“Fun and engaging” can be such a subjective concept. When a prospect describes your e-learning products as “definitely not like other business training I have had,” those types of comments are high praise to the e-learning developer. After all, we are talking about required training here – usually very dry and even boring. Companies who are looking to engage with something fun or different for their employee population will often turn to custom business e-learning shops that often have an organizational structure that is foreign to the corporate structure. These custom e-learning shops often also function as a digital media marketing or advertising agency, which integrates into their instructional design process organically. The bread and butter of marketing and advertising agencies is collaboration, communicating a message, within a finite time space, to a target demographic.
FACT: Fun e-learning (or great multimedia) has creative direction. It might be clearer to say e-learning is a fine art. If you give an artist what you need to say and to whom, the artist will create options and explore the best way to present it. An artist understands his/her medium. Chances are what is published will be ‘fun” as a byproduct. One might ask, “Are we using proper instructional design techniques?” Yes, verifiable and documented. But, if you want to truly engage an audience you need to recognize and involve real creative talent and the creative process.
The word “design” in the most advanced instructional design degree does not imply a mastery of e-learning the medium; it does not impart what a BFA/MFA or years at an agency teaches. Nor does an advanced instructional design degree create a working knowledge of what makes for an intuitive digital media courseware, HCI (human computer interactions)/graphic user interface design skills, or software development skills in the presentation layer. A bit of all three disciplines and talents – instructional design, interactive design, user interface design – are needed to make a user experience and an e-learning product that is fun and engaging. Rapid development is a constant requirement to support the vast amount of business training, but there are times when it seems that the aesthetic is being unconsciously marginalized by trying to find the rare all-in-one person to fulfill that development role.
It’s doubtful that the instructional designer and the digital fine artist will ever replace each other. A college professor once said that no matter the project, in order to at least perform adequately, you must have a vision, you must follow the process, and you must try to compromise as little as possible along the way. If you want a top shelf multimedia product, even the most highly competent and educated instructional design pro could use some creative collaboration.