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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Instructional Designer as Consultant

Last night I attended a panel discussion coordinated by one of the professors at Queens. The topic was advertising. Since I initially wanted to go into public relations, and I was Publicity Chair for several organizations/groups, I have an interest in advertising and media relations. Therefore, I decided to attend. Although the discussion primarily focused on how the various panel participants did their jobs, I found one gem that I could relate to my new job responsibilities.

Toward the end of the discussion, one student asked how the panel members would handle a client who came in with an idea that they thought would absolutely not work or the client that came in with a "it's my way" attitude. After much discussion, the final verdict was that they worked as consultants only. Ultimately, the client has the right to make his/her own decision. Their job is to listen to the client and provide options. That means they often prepare several packages/choices for the client to choose from.
One participant indicated that his company recognizes that there is the client's idea, the company's idea, and the idea that blends the two (hopefully, the one the client chooses).

The discussion had relevance to how I need to work with the faculty at Queens. My role is that of consultant--which entails building trust on both ends.
The word consultant comes from the Latin word meaning "to discuss;" a consultant today is a professional who provides advice in a particular area of expertise. Like the ad people, it is my job to be familiar with the possible options that faculty have in converting their courses online and to help them develop their ideas. I need to present these options, but be aware that ultimately it is the instructor's decision on which options to incorporate and when.

During the instructional design phase, I work with each faculty member to review the course's learning objectives and consider the following questions:
  • How should content be organized?
  • How should ideas be presented to the learners?
  • What delivery format(s) should be used?
  • What types of activities and exercises will best help learners?
  • How should the course measure learners' accomplishments?
The answers to these questions help create the course structure and lead to appropriate instructional strategies. When I suggest instructional strategies for a course, I am drawing upon not only theoretical knowledge (what I've read) but also practical experience. There are many different ways to sequence and present content to learners. As the panel also pointed out, part of my job is education--educating faculty about what is available to them, the advantages and disadvantages, how to use these resources, etc. Generally, the course's activities and exercises must fit with the type of learning the students' are asked to do (tied to the objectives). The course's assessments should measure the learner's progress toward meeting the learning objectives; therefore they should also fit the learning objectives. Thus, the clearer the instructor is in defining what he/she wants the learner to accomplish the easier it is to choose instructional strategies and assessments.

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