My previous post about Technology Skills for Instructional Designers has prompted some good discussion. Check out Do Instructional Designers Really Need Technology Skills? for my response and more comments, as well as Cammy Bean’s reply, Instructional Designers Tools.

I still think that learning technology skills is a good route to go if you’re hoping to get into instructional design. As Wendy Wickham said, “more skills = more opportunities.” But, based on the comments, this obviously isn’t a universal experience. Sometimes you can get a job without those technology skills, just with the instructional design knowledge. It depends on where you are and what jobs are available.

Two “big skills” seem to be important though: learning technology quickly and using it effectively. These are underlying skills which support the rest of what we do.

Learn Technology Quickly & Independently

Even if you aren’t doing any of the programming for an e-learning course, or aren’t even creating e-learning, being able to ramp up quickly is a crucial skill. To some extent, learning how to learn technology is a literacy skill for everyone, not just instructional designers. But especially in this field where we create learning materials for others to improve their technology skills, you can’t do without the ability to learn quickly and independently. You also need to be able to pick up software and fumble around with it to figure it out for yourself without documentation or formal training; after all, you might be the one creating the training!

I know the list of technology skills I created will be outdated quickly. The technology changes so fast that it’s impossible for it to not become outdated. The pace of change is one of the other reasons teaching yourself quickly is essential.

Use Technology Effectively

Even if you’re not doing the Flash programming yourself, you need to have some idea what Flash is capable of (and what isn’t possible). Even developing face-to-face training, knowing what PowerPoint can do and when it will support learning is important.

Three factors for using technology effectively:

  • When to use technology
  • What technology to use
  • How to use it

Confession time: my decisions about what technology to use are based mostly on just my experience, reading, asking other people, and trial and error. I don’t have a real system for this. This has worked for me, but I won’t promise it will work for you.

Kim Cofino at always learning has written about some systematic ways to choose technology. (She’s writing about middle school classrooms, but I think the technology design models could be applied elsewhere.) If you’re looking for a more organized way to approach technology, check out some of her posts.

If anyone else has a great system for choosing the right technology, I’d love to hear about it. Please add a comment or trackback letting me know if you agree or disagree with the two skills I’ve identified here.

Update: Read all my posts about Instructional Design Careers here.

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5 thoughts on “Two Big Technology Skills

  1. Hello,
    I just wanted to “thank you” so much for your blog!! It has been VERY helpful to reassure me that I am moving in the right direction towards ID. I am a contract trainer that has noticed that often in the areas where I teach there are either not any or non adaquate materials to speak to what the participants need to be able to understand the concepts for the training. While I do not believe that online training is the only way to go (because often folks just “click thru” with out actually learning or retaining any information.) I do know that with programs like Captivate and Dreamweaver one can easily see the education possibilities! I wish that there was a site that I could go to to see some actual examples of what ID looks like. For example something more than just power points but a place where I can go to compare to what I am currently able to do as compared to other IDs out there. If you know of a place please let me know! :~) Also I read about your post about certification as opposted to a degree. I am wondering about that as well because I am was asked recently if I hold any ID degrees and I do not. I just have always done ID, so I too am wodering if one has the experience what are some options? Oh’ one more thing what to do about the dreaded “carpel tunnel” I am open for suggestions. Thanks again!


  2. I think one of the challenges of developing effective online learning is creating something that learners can’t just “click through”; if learners can do that, then it’s our fault for creating something crappy. That isn’t a function of online learning though; I certainly daydreamed through lectures in classrooms, just going through the motions in the physical equivalent of clicking next.

    Edheads is one of my all-time favorite examples of e-learning. No way are you just “clicking through” this content without learning something. Sleep Disorder Relief is a very different kind of project-based learning example. Here’s a collection of e-learning examples (some links may no longer work, since that post is two years old). And here’s another collection and a third set of free e-learning. With all those examples, you certainly should be able to see how your work stacks up.

    If you have experience but no degree, then you should be able to create a portfolio of your work. As you probably saw in that discussion about certificates and degrees, many employers are more interested in your portfolio than your formal credentials. The job market is really rough right now though, so I think it can be a challenge even for people with great experience and degrees.

    As for carpel tunnel, I’m afraid I have no suggestions. I spend about 10 hours a day at the computer but have never had that issue.

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