The learning environment is changing fast. Business operations are expanding globally, learners are emerging from increasingly diverse backgrounds and cultures, and technological advancements are constantly changing how learning occurs. Instructional systems design (ISD) programs must adapt to the evolution in the ways that learning is designed, developed, implemented, and delivered. More importantly, ISD programs and the professionals who administer them need to adapt now to better prepare for the uncertain future.
ASTD and the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) recently partnered to explore current ISD practices and how they are adapting to the fast-changing learning environment and uncertain future. Findings from the study, Instructional Systems Design: Today and in the Future, reveal that developing effective programs has always been a challenge.
Many companies have ISD programs that are, at best, moderately effective in achieving both business and learning goals. The changes in the learning world mean that most companies need to be better prepared for the future, inevitably modifying the priorities of ISD professionals, who will need to add skills and competencies to their repertoire to be successful. The bottom line is that there is much work to be done.
Despite the fact that 97 percent of respondents say their organizations are currently using a traditional classroom course, learning is becoming much more customized, informal, just-in-time, and technologically mediated. With less than 1 percent of respondents reporting they no longer use classroom instruction, it appears that new forms of instruction are not replacing classroom learning—at least in the short term—but rather supplementing and shaping it.
The study also shows that the trend toward blending classroom learning with technological tools is well established. More than two-thirds of respondents say their organizations use blended learning (combinations of synchronous and asynchronous, classroom, and e-learning).
Technology, as a whole, is likely to improve ISD productivity while reducing costs, which may in turn allow ISD practitioners to become more strategic and less tactical. The "Instructional Systems Design" report confirms findings from ASTD's previous "The Rise of Social Media" report: Most companies have not yet systematically embraced social media technologies for the learning function.
However, these technologies are gaining momentum; a significant percentage of participants say their companies are planning to use them in the future. In fact, fewer than 5 percent of respondents do not think the use of social media will increase over the next five years. Mobile learning, social networks, podcasts, and wikis are the social media tools that comprised the top four mediums being considered for use in the future.
The lack of widespread adoption of social media technologies may stem from the inherent difficulty in implementing social media solutions. Instructional designers believe they need a broad spectrum of competencies to successfully design and deliver social media-based learning.
Not only does there need to be a familiarity with the various technologies available, subject matter, and learner needs, but ISD practitioners must also be able to market the concept of using these technologies to stakeholders within the organization. At least two-fifths of the respondents report to a high or very high extent that most of the competencies listed are needed to implement social media learning solutions.
A majority of participants believe ISD will become more important to organizations in the future; 93 percent say that this is at least somewhat likely. Additionally, with the ongoing technology growth in the field, many ISD practitioners believe that social media will become increasingly essential to instructional design. Seventy-eight percent of respondents say that this is at least likely to occur over the next five years.
As ISD struggles to maintain its identity in a rapidly evolving learning environment, training and development professionals must seize the opportunities to make ISD a more strategic part of the learning function, and more importantly, part of the organization as a whole.