Archives for the month of: September, 2013

Libraries fill any number of different roles, from information repositories to formal training centers to community gathering places. Instructional design principles are vital in all of these roles. Libraries tend to focus on the instructional design of formal learning opportunities, like drop-in workshops and expert lectures. However, the library space is also a prime location for informal learning to occur. As librarians and instructional designers, we need to make sure that we’re fostering informal learning just as much as formal learning.

What is informal learning, and how is it different from formal learning? According to Jay Cross, “Formal learning is like riding a bus: the driver decides where the bus is going; the passengers are along for the ride. Informal learning is like riding a bike: the rider chooses the destination, the speed, and the route. The rider can take a detour at a moment’s notice to admire the scenery or go to the bathroom.” Informal learning is spontaneous and natural, as opposed to the curriculum-based structure of formal learning. (Source: Informal Learning: Rediscovering the Natural Pathways That Inspire Innovation and Performance)

Over the next several weeks, LibraryIDT will focus on the role of informal learning in libraries. We’ll look at each of the six factors of informal learning (nature of outcomes, nature of experience, origin, role of learner, role of instructor, and role of instructional designer) in the context of libraries fostering informal learning. Stay tuned!

Computer user in library

Photo via Flickr: Illustration by Eric Molinsky from the CALI Lesson “North Carolina Secondary Research”

Welcome to Library IDT! This blog is a platform to gather and reflect on theories and trends in instructional design and technology (IDT). It will focus specifically on IDT in the context of libraries, especially academic libraries.

“Instructional design and technology” is a wide-ranging term, and many people have defined it slightly differently. For the purposes of this Library IDT blog, let’s say that instructional design and technology is the deliberate, considered process of developing instruction specifications by applying learning theory.  It covers the entire learning process, from analyzing learning needs to developing a delivery system to creating instructional materials/activities, and concludes with evaluating and refining the instruction process. (Source: Carl Berger, University of Michigan)

In libraries, we are called upon to do instructional design in both formal and informal ways. We teach classes and workshops, but we also do sneaky instruction in the form of website design, reference interactions, and signage. As a public services librarian at an academic library, I have many opportunities to practice IDT principles. Rather than seeking out a “future IDT job,” I plan to adjust my attitude toward my current job, finding ways to integrate instructional design into my daily work life. When I propose a new library website design or create new tutorials, I’ll consciously take an IDT-focused approach rather than making choices based on “what looks pretty.”

I follow several instructional design blogs. The Faculty Instructional Technology Services (FITS) department at DePaul University runs, which discusses instructional design and technology in higher education. The principles of IDT are widely applicable to most fields, so I can easily tweak these ideas and think about how they might work in libraries. However, I also find it valuable to follow blogs that discuss IDT specifically as it applies to the library field. Lauren Pressley ran a 14-part series on IDT in libraries in her blog,, where she continues to discuss IDT among other topics.