My Evolving Understanding of the Nature of ID

For many years, I had understood instructional design (ID) to be a field that had a near laser focus on performance improvement.  On this view, instructional designers consulted with clients on how to close gaps in performance through a somewhat debated, but largely shared, process of design, the ADDIE model.  Most of my understanding of the field’s evolution beyond the military came from Robert Mager.  From his books, I learned about goal analysis, constructing behavior-based objectives and the general processes that instructional designers worked through when designing their instructional approach.

I have been taking a course about the foundations of instructional design and technology this past semester.  One thing that struck me about the history of instructional design, as presented at the beginning of this course, was that the field was portrayed with a very different origin story than I had heard in the past.  In our primary text, Trends and Issue in Instructional Design and Technology, third edition, instructional media and audiovisual instruction were described as the early predecessors of modern day instructional design.

What strikes me about this difference in origin story is the shift in emphasis.  On my previous understanding, instructional design is rooted in designing interventions and/or instruction that will close a performance gap.  Technology is clearly not the emphasis on this view of ID.  Instead the focus is on a results-oriented mentality.  Instructional design, when viewed as emerging from audiovisual instruction, places a greater emphasis on the technology and the use of technology to support instructional interventions.

As the course continued, however, I developed a much more rich understanding of modern day instructional design.  It is a field that has moved and continues to move far beyond focusing merely on results-oriented interventions or instructional technologies.  The field is constantly redefining itself.  Practitioners such like David Jonassen view ID professionals as something akin to pedagogical problem-solvers while others believe a greater emphasis on aesthetics and experience design are the key to the future of ID.

I am in agreement with these practitioners that strict adherence to specific linear or even recursive processes and design principles are not accurate representations of the ways that ID professionals approach their work.  In fact, I believe it is likely that the branding of the field will shift in the near term.  ‘Instructional design’, as a name, places too great an emphasis on the didactic nature of traditional education.  Current emphasis on gaming, informal learning, and learner directed instruction as alternative learning contexts suggests that the field will likely undergo an image makeover that places a greater emphasis on learning as opposed to instruction.

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Augmented Reality InfoGraphic


The infographic below summarizes the impact of Augmented Reality in various fields.

Augmented Reality

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AR challenges to adoption – from the Introducing Augmented Reality into Education presentation

Introducing Augmented Reality into Education – Opportunities for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

The later part of this presentation linked above discusses some of the challenges to AR adoption in education.  Many of the challenges that they discuss are ones that I have experienced.

  • Complex and time-consuming – I worked with a pair of AR glasses for several weeks.  It was a challenge just to get the software installed and the glasses to work.  To develop applications and uses specific to learning goals would be extremely challenging.
  • Unwieldy markers – Many AR applications use real-world markers that act as targets for cameras.  When your camera points directly at the marker, the AR images appear.  However, if you are off a bit, or if the lighting is poor, the markers are not effective.
  • Complicated hardware and software requirements – Just to get AR off the ground, you need hardware and software.  This can be pricey.  Plus, many pre-made AR applications are very particular.   So you may need a number of applications to accomplish your goals.

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AR possibilities – from the Introducing Augmented Reality into Education presentation

Introducing Augmented Reality into Education – Opportunities for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

This presentation begins by defining Augmented Reality and transitions to general uses of AR in entertainment, commerce, professional practice, etc.  The remainder of the presentation highlights uses of AR in education.  Below are a few of the interesting educational applications they discuss.

Letters Alive

This application brings words that start with letters to life through augmented reality.  My guess is that this makes the experience of using the letter cards more engaging.  I’m not sure it increases the effectiveness.  In fact, it may distract a bit from the learning task.  Where I could see something like this being very effective would be to aid developing readers by presenting scenes from readings.  By providing a setting and context, words would be more easily recognized.  An AR scene would be significantly more vivid and perhaps less ambiguous than traditional 2-D illustrations.


This AR app is used to train medical professionals.  It allows learners to simulate tricky procedures in a low risk environment.

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Exploring Augmented Reality with Young Children

The ColAR app just came on my radar, and I can’t wait to use it with some real kids instead of just a big kid like me.  ColAR’s website provides a number of free coloring book pages.  Simply download one of the pages, color it in and then open the app.  Once you do your picture will come alive and move in three dimensions.

Right now it looks like the app will only work with coloring book pages that have been developed by the creators.  I’m sure that it is quite  a lot of work to develop the three-dimensional scene.   But I look forward to the development of fairly straightforward tools for making augmented reality scenes like these, similar to what the ARMedia plugin allows you to do with Trimble Sketchup.

Photo Oct 22, 7 55 22 PM

Photo Oct 22, 7 59 19 PM

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Augmented Reality for the Instructional Designer – Part 2

How are or will schools, universities, and businesses begin to incorporate augmented reality into teaching and learning?  The TechTrends article in the previous post attempts to shed some light on this question.

According to Lee, author of “Augmented Reality in Education and Training,” one of the biggest barriers to the use of augmented reality is the associated costs of development and implementation of any AR program.  Unless a augmented reality app is already tailored to your instructional needs, you’d have to shell out some pretty serious dough to develop one.  Luckily, in k-12 and higher education, there are researchers who have put forth the time and effort to develop augmented reality applications on a broad array of topics.

There are a number of other augmented reality programs shared by the author used in the fields of biology, mathematics, and physics education in higher education.

In the business community, the primary uses for AR are in performance support applications like those described in previous posts (i.e. the Liver Explorer App and I-Mechanic apps).  Other examples described in the article is the use of AR programs for cultural heritage tours and museum experiences as well as interactive games.

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Augmented Reality for the Instructional Designer

In the March/April 2012 issue of TechTrends, Kangdon Lee commented on the potential uses of Augmented Reality in education and training contexts.  Early in the article, he distinguishes between two types of augmented reality experiences: marker-based or markerless.  A marker-based system requires users to aim a camera at a predefined marker that is located in everyday space.  Examples of marker-based systems include the ARMedia Player app, Anatomy 4D and Spacecraft 3D.  Markerless systems include apps like Star Walk and GlorAR.  These apps determine what to display based on your geolocation.

So what are the benefits of AR in education according to the author?

Well, according to this article the benefits fall mainly into the following categories:

  • Interactive education – Augmented reality applications could allow students to explore environments interactively and instantly receive information about what they are interacting with.
  • Simplicity – The Star Walk app is a great example of the simplicity of AR applications.  Rather than having a star map and a flash light and then having to orient the map to what you see in the sky, the Star Walk app lets you simply point and learn.
  • Contextual information – The Liver Explorer App and I-Mechanic apps are great examples of the ways that AR applications can provide much needed information at just the right moment based on your current context.  These apps will let you identify problems and help you to make decisions as you attempt complex tasks like operating on a liver or fixing your car.
  • Efficiency and effectiveness – One hope is that AR could potentially make learning more efficient and effective.  The article states the efficiency and effectiveness of AR instruction can be achieved “by providing information at the right time and right place and offering rich content with computer-generated 3D imagery.”  I wonder if instead this point should really be understood differently.  It seems to me that the app is making it the case that you need not learn the information.  The information will be there at the time of need.  It enhances our access to information on a need to know basis.  However, it is probably the case that the contextualization of information will increase retention and understanding.

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