You’ve probably heard the phrase, “measure twice, cut once.” It’s good advice, and it works very well for wood/plastic/metal. But what about instruction? Well, it’s pretty much the same–but with one major difference. The beauty of computer-aided learning is that a product is often never “finished” — meaning we have a final product that we’re stuck with. Especially with Internet-connected instruction, we have the ability to update, fix, and adjust all the time. An update to this post will show up to all of you, instantly, the second I make it. You don’t have to purchase or a new edition of it in order to see a typo corrected. What this means is that we don’t just measure twice — we measure always.
A popular model in instructional design is the “ADDIE” model. Here’s a good illustration:
Notice how evaluation — or in other words, measurement — is central to every part of the process, including implementation. It’s a two-edged sword, that. It means that by constantly evaluating how well our instruction is working, we can make for better learning experiences, even as we go along. On the other hand, that means more work for us. But why are we in our field if not to make effective instruction? I’d say the extra work is more than worth it.
Measuring as you go along isn’t just confined to instructional design. Take a look at this PR/Strategic Communications model:
It’s surprising how similar they are, especially when you know that planning around the “Target Setting” is included in the ADDIE model, too. It’s just a little further along and combined with Implementation.
Right now I work at a place that, instead of a 5-6 step model, has lived off a 1- maybe 2-step model for years: Implementation. Ideas flash in their bulbs and instantly — we’re creating a finished product. There isn’t really any planning as to how best to make it, who it will be for, how much it will cost, or even if it’s worth making in the first place. And we never evaluate afterward whether it was effective or did what we want, which is easy because we often don’t flesh out what we were trying to do in the first place. This has made for a series of half-finished, ineffective tools.
Now, I don’t want to make it sound too bad. We’ve done some cool stuff. But too much of it has been for nothing, and the stuff that works could work even better if we planned it out ahead of time. And things are getting better. Along with another instructional designer, we’ve slowly begun to convince people that we need to think before we act. Then we’re going to — hopefully — help them realize that we not only need to think before we act, but while we act, and that software/instruction/communication are not one-offs, but cycles.
Wish us luck. We’re going to need it.