Instructional design and technology is a field that expands the practice of instructional design to encompass technology. Instructional design itself looks at how people learn. Instructional designers may develop, manage and evaluate systems for learning. They create curriculum based on both research and current pedagogy. Technology is used as a means to enhance educational outcomes within this curriculum.
The history of instructional design is much older than the technology it uses today. It arose from the fields of psychology and education. Its beginnings are often traced back to World War II when the military had to train a number of recruits as efficiently as possible. Many people associate the name B.F. Skinner with behavioral psychology, but he also had a role in examining how instructional materials can use questions and feedback to move learners along at their own pace.
One of the foundations of instructional design is a chart called Bloom’s Taxonomy. Published in 1956, it identified different learning objectives and divided them into three domains known as sensory, affective and cognitive. Others built on the work of Bloom, and the work of instructional design theorists flourished in the decades that followed.
Education has always used technology to achieve its objectives, but in the first part of the 21st century, the advent of online learning meant a major shift in approaches to education and pedagogy. Furthermore, technology offers many opportunities that were not available to instructional designers or students in the past, such as the ability to realistically simulate certain learning experiences.
What Instructional Designers Do
Education happens in many different environment. People who work in instructional design and technology do not work only in public or private school classrooms. They might also work in industry, in business or anywhere that courses needs to be designed in a way to maximize learner knowledge. Among the tasks and responsibilities that a professional in the field of instructional design and technology might perform are revising old learning materials, redesigning curriculum, evaluating eLearning curriculum and using technology to create educational resources such as videos and podcasts. They might also gather and analyze feedback on curriculum, train teachers and do research into the intersection of education, technology and pedagogy.
Preparing to Work in the Field of Instructional Design and Technology
Working in instructional design and technology requires expertise in both education and technology and keeping abreast of changes in both fields. People who want to be designers for classes in public or private schools might need some experience as a classroom teacher. Instructional designers may need a degree in a specific subject or in education. Often, a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction is necessary. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts growth in this field given the increasing emphasis on data showing student success and teacher effectiveness.
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Researching and developing curriculum utilizing current technology is a career choice that draws on a number of different skills and interests. The field of instructional design and technology in education offers rewarding opportunities for people who enjoy staying on top of the latest research in both tech and education and using that information to continually improve how people learn.