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Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology

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By Terry Anderson May 10, 2011 - 1:33pm


Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and TechnologyThe second book I want to post about is the 3rd edition of Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and technology that arrived on my desk yesterday. This one even came free ($82 in paper back, $45 as an ebook), because I authored one of the chapters (more below on that).


The book is edited by Robert Reiser and John Dempsey, and contains nearly 400 pages and 38 chapters. Each chapter is written by one of the big “who’s who” of mostly American instructional design (ID) gurus. You’ll find chapters by David Merrill, Walter Dick, David Jonassen, John Keller, Richard Clark,  Michael Hannafin and the two editors – names familiar to instructional designers and ed tech students for the past 3 decades at least. There are also a few new faces – notably e-learning and knowledge management guru Marc Rosenberg and Valerie Shute (amongst many others). You can see the full Table of Contents here. I also noted an increasing (but still far in the minority) number of women scholars such as Marcy Driscoll and Elizabeth Boling.

The text is designed for the serious instructional design student. The editors have produced an edition of this text every five years and it has become a staple in senior level and graduate instructional design programs. There are  lots of chapters on defining the field, best practices, new approaches to ID, ethics, what instructional designers actually do, how to get a job in the field and so on. Given the title and the increasing role of technology in all aspects of this profession, there are also chapters on new technology including immersive worlds, games and social media. Each chapter also concludes with the Coles note version – ‘Summary of Key Principles” and 2 or 3 ‘Application Questions”. The later will of course appear on assignment listings for those struggling through a formal ID degree program.

Given the illustrious list of names, you may wonder how this lone Canuck ended up doing a chapter entitled Networks, Web 2.0 and the Connected learner, well- it is a long story. In July 2009, I received an unexpected invitation to do a chapter from John (Jack) Dempsey. This was before I took the Pledge “I will no longer submit my work to closed publications nor participate in review or editorial functions of closed publication”, but certainly even then I was thinking that I wanted to open and not hide my work behind commercial barriers. On top of which, I am always less than thrilled to get chapter invitations for edited books,  as they rarely get read and as often as not are published only for the fame of the editor and the profit of the publisher. But when I reviewed the big names in edition 1 and 2, and Jack’s flattering invitation, I couldn’t resist.  I wrote Jack back asking for details such as  chapter length and due date.

So, the start of summer holidays and a chapter hanging over my head, Of course I didn’t dare tell my wife as we headed for the cabin in Northern Ontario, what was now on my mind. But an unexpected blessing – I thought I was off the hook, since I never heard back from Jack for the whole summer (this was before I learned to more diligently check Athabasca’s ruthless spam killer). I thought Jack must have had found a more illustrious author and blissfully sailed through the summer,  till mid September, when a second email arrived asking me where the chapter was.  Oh my gosh, a haunting from the grave of commitment past! So I begged a few weeks grace and fit in the chapter to fall start up of classes and the usual work, family  and social commitments.

Actually, writing about networked learning is pretty easy, as there is LOTS happening, though as I note in the chapter, there is far too little hard research. I managed to squeeze in a few of my own ideas and those of my Athabasca colleagues Jon Dron and George Siemens. I was actually not the only author to mention Connectivism (though only my discussion made the index!). Phil Green talks about connectivism, but dismissively notes that “connectivism has been around for some time, it’s just had different labels” (p. 252). Which strikes me as a comment from one doesn’t yet understand how the “media is the message” and that our connected world not only affords and demands new ways of interacting, thinking, educating and making money, but also new ways of teaching and learning.  But anyways, many of the other authors do attempt in this 3rd edition, to update earlier ISD models, behavioural and cognitive learning theories and Brent Wilson does a good job of retelling the constructivist tale.

Following up on yesterday’s post on citations found by Google Scholar using Harzing’s Publish or Perish, I note that articles in the 2002 1st edition received 341 citations for the book with an average of 34.1 per year, while the 2007 2nd edition was cited 111 times for an average of 15.84 citations per year.  I realize that this book is more of a textbook than publication of primary research, but so is my Theory and Practice of Online Learning (which I discussed in that earlier post).  I think the reason the Theory and Practice had much higher citations rates is certainly not because the authors are more widely known or even have more insightful comments. Rather it is because Theory and Practice  is Open Access (while still for sale in paper), available to all, while Trends and Issues is hidden behind passwords or cash registers.

So do I recommend the book?  Certainly this is a must read for anyone entering the ID field and will likely be a required in many ID grad programs at least in North America (it is in our Masters of Distance Education at Athabasca). The text will be very useful for anyone who wants to ground their thinking and practice in the past, current and future thinking of  ways to design instruction and use technology for teaching and training. But, you will have to forgive the American centrism of the text – after all instructional design, as a discipline, really was invented in the US. Moreover, there are 3 chapters on Global trends and Issues and some especially interesting observations by  French researcher Jan Visser. And it follows, that you can’t avoid a chapter on instructional design for the military (meaning of course the world’s largest trainer, the US Armed Forces).

The book has value because these are the people and the ideas that have have shaped this important component of distance education and its more recent emergence as e-learning. Following their own progression of ideas and the development of the first 50 years of this discipline, through the pages of this text, is well worth a read - or at least an order or checkout  from the closest library.



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