From Print to Pixels: The Evolution of Instructional Design Over Three Decades

From Print to Pixels: The Evolution of Instructional Design Over Three Decades By Tracy Dee Lufkin

In the ever-evolving landscape of Learning and Development (L&D), I find myself reflecting on the remarkable transformation the industry has undergone over the past three decades. Having recently redirected my career back into L&D, where I initially ventured into Training Development and Delivery 30 years ago, I can’t help but marvel at the incredible journey of change and growth.

Instructional Design Last Century

Back in the early days, I served as a technical systems trainer, crafting content using the limited tools at our disposal – Word, WordPerfect, PowerPoint98, Photoshop, and Illustrator. Graphic design was a challenge, with options confined to clip art and rudimentary cartoon characters. True graphic artists held the key to creating visually appealing training materials.

I wore the hat of an instructional designer before the term became mainstream, and everything existed in print since the internet was just beginning to open its doors to the world. I spent hours meticulously typing content into tables and columns, producing participant guides, quick reference cards, and instructor guides – tangible artifacts that I considered works of art and preserved for years.

Sadly, I bid farewell to those materials a year ago during a basement clean-out, not foreseeing the sentimental value they would hold today. As I reminisce, I wonder if those relics from the late ’90s would hold any value or simply serve as a nostalgic trip down memory lane.

Yet, I’m not alone in this journey as an original instructional designer. Many of us have adapted to the changing learning landscape, transitioning from the traditional “build it and they will come” approach to a more dynamic role resembling Learning Architects and Strategists. The emergence of a new generation of learners, coupled with technologies like Google search, Siri, learning games, and social learning, has reshaped the way individuals acquire knowledge.

While the foundational principles of instructional design remain relevant, adapting to the expanding options for learning is crucial. The assumption that learners will naturally gravitate towards our courses has been challenged, prompting us to evolve into strategic Learning Architects. Skills in analysis and design are in high demand as we devise master learning plans that align with a cohesive learning strategy.

Instructional Design Today

Returning to the field after years of change management consulting, I notice both progress and continuity in the industry. Advanced tools and delivery methods have transformed the landscape since my initial foray into content development. The effort to secure a seat at the decision-maker’s table for training investment, a cause I championed for 14 years, has borne fruit in many organizations. Every company of any size has a Learning and Development department, and many CLOs now have a seat at the company leadership table. This signifies the vast increase in value companies place on employee development and retention.

Yet, challenges persist, with knowledge transfer and practical application remaining hurdles. Despite improved metrics for measuring Return on Investment (ROI), execution of newly acquired skills often falters, especially in an economy where employees juggle multiple roles due to downsizing.

To my colleagues who have tirelessly advocated for L&D’s seat at the table, I extend my commendation and gratitude. As original instructional designers, we may find inspiration in the latest tools and technologies used by newer generations, but our strong foundations still hold immense value. Embracing roles like Learning Strategist, we can bridge the gap between business objectives and learning outcomes, showcasing the impact of L&D on the bottom line.

In this ever-evolving journey, the essence of Learning and Development remains a testament to adaptability, resilience, and the unwavering commitment to progress.

Stay Ahead in the Evolving Landscape of Instructional Design

To stay at the forefront of the ever-changing realm of Learning and Development, it’s crucial to keep pace with instructional design and e-learning trends. The dynamic nature of online learning continually introduces new trends, and in 2024, cohort-based and game-based learning stand out as key developments. Additionally, innovative technologies such as those using AI are revolutionizing the landscape of easy and effective learning experiences. By staying informed about the latest advancements in online education, you position yourself to adapt and excel in this rapidly evolving field.

Apply Your Knowledge and Pursue Opportunities

In conclusion, whether you’re an original Instructional Designer evolving with the times or a newer ID in this ever-evolving world of instructional design, the next step is to channel your expertise into concrete opportunities. Prepare a comprehensive resume and online portfolio with samples that reflect your skills, experiences, and dedication to learning and development. Job seekers in instructional design can leverage dedicated professional staffing companies like TrainingPros to connect with Relationship Managers, like myself, who are not just recruiters but L&D practitioners and industry professionals, and submit their resumes for potential opportunities.  There is also a plethora of resources available from your local ATD organization to academies and helpful YouTube channels like this Job Search Strategies Series by TrainingPros.

Best of luck with your instructional design endeavors in this ever-evolving L&D world and I hope our paths cross in the near future!

Picture of Tracy Dee Lufkin

Tracy Dee Lufkin

Tracy Dee Lufkin thrives on embracing novel adventures, exploring new experiences, and immersing herself in the great outdoors, particularly through activities like skiing, hiking, kayaking, scuba diving, horseback riding, and dancing. Her genuine passion extends to introducing others to new experiences and a dedicated commitment to helping others succeed. Tracy Dee is characterized by her caring and compassionate nature, an adventurous and playful spirit, resilience, and resourcefulness, all complemented by meticulous planning and a keen attention to detail making a significant impact in the realm of training and development.
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Written By
Tracy Dee Lufkin thrives on embracing novel adventures, exploring new experiences, and immersing herself in the great outdoors, particularly through activities like skiing, hiking, kayaking, scuba diving, horseback riding, and dancing. Her genuine passion extends to introducing others to new experiences and a dedicated commitment to helping others succeed. Tracy Dee is characterized by her caring and compassionate nature, an adventurous and playful spirit, resilience, and resourcefulness, all complemented by meticulous planning and a keen attention to detail making a significant impact in the realm of training and development.

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