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March 24, 2009

Vetting (or filtering) information

I stumbled on this great piece from the Bottom-Line Performance blog that I think is worth sharing (and it's certainly something I focus on a lot in my training librarian workshops):

"The challenge for instructional designers is no longer finding some relevant information on an obscure topic. Wikipedia does that for us. The challenge becomes identifying the most important content, the facts and information that will best support the performance the organization needs to drive business results. Ruth Clark tells us that people learn more from a short description of how something works than from a longer description of how something works. Learning professionals can weed through the nice to haves and create a program that best meets the needs of the business and the learner."

The irony here is that we've been talking about this for a long time in libraries (that our worth in libraries going forward will be more on what we exclude, what we filter out, than what we include).* Here it is again, but in the context of instructional design. I'm definitely in that camp - that to remain relevant we need to make this paradigmatic leap - both as librarians and as instructors/instructional designers. Less IS best!

* I was first exposed to this idea in John Sealy Brown and Paul Duguid's book. Well worth a look:

March 13, 2009

Gorilla Approaches to Instructional Design

I just got off the phone with a librarian from major state university who is bringing me in for a half-day workshop. Given what she called a "catastrophic" economic situation in her state and university it became clear to me that I could not do a business-as-usual approach to teaching instructional design to librarians.

I talked her through 3 different approaches that focus on quick, effective approaches to designing library workshops. The intent is not to freak out the participants with a design process that would bog them down and cause them even more stress and demands on their time.

Here are three approaches that I recommended. Perhaps they will be useful to others thinking about how to get the most bang for the buck in these difficult financial times where everybody is stretched to the n-th degree.

Approach 1:

Focus on meeting discipline-agnostic instructional needs that span the library. For example:

- novices finding 3 scholarly articles using Academic Search Premier,
- grads finding a known item from a citations,
- undergraduates assessing whether or not an article is considered scholarly or not

Assign small teams one need each. They are expected to go through the full instructional design process, including developing the lesson plan, visuals/handouts, and exercises. Each need should translate to one – or two – discrete modules (10-20 minutes). Make these available with the expectation that all the librarians will be able to plug these modules into their classes with minimal adaption. This leaves each librarian with only a segment of their class that they will have to design on their own.

Approach 2:

Focus on individual mastery over a few, key steps in the instructional design process. Fill in the rest of the process using your current design approach. The areas I think have the most impact and are most worth focusing on are:

- Step 1 – Needs Assessment
- Step 4 – Filtering Content
- Step 6 – Task Analysis (although greatly abbreviate)
- Step 12 – Teaching Methods (also abbreviated)

Approach 3:

Facilitate/encourage/nurture a change in mindset in how we often approach teaching in libraries; give library instructors some concrete tools they can immediately implement to make their classes more effective.

The focus would be on these kinds of questions:

- What is information overload?
- How do we contribute to it?
- What are ways to structure our classes so that students learn what we want them to learn and avoid being overloaded and frustrated?

This is a more light-weight approach that mostly just focuses on step 12. Combining this with Step 1- needs assessment - would be a good combination.