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?

Gamification in Medical Education

At the University of Illinois College of Medicine (UICOM), we have been exploring ways to liven up our educational sessions. With the advent of a new curriculum that has significantly fewer didactic sessions, and increased preparatory work by students leaves some holes to fill for face-to-face activities. One such example of gamification that we have employed recently is Kahoot!

Here is an example of Dr. Mahesh Patel using Kahoot! to encourage more interaction, and it proved to be a success.

We only use it sparingly, which I believe is why it is successful. Dr. Patel and I have worked together to figure out the best way to introduce it and when – the most success we have had with it is at the end of a busy week during a core case session. The students (and us!) are wiped out and it helps end the week on a fun note. We already use Poll Everywhere (probably too much), so this is a nice break from the ordinary.

Frontpiece image of an article by Bohyun Kim for an article she wrote called Learning with Games in Medicine and Healthcare and the Potential Role of Libraries
Kim, B. (2015). Understanding gamification. Library Technology Reports, 51(2).



There is a growing number of scholarly articles in the medical education literature about gamification, and I predict that will just increase. A wonderful colleague of mine, Bohyun Kim, has published extensively on this topic, from the perspective of the librarian educator.




Here are some peer-reviewed citations to check out:

Hicks, G. L. (2015). Gamification: Fuelish or foolish? Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, 150(5), 1059-1060.

Kim, B. (2015). Understanding gamification. Library Technology Reports, 51(2).*

McCoy, L., Lewis, J. H., & Dalton, D. (2016). Gamification and multimedia for medical education: A landscape review. Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, 116(1), 22-34. doi: 10.7556/jaoa.2016.003

McDougall, A. (2018). When I say ….. gamification. Medical Education, 52, 469-470.

*she wrote pieces for the entire report


Academic Conferences – Fun or Folly?

I went to the Information Technology in Academic Medicine conference last week in Austin, TX. I met many people who are a part of the Instructional Design Community – so nice to put faces to names. To be honest, I think I expected the conference to be very IT focused and outside of my interest level. I was pleased to be surprised – it was a fantastic conference. The ID Community was referred to by many people numerous times during the conference – so I am proud of what has been accomplished so far.

If you did not go to the conference last week, this will give you an idea of what was presented.

I want to put in a plug for the fall AAMC meeting in Austin, TX. Registration just opened. The conference is November 2-6, 2018: Registration is here.

Some of the sessions that I think pertain to the ID community:

Saturday, November 3

  • Evidence-Guided Self-Learning: How to Determine What You Need to Learn/Know/Do
  • Unhealthy Politics: The Battle Over EBM (I do a bit of work in this area, but not sure how prevalent it is with IDs)
  • Towards Competency-Based Time-Variable Education in Medical Education
  • When Robots Take Over Teaching? How VR and AI May Transform Medical Education

Sunday, November 4

  • Navigating the Medical Education Continuum: Strategies to Increase American Indian Engagement
  • Highlights in Medical Education: Faculty Development, Promotion and Tenure
  • Development of Expertise: The Role of Learning Science in Medical Education
  • The Use of Longitudinal Education Data for Learner Assessments and Program Evaluations
  • GIR Education Technology Knowledge-Sharing Session

Monday, November 5

  • Capturing Educational Data to Advance Medical Education
  • Highlights in Medical Education: Innovations in Teaching Clinical Reasoning
  • The Next Generation of Medical School Curriculum: Exploring Curricular Innovation and Change
  • An Inside Tour of Visionary Education Spaces

Tuesday, November 6

  • Highlights in Medical Education: Faculty Development Strategies
  • Highlights in Medical Education: Innovations in Medical Student Curriculum
  • Practical Strategies to Achieve Cognitive Integration of Clinical Skills and Basic Science Science

iPads for All!

I came to UIC College of Medicine in late 2013 and had just left a short stint at Rush University as the Director of the McCormick Educational Technology Center (METC). In that role, I had worked on a large project to get iPads to incoming medical students. As with any large project, there are a lot of lessons learned. When the college at UIC started talking about this as well, I was able to bring a lot of ‘what not to do’ issues.

The biggest issue: We neglected to give any faculty members an iPad so while we were directing the students how to use it, the faculty really had no idea how to use these tools – so that was a minor failure.

We had numerous meetings here at the college about potentially doing a similar project, but after numerous meetings with Apple, it never got off the ground.


I was able to convince the administration that purchasing iPads for faculty is a great idea – we did a pilot with a few faculty members and it was successful. For the anatomy faculty, we purchased iPad Pro’s with Apple Pencil. The reason for this, is there are some fantastic apps for anatomy that use the 3-D functionality on the iPad pretty well. An example is Complete Anatomy. You can “draw” spurs on bones and the harder you press, the larger the spur. Pretty cool. I just don’t want them for real.

Next steps – work with administration to get more iPads for other faculty so they can use for teaching. We have Apple TV’s in most of our lecture / active learning sessions, and I’ve been working with the faculty to step away from the lectern – and roam around the room displaying their content via the monitors in the room. When the faculty do it, they end up loving it.

This gets into a bigger topic for another time – technology adoption, and barriers to adoption!

Different Methods of Recording a Narrated PowerPoint

Here at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, our faculty have been busy making what we are calling “micro-lectures,” or short, salient videos to help describe concepts to our students. I did not want to give our faculty too many options with which to make these videos, so we narrowed it down to the following:

  • OfficeMix
    • Only available for PC at the moment; it creates an additional tab in PowerPoint and is easy to use.
  • Explain Everything
    • Works on tablets (Android and iOS) and is also fairly easy to use. Just read on their site it also works with Windows!
  • Echo Personal Capture
    • This is a tool we have access to here at UIC. We use Echo360 to record our lectures, and there is a standalone tool that faculty can use to record themselves or their screen. For the PC, there is an additional program that can create a tab in PowerPoint, like OfficeMix.
  • Camtasia
    • I recommend this product over others because as a more ‘souped up’ program, our faculty find it easier to use than Adobe Captivate.

What tools would you recommend and why?