The Human Touch in Instructional Design:
Why AI Falls Short for Now

Yesterday, as I pulled into a drive-through car wash and was welcomed by a virtual assistant at the payment station, it struck me just how rapidly AI has become part of our daily lives. From handling payments and serving food in restaurants to booking appointments and tracking our eating habits—AI is everywhere.

As my car got its wash, I found myself pondering, ‘Is this AI-driven experience making me happy? This question got me thinking about how AI helps enhance customer service and how I feel about AI replacing humans in various professional realms.

Naturally, my thoughts drifted towards the learning and development industry and my instructional design work. I decided to explore the widely debated role of AI in instructional design, seeking an answer to the question: ‘Can AI genuinely replace the creative minds behind mind-blowing learning experiences?’ Because instructional design is quite complex, I will zero in on three key aspects that are really important in making learning experiences powerful: context, adaptability, and intuition.

Context Matters:

Imagine teaching someone to surf in the middle of a desert. Sounds ridiculous, right? Well, that’s because learning experiences need to make sense within their context. Human instructional designers are the gurus of context. They factor in organizational culture, industry specifics, and the cultural background of learners to tailor experiences that hit goals.

AI, on the other hand, can sometimes feel like that friend who just can’t tell a joke. It might have a ton of information, but understanding the nuances of where and how that information fits requires a human touch. Instructional design is all about recognizing the unique puzzle pieces that make each learning environment special. And that’s a puzzle AI isn’t cracking just yet.

The Role of Adaptability:

In the ever-changing world of learning and development, adaptability plays a crucial role. Instructional designers adapt their process in response to learner feedback, changes in the industry, and emerging trends. They thrive on the iterative process, constantly refining their craft to stay ahead.

Now, don’t get me wrong- AI loves data. It’s like a data-obsessed detective, analyzing every piece of information it can get its virtual hands on. But when it comes to the dynamic and unpredictable nature of learning, AI can struggle to keep up. Humans have this unique ability to pivot and to make real-time adjustments that AI might find overwhelming.

What About Intuition?

And let’s not forget intuition – that gut feeling that humans possess. As an instructional designer who develops training programs for corporate clients, I realize how important it is to cater to diverse learner backgrounds, ranging from entry-level employees to seasoned professionals. These programs should not only impart technical knowledge but also address the subtle nuances of decision-making and strategic thinking crucial in the specific sector. Instructional designers aren’t just analyzing data; they’re understanding learners’ unique needs and learning styles on a deeper level. And AI is still learning to pick up the basics.

My Verdict:

AI is definitely changing how instructional design works, but it’s not quite ready to replace human professionals. The most effective outcomes emerge from blending AI’s analytical skills with the contextual expertise, creativity, and adaptability of humans. So, when you come across an awesome learning experience, remember to appreciate the efforts of the human instructional designer.

Smartfirm instructional designers look to AI to spark inspiration but rely upon their experience (and intuition!) to create exceptional learning experiences. Reach out to us to discuss a learning challenge we can help you with.

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