Instructional Designer – The Conjurer of Learning Experiences.

A lot of confusion exists around the term “Instructional Designer.” In many e-learning organizations, it’s a designation; but thankfully, most understand it to be a role, which it is. And yet, most recruiters aren’t able to differentiate between a content developer, a content writer, or an author. This confusion seems to be acquiring another dimension with the advent of Rapid Authoring or Rapid eLearning Development.

Generically speaking, an instructional designer is someone who uses certain concepts of cognitive psychology and frameworks of learning, to create effective learning experiences.

The confusion that I talked about in the beginning starts with the scope of “Learning Experiences.”

Note that each of the following is designed to be a learning experience:

  1. A textbook
  2. A WBT (Web-based Tutorial)
  3. An m-learning module
  4. An online course
  5. A corporate-training program
  6. An instruction manual
  7. A coaching session
  8. An educational class

And so on…

Thus, anyone who uses the concepts of cognitive psychology and the established frameworks of learning, to make any of the above effective, can be said to play the role of an instructional designer.

This also means that a textbook author, a WBT storyboard developer, an m-learning content creator, a trainer, a coach, or a teacher, can all play the role of an instructional designer.

Read about an Instructional Designer’s role in the eLearning Industry here.

Written in response to the Daily Prompt “Conjure.”


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Creative Training Design & Content Development – What Inhibits Creativity?

Last week, I received a call from a young woman who was interested in exploring the IDCD (Instructional Design and Content Development) course. During our discussion, she asked me if her lack of creativity would in any manner hamper her performance in the course. It is a question that I’ve fielded many times in the last fourteen years, and fortunately, I’ve done it with a conviction that comes from a long experience with creativity.

I’ve been creative in at least three different areas, and all these areas, I’ve been sufficiently creative to be considered a professional. These three areas are art, fiction-writing, and training/elearning content development. My experience tells me that when I’m being madly creative in one area, I’m only marginally creative in the other two. Why? Because creativity begins by submerging yourself in a context.

Igniting, Harnessing, and Channeling your Creative Potential – An Example

Here’s a recent example. We’ve been thinking of bringing you the REDAC (Rapid eLearning Development with Adobe Captivate) course for a while now. So when in January end, I applied myself to designing this program, I had to break away from a historical fiction piece that I was writing. You could say that I could spend a few hours on my fiction writing endeavor and the remaining on designing the REDAC course. Unfortunately, this sort of multitasking becomes very difficult when you are trying to divide your time between two very different types of creative endeavors. (If your day job is that of a banker, an accountant or a shop floor engineer who works on job-scheduling, then you can be a creative writer in the evenings – because there isn’t a creative clash.)

You see,

  • Fiction writing is imaginative, colorful, descriptive where you must visualize scenes and characters and you must make them come alive through an interesting use of dialogs, its purpose is to entertain, and it uses the “Storytelling” framework to create the final expression. It also requires that I immerse myself in the context of the era in which I’m situating my story.
  • Training Design is logical, connective, direct, and its purpose is to impart learning, and it uses the “instructional design’ framework to create the final expression. It requires that I immerse myself in the context of the discipline/software (its capabilities, its connection with eLearning, and so on…)
  • The right way to begin was to pluck my mind out of the historical context (for fiction-writing) and drop it into the subject context (in this case Adobe Captivate, for training design.) Since I’m good with both the storytelling framework as well as the training design framework, all I needed to do was immerse myself in a new context.

    Read More for “How Creativity is Born?” and “What Inhibits Creativity?”>>>

Thus, in order to ignite, harness, and channel creativity, one must follow a method. Almost all those who are highly (and repetitively creative) follow one. It is usually a method that they develop themselves, but once they have developed it, they stick to it. Dan Brown is an excellent example of this phenomenon. I’ve been an ardent follower of his Facebook page and a relentless reader of his books, and I’ve noticed that he has a method. He approaches every book as a creative project and at the beginning of this project, he immerses himself into the context (information on what he wants to write about.) He reads, researches, watches videos, meets people, travels, visits places he thinks he’d like to situate his story in…but of course, this is just the beginning. Creativity isn’t only about coming up with ideas – there’s a lot more to it, including retaining the best ideas and sustaining the creative energy that will eventually turn your ideas into effective creative expressions.

I see this element in my own creative method too. I’ve talked about it at length in my new book, which is just a few months away from reaching your favorite book-store 🙂

“Our mind is a treasure chest of slumbering creative nodes that just need to be woken up in the right environment to let our creativity flow.” – SRA.


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What is Rapid eLearning Development or Rapid Authoring?

Rapid eLearning Development has been around for almost a decade now. As I see it, Rapid Authoring Tools such as Adobe Captivate, Articulate Storyline, and others, would be the development tools of choice for large and even mid-sized organizations. In about ten years from now, nearly all the employees of every corporation would have held a smart-device since they were in their diapers, and they would naturally prefer to learn using their mobile devices. The makers of the Rapid Authoring Tools are already ensuring that the content that’s published using their software is not only cross-platform (with HTML5 output becoming a norm,) but also responsive (responds to the device on which it is displayed and displays without breaking.)

In “Demystifying Rapid Authoring or Rapid eLearning Development,” I’ve differentiated traditional elearning development from Rapid elearning development, discussed the pros and cons of rapid authoring, and attempted to project the future of rapid elearning development. I believe that for higher Bloom Level courses traditional eLearning development will still rule the roost. While the Rapid Authoring Tools are becoming better with each new version, automation always constrains creativity.

I’d also like to introduce Creative Agni’s “Rapid eLearning Development with Adobe Captivate (REDAC) Certificate Course.

Rapid elearning development with Adobe Captivate course by Creative Agni.

This course is designed to ensure that the content professionals who take this program become independently capable of developing and delivering content to their audience.They would become at home with the Adobe Captivate interface and would know exactly how to use the capabilities of the software to deliver impactful content. For those who already are working as Instructional Designers, Content Developers, or Trainers, this course would lead them toward developmental freedom and enable them to explore such opportunities that require rapid authoring capabilities.

I hope you like the article 🙂


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Gamification of Learning Experiences and Training Programs

In 2014, I had set myself the task of writing a series of articles on gamification and its application to the learning domain. Until recently, health concerns kept me from working on the articles further, but now that I am better, I’ve started working on them again. The first article in the series is already up.

Gamification of Learning and Training - the essence of it.

Click the image to read the article.

Read the first article in the series “Gamification – What does this new-fangled, star-spangled term mean?” here.

More article in this series would follow. I’ll be announcing the new articles on Twitter, and they’ll also find their way into the Creative Agni eZine – so if you are interested, you are welcome to follow me on Twitter, or Subscribe to the Creative Agni eZine (a short monthly e-newsletter.)



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The PowerPoint Coma, Dilbert, and Trainings.

Three days ago, on April 5th 2016, The Times of India ran a Dilbert strip about the PowerPoint Coma. About a week ago, on April 4th, I was in a meeting with a senior training manager, discussing an upcoming program for their organization, attempting to outline the focus areas. The training program would address senior and mid-level managers of the organization, who are often called upon to share their domain-expertise with others. “One of the areas,” said the gentleman, “is PowerPoint. They walk in with a PowerPoint presentation, dim the lights, and for the next hour, everyone dozes off! They can’t do away with the PowerPoint presentation, because it keeps their content grounded and ensures that they stay within the scope.”

Two days later, I saw the Dilbert strip, and the term “PowerPoint Coma” stayed with me. I’m not a fan of PowerPoint, but that doesn’t make me blind to its advantages. I know it has many, especially in the training scenario of today, where the rapidly reducing half-life of knowledge makes its almost mandatory that the trainers have a cue-sheet to keep them on track. How then, do we handle this double-edged sword? How do we use the strengths of PowerPoint without falling prey to its weaknesses?

Read “PowerPoint Coma – Causes, Effects, Prevention, and Dilbert,” for a rapid-fire round of quick tips.



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Cognitive Dissonance and its impact on Learning.

“Let us say you ordered a watch online. The picture of the watch looked good (it looked like it had a curved glass and the dial had a silvery sheen) and it was available at a very affordable price. A few days later, the watch was delivered, and you opened the box with great expectations. You were hoping to find a watch that looked as classy as the one you had seen in the pictures. But when you unwrapped the box and opened it, you realized that the real watch didn’t look as good as its pictures. The dial was off-white and glass was plain. You realize that the pictures must have been touched up as the watch was the same model that you had ordered. Fortunately despite its not-as-good-as-expected looks, it still was a deal at the price you bought it.

So you tell yourself, that the watch is from a good brand, and that you anyway wanted a robust watch and not a flimsy wrist-candy.

When you engage in this behavior, you are trying to curb the cognitive dissonance that has arisen out of two conflicting ideas in your mind.”

Understanding cognitive dissonance and its impact on learning can prepare us to handle it in our classrooms and online courses. The following links will take you to a series of three posts:

  1. Understanding Cognitive Dissonance – Explanation and Illustration
  2. Cognitive Dissonance in Classrooms and Other Learning Environments
  3. Cognitive Dissonance and Other Instructional Design Principles

BTW, this Easter, Froth bought a pair of Easter Bunny ears for Coffeebeans

Training pup dog cartoons - coffee beans experiences cognitive dissonance - instructional design.



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Flashbulb Memory – Definition, Illustration, and Questions.

This past year, I spent many long hours reflecting upon my memories and thoughts. A memory that refuses to fade away despite being inconsequential and irrelevant, falls neatly into the category of a flashbulb memory.

Before we discuss further, I must let the dog have her say.


dog and pup cartoons on training and cognitive psychology - coffee beans on flashbulb memory.

The gist of the many definitions that abound, is that flashbulb memory is a clear, detailed, and long-lasting memory of the circumstances that you were in, when you first got a very important or shocking news, possibly about a public figure (President John Kennedy’s assassination) or event (The Twin Tower Terror Attack of 9/11). Assassinations and disasters fall into this category. My memory relates to the assassination of the Indian Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi.

I can vividly recall that I was solving a dynamics problem and trying my best to get the cricket commentary back on the radio, crabbing about why suddenly all stations had gone newsy, when my Grandmother chided me for my trivial concerns at the time when Indira Gandhi had just been assassinated. My Grandmother was involved in the freedom movement and for her the news meant a lot. For me, it was an important public event, and while at that time, I was too young to see what lay beyond; whenever I read or hear about the 1984 Delhi riots that followed her death, I am reminded of that scene in vivid detail. I can almost hear my grandmother’s gibe, I can feel the sun on my skin…I experience the flashbulb memory.

Let us apply some inductive reasoning to this experience (inductive reasoning makes us use specific instances to generalize – not a very trust-worthy method, but it works if the specific instance is a true illustration of a concept – thus, if my memory is truly flashbulb memory, I should be able to generalize the concept with a very small probability of error.)

My memory is crystal clear (colors, weather, what I was doing at the time, what my Grandmother said,) and my memory flashes back whenever I encounter a trigger (news of the riots, a picture of Indira Gandhi, and so on.) My memory is still strong, and I can even remember the floral print of the dress that I was wearing at the time. Assuming that my memory was a flashbulb memory, we can say that flashbulb memory generally is refreshed whenever there’s a trigger.

This makes me wonder…
1. If there were no media (no newspapers, no radio, no television, nothing that could trigger the memory,) will the memory be as longlasting?
2. Is there a decay/modification in the details of the flashbulb memory over time? In other words, do we embellish it further (I think now that I was wearing a nice floral dress in the memory I illustrated for you, but could I be looking dumpy in a shapeless but absolutely comfy tunic?) or have I lost the details (what was grandmother wearing? Who else was there? Where was our dog?)
3. Would my flashbulb memory be stronger or weaker than my grandmother’s, further more, did she even have a flashbulb memory of Indira Gandhi’s assassination? (Humans have the strongest recollections of the events that transpired when they were between 15 and 30. This period is called the reminiscence bump.)

While there is ample criticism of this concept, I find it interesting. I also wonder if a watered down version of this memory could in fact help the learners learn better.


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