Instructional design professionals wear many hats. An overlooked but important one is the role of customer service provider.
Instructional design is defined loosely as “a process for helping you to create effective training in an effective manner” (Piskurich, 2015). Or more specifically,
“Instructional design is the systematic development of instructional specifications using learning and instructional theory to ensure quality of instruction. It is the entire process of analysis of learning needs and goals and the development of a delivery system to meet those needs. It includes development of instructional materials and activities; and tryout and evaluation of all instruction and learner activities” (Berger & Kam, 1996).
Accordingly, instructional designers must be skilled in a variety of related competencies, including: research, project management, instruction/teaching, analysis, information technology, and content design and development with related technology-based proficiencies. Skill in each of these areas will help the designer to create engaging contemporary content that is effective in meeting learning goals and objectives. Equally important to solid technical, management, and production skills, however, is expertise in customer service; each project must not only be professionally produced, but must also add value by truly meeting the needs of the client.
Piskurich (2015) emphasizes the importance to instructional designers of ensuring that the material being designed will provide value to the client. This advice echoes recommendations from successful business leaders; solid customer service means knowing your customer/client, understanding that each customer/client is different, listening to suggestions, and understanding customer/client needs and the impediments to meeting them (Hendricks, 2017). For the instructional designer, achieving these goals begins with a thorough Needs Analysis/Needs Assessment.
Needs Analysis begins with assessing the needs of the organization for which training is being designed: (1) developing a deep understanding of organizational goals, (2) learning as much as possible about the audience who will receive the training, including existing skills, knowledge, and limitations, and (3) identifying the purpose for the training –what problem(s) are the training hoping to solve? Analysis continues with identification of expectations for learning outcomes, which are then specified in concrete goals and objectives. Finally, environmental resources are identified, lesson components planned, and a timeline for training is set. Simply put, the work done in the Analysis phase of instructional design provides a blueprint/map that guides and informs the rest of the process, and ensures the work being done serves the needs of the client.
As an aspiring instructional designer, my training to this point has led me to develop an understanding of what instructional design is and gain experience in how to do it effectively. I have also developed literacy in new and emerging technologies, that I have in turn employed in lesson design and development to create training that is engaging to the contemporary learner. My current coursework is now leading me toward the understanding outlined above; instructional designers are customer service providers to their clients. By adopting the attitude that “my client’s success is my success”, I will ensure that my work will be client-centered, increasing its effectiveness, value, and appeal.
Berger, C. & Kam, R. (1996). Definitions of instructional design. Retrieved from http://www.umich.edu/~ed626/define.html
Hendricks, D. (2017, Aug 16). 9 customer service tips from today’s top leaders. Inc. Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/drew-hendricks/customer-service-tips-from-9-millennial-focused-le.html
Piskurich, G. (2015). Rapid instructional design. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.