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Choosing our Future

Brent G. Wilson University of Colorado at Denver

Contribution for a chapter titled The Future of Instructional Design and Technology, by M. David Merrill and Brent G. Wilson. For inclusion in: R. A. Reiser & J. V. Dempsey (Eds.), Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River NJ: Merrill/Prentice-Hall, 2005.

Recent years have seen significant growth in the field of Instructional Design and Technology (IDT), but at the same time a splintering of effort and loss of control over research and professional activity. Everyone, it seems, is doing research and development related to technology and learning, across: Settings: K12, higher education, work, home, entertainment Players: IDT specialists, educational specialists, researchers in other fields, and untrained enthusiasts. The surge of interest is indicated by the proliferation of professional organizations and journals devoted to its study. Growth, even with the accompanying pains, is generally welcome because it provides energy, new ideas, and attention to innovations. Often, however, a snazzy new technology becomes the sole focus, not the ideas or innovative uses that lead to improved learning. After many hard lessons, we have learned this much wisdom in the field: uses of technology must be considered within the context of learning effectiveness; otherwise the technological innovation becomes a kind of fetish with near-magical powers on its own. And even learning outcomes need to fit within the values of a larger society. In the midst of ongoing change, it can be difficult to gauge where we are now and where we are headed as a field of study and professional community. The purpose of this

contribution is to reflect on possible futures for IDT, considering lessons from our history, current needs of practice, and trends inside and outside the field. Historical Influences Historically, instructional design grew out of educational psychology and became integrated with instructional technology (Dick, 1987; Reiser, 2001). Key to this merger between designers and technologists was a broad view of technology that included "soft" or process technologies such as procedures, models, and strategies intended to achieve defined educational outcomes. This allowed instructional designers who saw their efforts largely as an implementation of learning principles to bring their work into line with instructional technology, and use technology-based environments as laboratories for their designs. Today, many academic programs in IDT continue an affiliation with educational psychology programs within a college or school of education. Its good to have the focus on learning and the scientific grounding that educational psychology provides. Over a period of a generation, however, IDT has become more focused on training and adultlearning settings, with a greater concern for human performance in work environments. Some tension between K12 and adult-learning orientation will likely continue into coming years, but a defining feature of IDT as a field has been its intentionally broad focus across learning settings. Also over the past ten years, the learning sciences have become an alternative to traditional IDT research agendas. The small but growing number of learning-sciences graduate programs are marked by: a stronger cognitive-science focus; more attention to prototype tool and environment development often more attention to basic theory and research. Compared to the learning sciences, IDT programs give more attention to practitioner concerns of use design principles and practices alternative, non-psychological bases for theory development. In the eyes of many IDT leaders, learning-sciences researchers enjoy higher status because of their closer access to fundamental cognitive science. This may be good or bad, depending on ones point of view. My preference is to value the diversity of IDT and forego the sole dependence on psychology as a foundational discipline. In any case, the growth of learning-sciences programs demonstrates the continuing core importance of educational psychology and learning-theory principles to learning technologies. Where We Stand Now In many respects the IDT community stands at a crossroads as we choose to respond to outside influences. Early-generation leaders such as Robert Gagn are gone, although

some theorists continue as bridging figures, notably David Merrill and Don Ely. A number of threats to coherence in the field persist, briefly summarized below: Loss of control from growth. The splintering of professional organizations and journals is part of a success story, but makes it difficult to track general trends and theory developments. Encroachment from related fields. More researchers with roots in other fields are engaged in IDT-related work, obviously those from the learning sciences but also from any field with a stake in education and training. Constantly evolving technologies. Emerging technologies inevitably spawn devotees and new models, leading in turn to new clusters of specialization and community. Setting-specific focus. Researchers interested in specific settings and populations (e.g., K12 versus corporate) typically set research agendas specific to those settings. Eventually this can lead to a pulling away from general principles of IDT. Expanded performance concerns. Informal learning and workplace performance have pushed the boundaries beyond instruction and opened the door to a myriad number of relevant influences, from organizational development to ergonomics. Competing paradigms. Educations fragmenting is mirrored within IDT, most clearly in the ideological split between IDTs "instructivist" and "constructivist" camps, sometimes exaggerated but recurring in different forms. "Difficult" knowledge base. IDT knowledge is hard to capture into specific rules and theories. Education generally is the "hardest science" (Berliner, 2002) because the systems under study are so contingent and dynamicknowledge and skills required for effective practice tend to be extremely sensitive to local conditions. This is surely true for IDT professionals seeking to design and use learning technologies and resources. Two Roads Diverging I can imagine two responses to the many threats to the field. One would call for a focusing and sharpening of our ambitions, our beliefs, and accepted methods and practices. A second response would encourage a continued openness in ideology and method, while striving toward a set of common goals and ambitions. Trying to avoid a caricature (because I fully support the second response), the two responses or "roads" are summarized in Table 1 below. (Professor Merrill, as a noted advocate for the first road, can correct me if Im wrong about this portrayal.) Table 1 Two roads toward the future of instructional design and technology (IDT).

Road 1: Strait and Narrow Road 2: Broad and Inclusive Goals Designing and using technologies/ resources to improve learning and performance Pretty much the same as Road 1

Core Models and Ideas Such as: ISD learning theory instructional theory technology-mediated learning Value a similar core as Road 1, but maintain flexibility and a commitment to pluralism in ideology and theory base Always be open to change in the canon and entry of new ideas and models Sources of New Ideas Science (primarily educational psychology and the cognitive sciences) Original thinking on instructional problems Professional practice New technologies Same items as Road 1, with greater attention to professional practice and: Other sciences such as sociology and anthropology Other professional practices (e.g., management, leadership, commerce, communications, information systems) Humanities (e.g., philosophy, cultural studies, politics) Methods of Inquiry Established research methods, particularly experimental designs Full range of reasoned inquiry, including: Qualitative and quantitative methods Design/developmental research Action research Documentation of best practices Local and applied research (e.g., program evaluations; product evaluations; performance and needs assessments; usability studies; policy studies; cost-benefits and resource analyses; strategic planning; case descriptions of professional practice) Methods of Sharing Emphasis on established refereed outlets Established refereed outlets plus: Web-style self-publishing and sharing Conference-style forums online and face-to-face

Water-cooler meetings and communities of practice Methods of Work Apply methods and technologies known to work through research and validation studies Validate local solutions via systematic tryout and revision Plus: Locally developed solutions, both quick-and-dirty and validated Local methods reflecting a value consensus of workers, clients, and sponsors Going beyond established rules with professional commitment and craft-like attention to detail Language Use precise language with technical, theoretical meanings More fluid meanings: use technical and theoretical terms, but be open to multiple meanings, figurative uses, and new, ill-defined terms and descriptions Membership Tighten up the boundaries to ensure expertise Encourage strong credentialing, certification requirements Maintain semi-open boundaries to encourage cross-field dialogue and provide a quality check on expertise Risks Resistance to positive change Increasing lack of fit with real problems of practice Lack of resilience to changing external conditions Loss of core constructs needed to establish identity Inefficient, redundant overlap in agendas and models Lack of common metric for establishing value among competing descriptions Internal disputes that threaten coherence Potential Benefit Substantial progress on a narrower agenda Good chance at finding innovations to adapt and move forward

Note that both roads share a common goal of understanding and supporting effective instruction and appropriate use of learning technologies. This level of common purpose is needed to maintain a level of coherence in both roads. Either road carries some risk for the future. Intransigent insistence on a tightened view of the field, as illustrated in Road 1, could lead to hardening of the arteries and, over time, an increasing irrelevance to problems of practice. Likewise a broadly tolerant, anythinggoes future could weaken the center and reduce any specific advantage to belonging. The upside potential is also different for the two roads. Road 1 would likely lead to substantial progress in certain key areas such as development of automated design tools; effective procedures for replicable designs; and validated learning control for targeted objectives. These are extremely valuable outcomes and, in the case of tools particularly, could change the way we work. Road 2 could also see progress along these same lines, but it would have to share the limelight with other advances. These are harder to forecast but could include: improved methods of documenting and sharing practitioner expertise; assimilation of ideas and methods from related fields; and better attention to the learning needs of the whole person. Road 2 would result in a more diverse array of research accomplishments, and a similarly diverse set of tools and models useful in field settings. Overall, I support efforts to define the field in fairly eclectic, inclusive terms. This may be partly because I so often find myself at the margins of conventional thinking, but the stance is not altogether self-serving. In general, open systems are able to adapt and survive better than closed systems. Out of this "free market" of ideas and methods, positive innovations are more likely to be noticed and nurtured, which will in turn assure our relevance in the future. In short, we need to be open, inclusive, and innovative, while at the same time grounded in core ideas and pursuits to preserve a common identity. There will always be some measure of discomfortas well as belongingwithin a professional community, but room should be made for a variety of perspectives and infusion of new ideas. Foundations of a Broad-Road IDT I have been arguing for a broader conception of an IDT knowledge base, but what exactly does that mean? This section outlines a sample of foundational ideas we can and should draw upon when addressing challenging problems of practice. These foundational items are presented to remind us of the breadth and extent of our current knowledge base. Media studies. What impact do various media have upon learning? What mechanisms and processes are at play? IDT includes a long tradition of comparing media; examining media literacy; critiquing media impact; and using media integration as a means of teaching reform. Systems thinking. Systems thinking is evidenced in a variety of ways. Instructional systems design (ISD) has long been a driving metaphor that has helped keep the field together. The underlying idea is that changes in instruction need to be carefully planned

out and developedand moreover, tested and validated through careful assessment of outcomes. The very process of instruction has been defined in terms of systemic interaction between teacher and learner subsystems (Merrill, 1968). Reigeluth (1995) and others have helped show the series of nested systems within which instruction happens. Complexity theory continues to contribute to our understanding of adoption and change processes, and networked learning communities. Technical/efficiency stance toward curriculum development. Tylers (1949) objectivesdriven approach to curriculum design is known as a "technical" or "efficiency" way to think about curriculum (Kliebard, 1987). This curriculum stance is deeply entrenched in IDT thinking. ISD models are closely related to alignment principles between objectives, activities, and assessment; and to rational-planning models of problem solving and curriculum development. It feels somewhat strange to observe, after years of resistance, a resurgence of these ideas inAmerican public education through the standards movement. Workplace environments are seeing similar attention to these principles through learning management systems (LMS), which aid in the tracking of learning goals, objectives, activities, and assessments. Design thinking. Near the core of IDT is a prescriptive stance, a valuing of design principles to help solve learning and performance problems. Seeing practitioners as designers of solutions creates value in these activities and legitimacy for model development in this area. A design stance also binds IDT to other professional areas such as architecture, computer- and information-systems design, and industrial design. These connections lead us to consider a broader set of variables in the design process, including emotional and motivational influences (Norman, 2004), and aesthetic principles for improving the immediate experience of instruction (Parrish, 2004, in press). Appropriate use. Technology has ascended in prominence not just in education, but in nearly all endeavors. Philosophers and historians of technology urge caution and care in determining appropriate use. Careful analysis can reveal the various affordances and constraints that affect how people receive new tools and innovations. Systemic impacts of an intervention inevitably lead to unintended side effects (Tenner, 1997), suggesting a general stance of caution, humility, and vigilant attention to outcomes. Assessing the true outcomes, intended and unintended, requires designers to look beyond targeted objectives, beyond effectiveness, to consider the "goodness" or appropriateness of an intervention. Learning theories. Theories of learning help us understand whats happening at a deeper, descriptive level when we look at instructional interactions. The variety of metaphors and theories how available can provide insight into why instructional interventions are working the way they do. Learning theories range widely in scope, from informationbased theories of content and structure, to activity-based theories, to those stressing qualitative cognitive change. An overview of the last forty years will show a significant number of innovations in IDT coming directly from new developments in learning theory.

Tech-mediated instruction. The acronyms have evolved from CAI to CBT, to WBL to DL and e-Learning, but the basic idea has remained fairly constant: using technology as a vehicle for delivering instruction. A substantial knowledge base has developed around these efforts, including research on feedback, learner control, lesson structure and sequencing, and interactivity within lessons. Technology use as a means ofchange and reform. Implementing technology can prompt people to take a fresh look at teaching practices. Technology has taken on increasing roles in all phases of instruction, from planning to delivery and assessment. Each point affords opportunities for deeper change in thinking and processes. Reform is what brought many people to an interest in learning technologies, and change processes go hand in hand with technology use. Technologies for performance support. A variety of hard and soft technologies have been designed to help people perform their jobs better. These include models and theories about performance causes and interventions, as well as various support systems such as information-help systems, procedural support systems, incentive and tracking systems, and better designed work tools. Looking Forward: Trends that could affect Our Future Gaming and virtual worlds. Computer games have been big business for more than twenty years, and a growing body of literature relates to game design and larger issues surrounding "new media theory" (MIT Press, 2004). Some of this work has already been applied to education (e.g., Aldrich, 2004; Gee, 2003), but much more could be done to apply gaming and simulation principles to instructional design. Tools for e-learning design and development. A number of theories, including those of David Merrill, Jeroen van Merrinboer, Richard Mayer, and John Sweller, approach instruction from an information-processing perspective that considers optimal strategies for managing cognitive load and effectively teaching key content types such as rules, concepts, and procedures. Because these theories are themselves fairly rule-based, they are promising candidates for conversion to automated tools that specialists and nonspecialists could use in designing lessons. A recent journal issue was devoted to instructional design tools (van Merrinboer & Martens, 2002), energized in particular by projects originating in The Netherlands. Successful development tools will apply sound instructional theories in a practically usable and accessible way. Although on ideological grounds, some constructivists may have concerns about these kinds of instructional strategies, I am very hopeful that research in this area will lead to powerful tools and substantial learning outcomes, which is the bottom line for instructional design. Expanding role for assessment and alternative credentialing. Students build a case for a credential in three main ways: Seat time, formal assessment, and informal field assessment. Anyone hoping to avoid seat time must find a valid, accurate assessment they can pass. This is only one reason why assessment is growing in importance. Another is to hold educational and training systems more accountable for the investment made in them.

In a society that has found a way of measure almost everything of marketable value, education is one of the late responders to the call for accountability. In both education and training settings, the importance of assessment can be expected to grow, along with alternative methods for credentialing expertise. Tools for data management and learning support. Computers are particularly good at keeping track of information and guiding the use of that information for real-time use in solving problems. Learning management systems (LMS) in corporate settings and K12s increased use of data mining for data-drive decision-making are indications that data surrounding learning and instruction will be more routinely available to learners, instructors, and managers. Changing economies. Education tends to be a very labor-intensive, expensive activity, with expert designers and teachers crafting and delivering courses over extended periods of time. Network and presentation technologies have led to renewed emphasis on resource-based learning (Hill & Hannafin, 2001). That is, more attention is given to resource development for e-learning than is true of a typical face-to-face course. Several trends affect the economies in emerging e-learning environments (cf. Wilson, 2002): Incremental accumulation of resources. Class members (including the instructor) devote time to developing resources that are then adopted by a next generation of learners. Global exchange of services. The instructor who is so knowledgeable and attentive of student needs may be working from India and making $5-7/hour. Disaggregation of product. Offerings and services may be un-bundled, with students paying for what they need and value, e.g., community networking; information access; assessment and diagnostics; credentialing. Individual markets may be identified with different pricing structures for different products. Large-scale learning technologies. Learners may lessen their dependence on the instructor through large-scale, self-sustaining learning forums inhabited by 100s or 1000s of learners (Wiley & Edwards, 2002). Communities of practice. Learning happens to individuals, but everyone belongs to some kind of community, and those communities play a large role in shaping expectations for behavior. When instruction breaks down for any reason, people often turn to support communities for help in filling learning gaps and adapting to performance requirements. Consider knowledge workers, such as engineers. Off-the-shelf training may be unavailable for a new technical standard or product specification. A working group may end up researching and sharing knowledge among themselves, in effect co-opting the "instructional" role through their own self-directed and collaborative learning activities. Other times the same group may find a suitable course or tutorial, and send a member off to master the material. In both cases, learning happens within the context of a support group, with members contributing and reporting back to the group. We have only begun to understand how individuals relate to various groups and communities, and how both individuals and communities these make use of learning resources, including formal instruction, to address individual and group learning needs. Conclusion

IDT has successfully established a fairly broad knowledge base, with foundations in psychology and other sciences, cultural studies, and professional practice. Of course the knowledge base is in sore need of further development, but the foundation is there. IDTs challenge in coming years will be in maintaining strong, broad-based grounding for professional practice, with a focus on a select few cohering principles and purposes to keep the field together. To a large extent, we can choose the future we want for ourselves. References Aldrich, (2004). Simulations and the future of learning: An innovative (and perhaps revolutionary) approach to e-learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer. Berliner, D. C. (2002). Educational research: The hardest science of all. Educational Researcher, 31 (8), 18-20. Dick, W. (1987). A history of instructional design and its impact on educational psychology. In J. A. Glover, R. R. Ronning (Eds.), Historical foundations of educational psychology (pp. 183200). New York: Plenum Press. Gee, J. P. (2003). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. New York: Palgrave/MacMillan. Hill, J. R., & Hanaffin, M. J. (2001) Teaching and learning in digital environments: The resurgence of resource-based learning. Educational Technology, Research and Development, 49 (3), 37-52. Kliebard, H. M. (1987). The struggle for the American curriculum 1893-1958. New York: Routledge. Merrill, M. D. (1968, April). Components of a cybernetic instructional system. Educational Technology, 5-10. Merrill, M. D., Drake, L., Lacy, M. J., Pratt, J. A., & the ID2 Research Group at Utah State University (1996). Reclaiming instructional design. Educational Technology, 36(5), 5-7. Retrieved October 15, 2003, from: http://www.ittheory.com/reclaim.htm MIT Press (2004). MIT Press website, section on New Media. Retrieved April 7, 2004, from: http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/browse/default.asp?sid=8B381990-B371-4DF9BCFE-D1B68023530F&cid=12 Norman, D. A. (2004). Emotional design: Why we love (or hate) everyday things. New York: Basic Books. Excerpts retrieved April 7, 2004, from: http://www.jnd.org/books.html

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