Instructional Design and Microlearning

By Deborah Anderson posted 08-14-2018 13:53


As medical writers, we are responsible for aspects such as research, grammar, form, flow, context, and many other things. However, during our education, be it at school or on-the-job, we are seldom taught about the world of instructional design, even though it is something that is inherent to our writing.

Instructional design takes medical writing one step further and focuses on the importance of the learner, the goals of a program, and the steps required to meet that goal. As writers, we must ensure that our pieces meet the goal of what we are trying to achieve. It is not enough to simply accept a job without asking the proper questions. We must consider the goal of the program. What is it that the learner is supposed to do after completing a piece? Take action? Incorporate that knowledge into customer communications? Inform others? Use it for another purpose?

As we focus on goals, this allows us to break those goals into manageable pieces such as learning objectives, tasks, and assessments. If a piece is put together without meeting the demands of the goal and learning objectives, then it is of no value. Ensuring that these needs are met is paramount to an instructionally designed piece.

What about the learners themselves? Do they have a science background? Are there geographic differences to be considered? Will language be a barrier? Is the piece trying to reach more than one type of learner? These considerations will also greatly impact how a piece is written, translated, or approached from its inception.

Another consideration inherent to effective writing is knowing what the end product is. Will the piece be electronic or print? Will it be seen on a laptop, tablet, phone, or something else? What are the technology and programming capabilities available that will be used to build the piece? Will you have access to graphic designers and programmers to ensure the directions and approach meet the needs of the learners? Will the functionality allow for interactivity and to what level? Does the piece need to be gated or monitored in any way? These and many more aspects must be considered so that we can develop a quality piece of education for our audience.

As learning and education are being refocused in a way to provide powerful snippets in a shortened amount of time, another aspect to instructional design is microlearning. When you think of microlearning, what comes to mind? Think about the short 30 second videos (the good ones) about wearing seatbelts, drunk driving, or even how to tie a tie or knot a scarf. These are all examples of microlearning. But how can we incorporate these short snippets into the realm of medical writing, and has microlearning truly arrived yet? At the 2018 Medical Writing & Communication Conference, I will review the concepts of instructional design, define microlearning, and describe how we can incorporate effective microlearning into our work.

Education Session: Instructional Design: Where Do You Fit in as a Medical Writer
Thursday, November 1, 2018, 4:00-5:00 PM