Instructional designers are in great demand these days.
Businesses depend on them for creating engaging content to enhance classroom experience for their employees.
Governments and academic institutions view them as a panacea for addressing the highly skewed teacher-student ratio. “They generate content that transforms classroom training,” says Dilip Tikle, founder of Pune-based ConnectDOTS Consulting and Training.
Several companies like Accenture, TCS and Reliance need instructional designers to create modules for their in-house learning and development programmes for employees. The demand, however, far outstrips the supply. Only two or three designers work in a place which needs at least 10.
“Business houses are now facing a shortage of designers to cater to their expanding operations. The vacancies are as high as 40%,” says Sucheta Phadke, former senior vice president (Global learning), Core Education & Technologies Limited, which creates online learning modules for government and education institutes worldwide.
The rise in demand could be attributed to several factors, say industry experts. While the enrolment in institutes of higher learning has grown six times during the last 30 years, there has not been a corresponding growth in the faculty strength. In fact, according to information gleaned during the Higher Education Summit organised jointly by Ernst and Young and FICCI in 2012, the faculty strength has grown only four times, resulting in high student-teacher ratios.
Redundancy in the content taught in educational institutes is another reason for the rise in demand for these professionals. From KG to PG and engineering to management, one cannot depend on content or teaching methodologies that were valid 10 years ago, experts opine.
“With education technology we can adapt our curriculum to the needs of the 21st century,” points out Tikle.
Keeping these issues in mind, Planning Commission, in the Twelfth Five Year Plan (2012-2017), has called upon educational institutes to develop computer labs, smart classrooms, e-learning modules and video-conferencing facility, for linking with affiliating universities and sharing information.
The Planning Commission also recommends content enhancement initiatives like establishing a single national-level consortium for propriety content and creating open-access content repositories.
An instructional designer works in sync with trainers and educators to create online learning modules. They convert one hour of reading data into just 10 minutes. “In simple words, we are like a fashion designer who draws the sketch and passes it on to the tailor for the stitch,” says Ritu Uppal, Head, Centre for Education Technology, Mumbai Education Trust (MET). They design the content and adapt it to the medium of delivery.
The content is then put together by writers, graphic designers, animators and video editors before being delivered to the faculty for dissemination to the end user.
“Since Instructional designers transfer textual or print content into a compact online version they need to be smart listeners with good vocabulary,” says Tikle. A scientific approach is important to make the content adaptable to the demands of various industries.
Very few institutes impart training to instructional designers (See Box-Institutes for learning). Earlier, SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai (SNDTWU) offered a two years Masters programme in Educational Technology.
They have since revamped the course, and are now calling it Master of Arts in Educational Technology (MAET). University Grants Commission has under its “innovative programme scheme”, given SNDTWU Rs 40 lakh sanction for the course.
“Our curriculum is designed according to the needs of the industry,” explains Jayshree Shinde, Head of the department of Educational Technology, SNDTWU. In its new avtar MAET includes specialisation like ‘e-learning’ or ‘interactive multimedia’ along with a research project in its last semester.
It also includes an internship with a stipend of Rs 10,000. Uppal says this is an ideal career for those with a teaching background. Flexible working hours and ‘work-from-home’ options also make it is suitable for women.
With good years of work experience one can also branch out as a consultant or set up one’s own venture. “Since effective learning is the need of the hour instructional designing as career has only just begun to boom,” signs off Phadke.