Writing is an art form. And, it comes in various flavors – fiction, biographical, historical, technical… and more. And the humble, writing for the learning industry.
Take Instructional Designers and Content Writers. Their task goes beyond – way beyond – simply writing, and enters the realm of knowledge sharing. These professionals use their skills to create material that entertains, informs and educates.
However, that is where the comparison ends. While both Instructional Designers and Content Writers are creating content for consumption, they’re not to be confused with each other. And nor are they interchangeable. Not always.
Given the same topic, the two experts will approach it in different ways and present it in different ways. Their audience is different and the consumption of the created material is entirely different too.
But before we delve further, let us understand the roles.
As the title says, an Instructional Designer designs instructions. Yes, they’re writers, but they don’t just write. They understand learning processes and design the instructions around the medium to be used, and around the learner’s perspective and requirement.
A Content Writer, on the other hand, manages the ‘aesthetic’ side of the writing business. These are creative people (not that Instructional Designers aren’t) who create content with the explicit intent to educate, entertain, inform, inspire, persuade, etc.
But can’t both roles be played by the same person?
Of course they can. Some organisations do delegate the two tasks to the same individual. This isn’t recommended though. The two responsibilities require a completely different mental make-up and a radically different approach, even to the same chunk of material.
Where does the difference lie?
Here’s a detailed look at what differentiates the Instructional Designer (ID) from a Content Writer (CW).
- An ID sticks to facts. A CW, on the other hand, has the freedom to present opinions, hypotheses, ideas, etc.
- An ID requires the study of cognitive principles and the rules of pedagogy to create effective learning experiences. A CW isn’t limited to learning or knowledge sharing.
- An ID can use multiple methods (classrooms, workshops, eLearning, etc.) to impart the eLearning product, while the CW is mostly always limited by the written word.
- The end product of ID is compulsorily educational. What a CW creates could be recreational, informative; but seldom structured learning material.
- An ID focuses on the learner, customising content to suit the learning process. A CW has the freedom to express ideas in a more creative, fluid fashion, more often than not, reflecting the writer’s style.
- While an ID has to rely upon assessment tools to measure learning results, the CW has no such restrictions.
And yet, there are similarities between the two groups:
- Both an ID and CW rely on SMEs to get their information.
- They need to be completely in tune with the individual needs of the consumer of the content.
- They have to have quick grasp of new information.
- They both need to devise simple, yet engaging methods to connect with their audience.
The two roles are similar; however they are anything but interchangeable. In fact, their combined synergies can be harnessed to create a better, more comprehensive and effective eLearning output. Between these two roles, the written word emerges as an effective and creative tool to impart learning.