Instructional Designer: What is it exactly that you do?

What I Do As An Instructional Designer

A:     So, what do you do?

B:     I'm an instructional designer

A:     So what is it that you do? Decoration, right? You must have great taste.

If you're an instructional designer, you are probably very familiar with this typical conversation. You must have had it once and again. Aside from getting compliments on your good taste, if you're lucky, it just bothers you. Personally it really makes me wonder. Why does nobody out of the field know we exist?

When I first joined the field, it was new to me. I was almost a fresh graduate, and it seemed totally normal when people would ask what was it exactly that I did because I personally had no idea it existed in that sense. Even during my years in education, I just assumed that highly esteemed professors created curricula for everything. I understood the confusion and explained what I did. Answering questions like, but how can you be qualified to create courses for a subject you're not an expert in and how can you be so young. I thought I was in a new field and people just didn't know about it.

Am I not Alone?

Gradually, I started learning more, I got my certification, and to my surprise, I learned that there's so many of us out there. And guess what question they all get?  "What is it exactly that you do?". The interesting thing about this is that most people in the professional world have received training or at least know what training is. Most of them even work in corporates where there is a training department with instructional designers working with them. How can they not know them? There must be a missing link, somewhere.

Only a few days ago, I attended the Digital Training and Development Show. An event that brought together many professionals from the Learning and Development field all over the world. For the first time, I found it easy to introduce myself as an instructional designer, everyone got it. I even had conversations and a few good laughs about being asked what is it that we do.

Soldiers of the Dark

This led me to think. How come there are thousands of instructional designers and learning and development professionals and nobody knows what they do or how they add to the world? Are we living in a bubble? Do people who take our training assumed that some college professor created it? Why is the human factor behind training so overlooked?

Then it hit me: We do not really exist for our audience. To anyone taking any kind of training, there's only the trainer and the material. In eLearning and CBT, there might also be the training provider's logo somewhere. The human effort, thought, creativity, and innovation is usually never mentioned. The person working hours on end, the blood, sweat, and tears all disappear into a colorful interface or an engaging group activity.

Could Credits be The Answer?

I understand how training should always be all about the learner, and that instructional designers and other learning creators are soldiers of the dark. However, it just doesn't seem very fair. I believe that learning materials are like movies, and in some cases, they are actually movies, it's a creative effort meant to deliver a message. However, unlike learning, movies always have credits that celebrate every contributor to them. I have seen it in a few eLearning courses and I would like to start seeing more of it.Credits to everyone, even if we put it in a little note. We work in a field of creative expression, where everyone puts in their heart and mind. A field that deserves a lot of respect and recognition. It should not be alright that you never hear of any child wanting to be an instructional designer when they grow up. Or of high schoolers looking forward to apply for an eLearning developer degree. We need more awareness of the role of learning and development professionals, and I believe it starts with recognition.

What do you think?