Instructional Design For Students

Universal Instructional Design
Universal Instructional Design by Guilia Forsythe

For a while, I was my university’s Instructional Design Librarian. That meant a bunch of different things, one of which was that I provided Instructional Design support for librarians and faculty. I offered teaching workshops for librarians, and similar workshops for other faculty. I’d do one-on-one consulting with faculty about how they could structure and design their course, activities, web presence, etc, in a way that would contribute to an effective learning environment. Now that I’m in a different position, I don’t offer those services anymore (or at least, I do what remains of them through a different lens) and I haven’t been thinking about those services as much since our Teaching and Learning Center has grown to take on some of those responsibilities.

However, tonight at the reference desk, a good friend of mine, Kaeley McMahan, wondered why we don’t offer those services for students. And now that I think about it, I have to wonder about it, too.

Students have to teach a lot. They have to give presentations in classes that they receive grades on. Some students, like Resident Advisors, host programs that they sometime give. Students who are supervisors have to train their students. Students who plan to go to graduate school might know they have instruction in their future and want to get a head start on how to think about it.

So I was thinking about that as I continued to think about how, for some libraries, Instructional Design is a useful service to offer our users. I think this for a number of reasons:

  • Instructional Design is an interdisciplinary approach to instruction, pulling on research in educational theory, pedagogy, psychology, communication, design, technology, surveying users, assessment, etc, and librarians are well suited to finding current research to help solve interdisciplinary problems.
  • Users are used to coming to the library to help solve a problem they’ve started on. They tend to get further than they would have on their own with a library staff member. Library employees (hopefully!) help people feel comfortable asking for help and can help without judging the person that comes to them. Users are used to leaving the library feeling like they have their head wrapped around a problem that they were struggling with, and feel better for it.
  • Good Instructional Design is about packaging information in a way that makes it easy to understand and consume. As information professionals, it seems we would have something to offer in this sphere.

Actually, I’m beginning to think that I need to write up a post on why it sometimes makes sense for Instructional Design to reside in some libraries. Of course, in some it doesn’t make sense, and there are perfectly valid reasons for that, too. My own institution, in fact, is one where it once made since for the library to be the primary source of Instructional Design support, but not longer does. I’d bet that there are libraries in exactly the opposite position, as well.

That being said, in the libraries that are well situated in terms of staff skills, position on campus, campus culture, etc, it could make sense to offer Instructional Design as a service. And further, most campuses that offer Instructional Design offer it for faculty and those teaching classes. Perhaps if there’s a gap for students, it’s one that the library is particularly well situated to fill. So now I’m thinking about what that service looks like and how you market it….

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