Technology has become a routine element of classroom and workplace education, and as it becomes more powerful and continues to change the ways people learn, it also opens new opportunities for consulting to schools and training programs of all kinds. In fact, advancements and innovations develop so quickly that educators need guidance in using the best tools, methods, strategies, processes, and practices.
Schools, business, industry, and nonprofit organizations are all looking to people skilled in the latest technologies. Whether you have a background in education or in another profession, an advanced degree in learning design and technology will qualify you to help organizations leverage new hardware, software, social media, collaborative tools, and other techniques for improving the quality of the education and training they offer.
How Has Technology Changed Education?
In the schools and training centers of the past, learning was confined to books, lectures, and the occasional local field trip. Today, students have the whole world at their fingertips. A class in Kansas can follow an archeological expedition in Siberia in real time, and can even video conference with the scientists who are making history as they watch. A group of students in one part of the country can collaborate on a project with peers thousands of miles away. Experts in their fields can teach courses to students scattered across the country or the world. What was once passive learning has become a living classroom in ways it would have been hard to imagine not so long ago.
What is the Field of Learning Design?
Learning Design is a specialty that encompasses learning theory, technology, and instructional design principles in order to develop materials and methods that bring continuing innovation to education. As opposed to teaching students directly, professionals in learning design work with subject matter experts to develop the content and skills that they, in turn, will use in their classrooms and other instructional venues. In other words, you’re involved in teaching, but one step removed from engagement with the students.
What Would I Do as a Learning Design Consultant?
Having mastery in a given field doesn’t mean that someone knows how to teach it to others, nor how to employ the newest and most creative ways of doing it. This is where a learning design consultant would come in. You might work in an academic environment – K-12, college, or adult education – or in a vocational or corporate training setting.
Some of the areas ripe for independent consulting, and the flexibility and variety it provides, include:
- Collaborative Learning Designer
- Curriculum Developer
- Educational Software Developer
- E-learning Analyst
- E-learning Designer
- Instructional Content Designer
- Instructional Consultant
- Learning Systems Analyst
- Learning Technologist
- Multimedia Designer
- Performance Improvement Consultant
- Performance Support Specialist
How Do I Qualify to Become a Learning Design Consultant?
If you’re looking to make the leap from being a teacher or trainer to becoming a consultant, you already have the basics. You also have a leg up if you are a software developer, graphic designer, or have other applicable technological experience. Dive into some of the resources available online and read what people working in the field have to say. Unless you have a diverse and specifically appropriate skill set, pursuing a master’s in learning design and technology will definitely give you a competitive edge in the market.
What is the Employment Outlook?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-15 estimates that opportunities for the job category will grow by 13 percent through 2022: faster than the average rate of growth for all jobs.
With the evolution in learning, and increasing pressure on schools to improve performance, the need for instructional guidance can only become greater. One of the more significant non-academic areas of opportunity in the field today is health care, where continuing advances in technology and medicine require workers to constantly be trained and re-trained in new software, hardware, and equipment. And in business and industry in general, organizations are always seeking to improve employee performance and have a continuing need to train and develop their workforces in new technologies.
We’ve come a long way from the one-room schoolhouse. The era of “anytime, anywhere” education is being shaped by creative learning design and modern technology. Becoming a consultant in the field may be the best job you never even knew existed.