A librarian is often understood as a person who helps students find books and study resources. While this is true, librarians are also professional educators who collaborate with teachers and curriculum managers to design instructional materials that enrich student engagement and the learning experience.
Librarians must often “backward design.” In this process, educators identify desired learning outcomes and librarians use this information to work backward and design lessons and experiences tailored to diverse student populations and educational environments. This area of education is instructional design, and librarians play a crucial role in this field.
In addition to collaborating with teachers and curriculum directors in a systematic design process, librarians who act as instructional designers (IDs) must have a deep understanding of technology, particularly as remote learning grows in popularity. Research shows that the pivotal role of the instructional designers “demonstrated that positive relationships serve as significant supports for enabling school librarians to function as instructional leaders of multiple literacies.”
How Do Educators Acquire Skills to Serve as Instructional Designers?
A Master of Science (MS) in Instructional Design and Technology challenges students to apply theory, research and creativity to various technologies related to information delivery. Graduates of a program like this can pursue careers in the instructional design space, either as librarians or otherwise.
Graduates of the program offered online by St. Thomas University gain skills to foster proactive engagement in learning and exploration, thanks to the following courses:
- Technology to Support Educational Leadership emphasizes curriculum development and planning for technology-based administrative and instructional uses and provides the opportunity for hands-on activities.
- Introduction to Instructional Technology provides students with an in-depth overview of the history, critical issues, emerging trends and key concepts in instructional technology.
- Technology Integration focuses on designing projects that support instruction in language arts, math and science, foreign languages, social studies, music, art and other subjects.
- Multimedia Design and Development develops students’ understanding of instructional design principles in desktop publishing, digital media and other fields.
Graduates receive the skills to assume integral positions in designing instructional materials and apply innovative technologies to support students in numerous learning environments.
Why Do Instructional Designers Need Technical Expertise?
Modern learning environments now include face-to-face, hybrid and online classrooms, which require professionals in the instruction design space (or those who use instructional design practices) to develop expertise in various technologies and online platforms.
As more students turn to remote learning for reasons that include improving their work-life-school balance and the financial burden of campus education, Inside Higher Ed says the instructional designer-teacher relationship becomes an increasingly critical learning partnership. Therefore, librarians who design systems of instruction must work closely with teachers and engage in the learning process of instructional design. “For IDs, this means learning the art of teaching online. For faculty, it means learning effective technology use and online pedagogy,” the magazine advises.
Popular technological platforms for instructional design include:
- Learning management systems (LMS) are web-based platforms that catalog and deliver online courses and training programs. They also have the functionality to create and manage content, track student progress and assess learning outcomes.
As schools and universities respond to growing demand for courses and resources while at the same time holding down costs, they are finding LMS an invaluable tool in meeting the challenges. “Additionally, such platforms provide [instructional designers] with valuable insights to optimize operations and adjust to students’ needs,” according to research on the impact of LMS.
- Virtual and augmented reality enable students to immerse themselves in a digital environment and interact with content. Learning in a virtual, three-dimensional universe provides conceptual orientation — conducting experiments, for instance, or manipulating objects — that connects learning with “real world” experience.
“The most important role of instructional designers in the near future will be to make sure that the ‘coolness’ factor of Virtual Reality does not overshadow the powerful and meaningful learning that can occur when Virtual Reality is properly designed to maximize learning,” according to eLearning Industry.
- Collaborative tools connect instructional designers (or librarians) with teachers and teachers with students. The COVID-19 lockouts threw education into online-learning mode, where Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams and other videoconferencing platforms became de facto substitutes for the classroom.
Educators in the instructional design space have a primary role in bringing teachers up to speed on the deeper functionality of those platforms to support teacher-student and student-student collaboration. Creating online study groups, discussion boards and help desks all foster teamwork in the virtual classroom.
“Collaborative learning experiences can help students feel engaged and involved with their peers even while learning remotely,” according to the educational archive Teachers First, noting that cooperation between instructional designers and teachers is essential to effective remote pedagogy.
An MS in Instructional Design and Technology can equip you with the insight and expertise to use instructional design best practices and tools in unexpected roles, like that of librarian, or more clear roles like instructional designer. Regardless, collaboration among students, teachers, curriculum specialists and research specialists is critical to student learning.