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I am going to unload on an example of poor instructional design.

One of the first things I learnt while getting qualifications on instructional design was information design. In the design of job aids, for example, the sequence of instructions was critical in getting people to perform tasks correctly and optimally.

Consider this job aid that is emerging in HDB void decks all over the island. It is for the new dual bike rack system. The job aid has a section, Loading Your Bicycle.

Poorly designed job aid on the loading of a bike on the new racks at HDB void decks.

If you compare the images and the instructions under each image, you might notice that they are not congruent. The text tells you how to load a bike. The images show you how to unload one.

I might sound like I am splitting hairs because the sequence of unloading and unloading are essentially the same. However, in the former the bike is already in the upper rack, while in the latter it is not. The illustrations do not make sense and the job aid would have failed at face value.

There are other aspects of the job aid that one could critique, e.g., the poor positioning and inconsistent use of the arrows. For me, this is a clear indication that agencies need properly credentialed and rigorously prepared instructional designers. It does not just matter that something as simple as a job aid looks good. It has to make sense, too.

I will say one thing about the classic instruction deslgn (ID) model, ADDIE, as represented in the graphic below: It is pretty.

It is also pretty misleading. It is oversimplified and thus misrepresents the complex processes in ID.

I have a Masters in this field. ID was also the foundation of my Ph.D. When I was introduced to the ADDIE model, I learnt about its theoretical underpinnings and its practical limitations.

Simplifying ID processes to an acronym and representing them in a graphic is a convenient distillation of complex processes. This is fine if you are doing this as a reflective and visible learning task as you develop expertise.

However, if used purely as an illustrative or teaching tool, the graphic is a shortcut that bypasses praxis (theory married with practice) and application (theory in action).

For one thing, ADDIE is not five main phases in non-overlapping and linear progression. The practical realities of any well-managed ID project should prevent its straight and unquestioned use.

For example, rapid prototyping might see tight cycles of design, development, and testing even before implementation. This not only breaks the linear chain, it also makes evaluation an overarching process that is reflexive and reflective.

Both a beginner and an expert might use ADDIE, but do so differently. ADDIE might be dogma for a beginner; it is a loose and pliable framework for an expert.

Put another way, ADDIE might seem like a good start. The problem is that it can also be a convenient stop if its users do not critically examine each component separately and as part of a whole.

It is one thing for instructional designers to try to summarise what they do with the help of ADDIE. It is another to use the graphic to teach someone how to do instructional design.

I would not presume that abdominal surgery is anaethetise, cut open, dig around, sew up, revive. The surgeon is a professional in whose hands a patient’s immediate future depends and oversimplifying surgery is an insult. An instructional designer is also a professional who has to juggle complex tasks but the returns on these are not obvious in the short term.

ID is not something that you can understand or master over a tweet, no matter how rich and juicy the tweet is. To accept that you can get away with that is lazy thinking. This leads to lazy action and ID, and that in turn to poor instruction and learning experiences.

Please do not oversimplify, misrepresent, or mislead. Not with ADDIE or with anything else.

Oh, and the image is not an infographic. But that is another long story…


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