During my Instructional Design course I’ve had the pleasure of working on a team with two delightful fellow students and the opportunity to work with a very helpful Subject Matter Expert (SME) and project sponsor at the Idaho Foodbank. The most important thing that I’ve taken from the team project was that with each interaction with our SME gave me insight into the value of asking for feedback – often repeatedly – in order to gain a deeper understanding of the design we were creating, and to simply confirm if we got it right or not. We often didn’t get it right the first time.
“Success in any endeavor requires single-minded attention to detail and total concentration.”– Willie Sutton
The above quote is from a bank robber who stole around $2 million in the 1920s and ’30s. I’m not condoning the robbing of banks – actually nowadays it’s probably a futile endeavor since banks don’t keep much cash on hand. However it illustrates that minding the details matters, even if you rob banks. Paying attention to the details, well this is not exactly news to you, dear reader. Of course that’s important. But the takeaway here is that the details may not all surface at once. They’re unconcealed… sometimes a lot at a time, sometimes in small increments.
When I signed up to be on group project team, I had no idea what kind of project it was going to be. It said something about evaluating donated meat for a food bank. Unlike the small, local food bank that I sometimes volunteer for that serves 300 people each week, this one served nearly 26 million meals in 2021. I soon learned that our project’s SME was also the SME for every other team project for my ID course and I wondered about how much time they would have with us. During the fifteen weeks of our course we were tasked with producing a finished Job Aid, one that would empower Foodbank employees with the ability to determine if the Foodbank could accept various meat, poultry, fish, and game donations. This is actually an infrequent phenomenon. Most of the foodstuffs come from grocery chains and distributors, but every once-in-a-while someone has a steer from a 4H Club project or they raised chickens or hunted caribou, well that one is really infrequent! The USDA and the FDA, federal agencies that regulate the slaughter and distribution of domesticated meat, fish, and game have rules and regulations about what a food bank may and may not accept. Take my word for it, it’s complicated.
From TA to IG
The collective process known as Instructional Design is laden with forms and rules-of-thumb like any rational data-collection and analysis process. It’s been refined and reinvented over decades. For Team Spud’s (our name) efforts we used a methodology provided by our program at OPWL Boise State called LeaPS. Most of our activities were focused on task analysis, some on learner analysis, and the development of performance requirements, assessment, and a way for staff to easily determine what kinds of donations could be accepted: a job aid.
It felt a bit like cheating. As an ID I was the least experienced member of our team, so during the early part of our interactions with our SME (interviews, subsequent follow-up conversations) I mostly sat back and watched the interaction. As the course, and our work progressed, I became more involved. Throughout the development of our design I experienced a fair amount of imposter syndrome, but taking an active role in the development of assets like the Performance Requirements and the Instructor Guide a lot of that disappeared.
The three of us were and are busy individuals. My teammates have young children, jobs, and other responsibilities, as well as, other classes and school projects. Sometimes we did not do a great job of communicating with one another, but the magic bullet we had was the power of iteration and we took advantage of it. And, I can tell you that right up until the moment of the delivery of those assets, we were each working on documents that we had not created ourselves – proofing and questioning, adjusting and editing – until each of us were satisfied with the finished project. Could it have been better? Could we have improved our deliverables? No doubt. I only speak for myself here to say that the our collective work was impressive and it will make a difference when someone shows up at the Idaho Foodbank during hunting season with a deer wondering if they’ll take it. They won’t, by the way. Wild game must be harvested at a USDA-inspected facility and donated through a partner agency. The Idaho Foodbank does not directly accept wild game donations. (And, I didn’t even have to look that one up on the Job Aid!)
Part of my course included the analysis and development of similar documents for a fictional childcare company called KidCare. While some worked ID magic on their own projects for their jobs or businesses, several of us used the KidCare hypothetical which involved the creation of a job aid to assist staff members with a procedure to wrap a child’s ankle in an ACE Bandage in the event of injury. We had the benefit of an interview with the fictional CEO and a video of a nurse going through the procedure of wrapping an ankle. It all seemed pretty simple, but it was not simple. Okay, it wasn’t like launching a rocket. It did require that I learn from my errors and repeat processes several times. I had to recreate my job aid more than once and honestly, I’m still not happy with it. It lacks explanatory detail about who should be using the job aid and under what circumstances.
Again, the process of learning ID for me is also iterative, so I’ll cut myself some slack and move on to the next project or better yet, revise this one.