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Reverse-Engineering Instructional Design

A while back I studied software engineering. Suffice it to say that I’m now studying Instructional Design and Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning. Software engineering was not my cup of tea.

However, in some career pathways engineering is a necessary pursuit, and Instructional Design is one of them. Perhaps you are familiar with the concept of Reverse Engineering, where an attempt is made to figure out how a proprietary product works in order to build one with similar functionality using a different approach. This is pretty common in software engineering, but it happens with military hardware all the time. One country captures an enemy’s plane or missile and they reverse engineer it to build their own. The Soviets did this with the German V-2 rocket after WWII.

When I was a kid, I disassembled all kinds of things to see what made them tick: an iron, lamps, a stereo, a watch (couldn’t put it back together again properly), etc. It was fun, as long as I could reassemble it and didn’t get in trouble. And, I learned so much.

Why reverse engineer an ID effort to produce a high-level design document detailing nitty-gritty aspects of another designer or design team’s work? To become a better ID! Here’s my first one. It took me forever to figure out the best way to depict all of the branching of this scenario-based e-Learning example, because thankfully I made so many mistakes. It’s a great way to learn.

So here is an example of reverse engineering a branching scenario module. It’s entitled A Safety Net and is produced by Open University UK. Please check it out.

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