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The XPert

“All of us are experts at practicing virtue at a distance.”             — Theodore Hesburgh

I’ve worked with designers for years.  Architects and interior designers to be exact; designers of schools to be more specific – experts in educational facility design.  Because I do not hold a degree in architecture, I can only hold the title of (and in fact am ‘certified’ as) Educational Facility Planner.  I guess that makes me an expert in planning, but not design.  However, I do hold a degree in education.  Does that automatically make me an instructional designer, an expert in instructional design – any more than holding a degree in architecture makes one an expert in school design? My resume and experience do not qualify me as one – I’ve tried.

I have decided, however, to follow the lead of my architect friends:

  • say you’re an expert
  • get a few under you belt
  • hang out with educators and begin using their jargon (relevant, authentic, real-world)
  • familiarize yourself with the research
  • hire a ‘front liner’ to work with you

In no time you will know more than an educator could possibly know about how they are suppose to teach. After all, you ARE the EXPERT.  OK, that last part is sarcastic, but the point of this post –

Who is the expert and, more importantly, why does it matter to the learner?

Robin Smith in “Conquering the Content” (2008) states “One of the changes in the faculty role is the distinction between development and design activities, and facilitation and teaching activities in courses.”  For me, this is a critical point to consider – and an expert in one may not be an expert in the other, just as an architect is not a classroom teacher.  Yet, Smith goes on to assert that the role of course development and design is to “make sure that information is presented in a way that is relevant, understandable, memorable, and useful to the students.”  Without an expert facilitator/teacher, even great instructional design is lost.  So is it true that when an architect designs a building for specific mode of educational delivery and the users do not really USE it in that way, there can be a perception of wasted space and wasted money.

This brings me to my question – who is the expert?  The designer or the instructor OR the learner?  When assessing needs, I often find that the end user (instructor) may not even be aware of the options available, but only knows what is in their experience.  Is this just my ego – that I know more than the instructor because I’m the designer?  Yet, if the designer does not consider the change in behavior required to achieve success, it could spell disaster for the student (a point Laura made in her discussion post this week). This is particularly true when it comes to effective online learning – and in using digital media in instruction in general.


2 Responses to “The XPert”

  1. Thanks for this great post, JH. You raise some excellent questions.
    In my experience, I find it very hard to assert myself as any sort of expert. I work in an extremely hierarchical environment, where experts are abundant. Their fields of medicine and research seem to trump any expertise I may think I have simply because of the reverence their fields demand (and are given). In chapter 2 of the Smith book, there is mention of the value of partnerships. I think this is key in many professional environments. As partnerships develop between “experts” of varied backgrounds, I think much can be accomplished if all involved agree to focus on and support key educational goals.

  2. Do you have to be an expert in the topic to be a great instructional designer? Can someone be an expert in adult learning? Or instructional design? And still create material that is engaging and meaningful?

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