Instructional Designers in Medical Education

I’m happy to show the world the first look at an article I wrote with colleagues at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Looking Beyond the Physician Educator: The Evolving Roles of Instructional Designers in Medical Education

This is the culmination of a study based on a cross-sectional survey sent to various online environments such as the DR-ED listserv. The goal was to reach people in medical education who also have a hand in instructional design. One major limitation is that we did not leave the survey open long enough to gain an even larger sample. Read the article and let me know what you think in the comments!

Getting Past the Uncomfortable

Today I gave a presentation for the faculty & fellows in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, Sleep and Allergy in the Department of Medicine. I met with Dr. Christie Brillante a month or so ago because she had heard about some of the presentations I have given here in the college of medicine. I was slightly apprehensive to do this one, because she wanted me to talk about facilitation skills for people who do ‘micro-consults’ which could also be considered bedside consultations, ‘mini-consults’ which are slightly longer, and their regularly scheduled noon conferences.


I was nervous because I have never been on rounds before so I did not really feel like I am an appropriate person to speak to it, and I made sure Dr. Brillante knew this. So, I went in, and delivered my presentation. It was a bit difficult as usual getting some of the attendees to speak up, but I persevered. What I can talk about is multimedia design. I shared some of our best practices in the college in regards to PowerPoint slide deck design like choice of color, font, amount of content, and taking into consideration some cognitive issues. In particular, I talked about some of Richard Mayer’s 12 Principles of Multimedia Learning. By the way, this document came from the University of Hartford, Faculty Center for Learning development. I focused on these three:

  • Coherence Principle – People learn better when extraneous words, pictures and sounds are excluded rather than included.
  • Signaling Principle – People learn better when cues that highlight the organization of the essential material are added.
  • Spatial contiguity Principle – People learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented near rather than far from each other on the page or screen.

There is a ‘Last Page’ in Academic Medicine journal coming out soon and it was right on target with this topic. It’s called “‘We’re Not Too Busy’: Teaching with Time Constraints on Rounds” by Flint Y. Wang, MD, and Jennifer R. Kogan, MD at Perleman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. I have seen an advance copy of this one and it’s definitely worth looking at when the journal issue comes out.

Here is my presentation via SlideShare. Let me know what you think. I feel like the presentation went well. One of the attendees offered to bring me on consults and I jumped at the chance. It will give me some insight into an area of content facilitation that I am lacking expertise.

Instructional Designers are Architects of Learning

This was a comment to an article I read this morning called The Quest for Great Instructional Designers. Another commenter on this article made some strong points that I identify with:

The biggest problem, from personal experience as an instructional designer myself, is many institutions don’t have a clear definition, or simply don’t understand, of what instructional design (ID) is and what an instructional designer does. At the end of the day, instructional design is about taking everything we know about teaching/learning (systematically) and creating environments conducive to learning. ID postings that are seeking individuals to do high-end multimedia production, creating instructional media for faculty, and/or creating online courses for faculty is not instructional design. In cases like this, institutions are really asking for multimedia developers and course developers. Familiarity with contemporary learning management systems, in my mind, will always be an expectation for an instructional design position at least in higher education. With regards to knowing specific software applications, most ID graduate programs don’t offer much in terms of software skills. More focus tends to be on instructional design theory/practices, research, and andragogy. The software is one of those things that most instructional designers are left to learn on their own. By the way my MA and Ph.D. are in Instructional Technology/Design. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

The bold above is mine. Most job postings I see regarding instructional designer or technologist openings want someone who can do it all. So, great, you find a person who matches ALL of your requirements. They can do faculty development, understand how to use learning management systems, can program in multiple languages, have excellent video / audio / multimedia skills. First, is that what your organization needs, and second, you hire this one person who can do ‘it all,’ and a year later they leave. Back to square one. There is no I in TEAM!! You need a team of people to be ‘architects of learning.’

Keep an eye out for a research article hopefully later this year, which addresses this very issue. Dr. Linda Love, Dr. Faye Haggar and I did a survey on instructional designers in medical education and the results we got back address what is in this article and the comments. We are in the middle of writing up the results and hope to have it published within the next 6 months.

What is your perspective on what makes a great instructional designer?