When I was a boy we would take a yearly vacation to a remote place with a cabin. There was a souvenir store and I loved to shop with the money I had saved up all year. The biggest object of my desire was a Swiss army knife. Seeing it glittering in the glass cabinet my mind exploded with all the things I could do with it- use the saw to cut branches, use the fork to eat, use the knife to carve wood, use the spoon to dig. With this tool I could take on any problem!

So too it is with the job descriptions for Instructional Designers. Employers (HR Departments?) see the possibilities of what an ID can do and want it all! Just type in ID in Indeed and do a search and read the job descriptions. Look at the job requirements. They want a Swiss army knife person.

What are some of the disciplines they are asking for?

Teaching and education: Curriculum design, teaching methodology, online learning practices.

Computer and technical skills: Office, multimedia authoring, course authoring, web development.

Communication skills: Technical writing, interpersonal communicator, corporate communications and identity design.

Business skills: Project management, negotiations.

Industry specific experience: 5 years.

Of course this is not an exhaustive list, but it leads to these obvious questions: What school teaches this vast range of skills? What person is able to wear all these hats and wear them all well?

I am not the only one to ponder this. Anouk Janssens-Bevernage in the The Learning Nomad asks, “Are we hiring instructional designers as catch alls?” This leads to a discussion of the disparity between the skill sets that are asked of instructional designers and what they should do best. Her conclusion is, “But let’s not kid ourselves. Once the topics get tough you need high caliber instructional designers who focus on design only and are good at it.”

She goes on to say, “Don’t disregard them (IDs) when they don’t know how to do the technical, development and/or artistic tasks. What’s important is how they are able to have difficult conversations with subject-matter experts, make sense of really complicated topics and turn intricate materials into smart and interesting courses.” (my emphasis).

And so after I got the Swiss army knife I wore it on my belt for a few weeks to show off my acquisition before it went into the drawer. I discovered a better knife for cutting, that the saw was inadequate, a real fork was light enough to pack to eat in the woods, and I could use a stick to dig.

Same with us. Having knowledge of what you can well and what others can do better, then setting up to successfully overcome the challenge of a project using peoples strengths. This is how humans have been overcoming challenges for 100,000 years.

This is not difficult- like having a grandfather to help a boy shop for a knife.

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