Keeping Up: How Important is It in Our Field?

In a recent, online discussion with fellow learning professionals, one person said (repeated here with her permission):

A few years ago, I was comfortable calling myself a “master” instructional designer; I knew how to identify learning needs, how to select the appropriate strategies to meet those needs, how to script the content, how to storyboard, and most importantly, I knew that good teaching was good teaching no matter the medium. Then the landscape began to change and I found myself having to learn how to develop the courses I designed using Captivate, Articulate Studio, and Articulate Storyline while also functioning as the graphic artist, visual conceptualist, and even the typologist. I also found myself, a non-technical person, serving as tech support for LMS issues related to eLearning.

Now, there are major changes on the horizon and I am responsible for making sure tools we don’t have yet will work on platforms we don’t have yet across devices we don’t have yet.

At one time, my goal was to become a better instructional designer. Is my goal now to become a generalist?

Others chimed in about the piles of books they had piled up and the difficulties with keeping up. Another said that the sweet spot was mastery in multiple niches and awareness in many fields. Still others felt that specializing was a better idea.

Even specializing these days requires ongoing professional development as our field is continually evolving. Or does it? Have you found a niche where there’s no need to constantly re-skill?  Are you able to find a niche where the scope of your projects doesn’t force you into new territory?

Harold Jarche has recent comments about professional development that are pertinent to our field in his blog post Taking Charge of your own Development. For example, he says that we need to “Learn REAL skills – not just how to make it in an organization.” To do this, he recommends having an excellent network and to think like a freelancer, never feeling lulled into a sense of security.

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