. Learning requires conflict, it involves running up against differing opinions and joining unexpected discussions and trying to overlay acquired knowledge in new and possibly confusing arenas. None of that is very clean or streamlined.
Good instructional design isn't about getting to the nugget of information and then getting out without too many clicks, even if that is most of what I'd seen early-on working with schools. Really good instructional design would actually try to surface social interactions that would be beneficial for the learner to engage in -- even if they weren't intending to participate in them when they first logged in. Even if they weren't really in the mood. Even if it meant noticing the interface.
|Calvin taught me a lot about learning in social settings.|
Anyway, something to think about if you're ever in the business of designing educational technology.