Thursday, April 21, 2011

A rose, by any other name...?

There's been an interesting discussion on the TANZ e-learning advisors' forum. Vasi Doncheva, from Northtec, asked forum members about the status (academic or general staff) of instructional designers at the various polytechs which belong to the TANZ group. Judging from the responses, there doesn't seem to be any consistency across (or even within) the polytechs that replied to the query.

Are instructional designers 'academics'? I'd say not, at least within the conventional sense of what an academic is, but at the same time, they are integral to the success of many academic programmes, so perhaps they should be classified as such. Two respondents felt that the fact that they did training as part of their role meant that they should be regarded as academic, which certainly broadens the definition (if there is one) of what an Instructional Designer really is. While we're at it, perhaps we need to broaden the definition of 'academic' too?

Interestingly, there also seems to be a view that instructional designers and e-learning advisors are one and the same. Is this a reflection on the pervasiveness of 'e'-based learning in tertiary courses? Although in my role as instructional designer, I use a range of e-learning technologies and strategies, I see my role as more closely linked to course content and development than that of an e-learning 'advisor'. Am I wrong in this? 

Many of us work in fairly small departments. There's huge pressure on individual staff members to be all things to all people. Does this blur the boundaries of conventional job descriptions; meaning that we tend to be jacks of all trades, with the accompanying risk of being masters of none.