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The Role of Professional Development in Enhancing Instructional Design

In today’s rapidly evolving educational landscape, instructional design has become pivotal for crafting effective and engaging learning experiences. St. Thomas University’s online Master of Science (M.S.) in Instructional Design Technology recognizes the dynamic nature of this profession and equips students with the knowledge and skills needed to navigate the intersection of education and technology. This program not only prepares individuals to create innovative learning materials but also underscores the importance of professional development in enhancing instructional design.

According to authors Rae Mancilla and Barbara Frey of the Journal of Applied Instructional Design (JAID), “The instructional design profession, especially in the online environment, is still relatively new with no clear or common career path. There is no universal profile for IDs, as they are a highly educated and diverse group of professionals holding primarily master’s or doctoral degrees, some with formal credentials in teaching, instructional design, instructional technology, or media development. Others possess training in library science, graphic design, technical writing, and faculty development (Intentional Futures, 2016).”

This poses an extreme challenge to academic institutions recruiting new instructional designers. These institutions must often complement their formal education with specialized in-house training, webinars, participation in professional associations and attendance at conferences.

The Fundamentals of Instructional Design

To streamline this knowledge, the Journal of Applied Instructional Design presents a model that encapsulates the core elements of instructional design, including four stages: observation and modeling; tasks with coaching; contextualized practice; and reflection and exploration. This model, known as Development of Instructional Designers Apprenticeship (DIDA), is “a continuum of immersive tasks designed to foster competence among recently employed, novice IDs with little to no practical experience in design knowledge, practices, processes, and thinking.” These stages provide a structured framework for creating effective educational materials that meet learning objectives.

Other models — such as the ADDIE model, Merrill’s Principles of Instruction (MPI) and Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction — seek to aid professionals who are developing courses and, according to Anton Savchenko for eLearning Industry, especially those who are developing online courses.

Advances in Technology and Changing Concepts in Instructional Design

Instructional design is, however, a rapidly changing field that has evolved significantly with advancements in technology. Traditional methods of instruction have given way to more interactive, multimedia-rich and adaptive learning experiences. Concepts like blended learning, flipped classrooms and personalized learning pathways have become integral to instructional design. This dynamic and engaging approach has proven to be effective in capturing learners’ attention and fostering deep understanding.

The concept of accessibility has also gained prominence in instructional design, ensuring that educational materials are inclusive and cater to diverse learning needs. This shift necessitates continuous professional development to stay updated with accessibility standards and best practices.

Successful professional development in this arena means that instructional designers are not only aware of the many models and approaches to the subject but also in touch with the newest trends in education.

St. Thomas University’s online Master of Science in Instructional Design Technology introduces students to various technology applications to help reshape the creation, integration and delivery of information. By equipping students with the skills to encourage ongoing professional growth and the deployment of technology to promote student learning, this program empowers educators to mold the future of education and meet the evolving needs of learners in the digital age.

Learn more about St. Thomas University’s online Master of Science in Instructional Design & Technology program.

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