Best Practices of Interdisciplinary Design 1
Running Head: INTERDISCIPLINARY DESIGN
Interdisciplinary Design: Understanding the benefits of Instructional Design Practices in
Western Illinois University
Best Practices of Interdisciplinary Design 2
“Interdisciplinary Design: Understanding the benefits of Instructional Design Practices in
a. Design: It’s not putting lipstick on a chicken.
i. What is Design?
b. Geography of thought.: Understanding the world around us.
i. The influence of Outsourcing & Open Sourcing.
a. Context-aware Cross Cultural Interactions.
1. Listening to designers giving business advice is like hearing a cat
a. Finding IDT’s Mojo.
2. IDT without the “T” is like Christmas with no Santa.
a. The Digital Divide
b. Developing context-aware collaborative & ethnographically
adaptable collaboration frameworks.
1. Open standards & Usability Engineering
a. Instructional Design as a ‘Rosetta Stone’
i. Sustainability Common ground.
ii. E Pluribus Unum
Best Practices of Interdisciplinary Design 3
a. Learning how to fish.
VI. Bibliography & References
Best Practices of Interdisciplinary Design 4
This paper surveys current movements in two fields of Design: Instructional and Interaction
Design. It draws corollary pathways that can enhance the fields and conceptualize a pathway of
interdisciplinary best practices resulting in substantial and positive impact. The paper’s objective
is to understand and clearly identify the common ground that exists between the disciplines of
Interaction Design (IxD) and the Instructional Design, as well as taking into account the dynamics
and connections to the discipline of Industrial Design (ID). Global trends are discussed as this
common ground is identified and defined while historical trends are also considered.
Best Practices of Interdisciplinary Design 5
The Benefits of Anchoring Interaction Design in the Best Practices of Instructional Design.
In tandem with other disciplines as Industrial Design (ID) and Interaction Design (IxD), the field
of Instructional Design and Technology (IDT) can spearhead a crucial trend setting movement to
conceptualize a pathway of interdisciplinary best practices for design. No other field like IDT has
the theoretical foundation nor the vast array of influences in it’s footprint that are drawn from such
a variety of schools of philosophy, emerging technologies and outstanding actors that continuously
interact and bring more credibility to the field of IDT on a global spectrum. This paper will
explore emerging frameworks that are interdisciplinary and are important as they represent how our
society and the private sector have steadily driven an interconnect of current technology with
products, services and new delivery systems. The main attempt will be to draw a ‘line in the
sand’ of the opportunities, the actors, the trends and the challenges, while formulating a way to
conceptualize universal best practices for all different aspects of what gives meaning to the word
On par with common guidelines, partnerships and opportunities, the field of Instructional
Design and Technology must be at the helm of the effort and formulate the delivery of
instructional design services and their ramification in the global continuum. The creation of
innovative scalable methodologies ( Interdisciplinary Instructional Design Practices) will act as
catalysts of global change, challenge and equal opportunity. The challenges of incorporating
context-aware learning systems that are ethnographically unbound and cross-culturally adaptable
along with the roadblocks of cost, funding, and the digital divide must not be ignored as they are
pivotal catalysts. The pace at which they are becoming more interwoven, however, poses cross
Best Practices of Interdisciplinary Design 6
cultural Instructional Design challenges and development opportunities that must be seized in the
ever expanding global network of open sourcing and outsourcing, either inside the classroom, in
the community or in industry.
Design: It is not putting lipstick on a Chicken.
In order to properly understand how best practices of interdisciplinary design can be conveyed,
we must first understand what is ‘design’. Each field, like Instructional Design & Technology,
Interaction Design, and Industrial Design, give it a different spin, meaning and mantra. Design is
the art of conceiving, planning, or intention that exists or is thought to exist behind an action, fact,
or material object. This definition allows us to define design in a way that can encompass all of
the fields we have mentioned (ID, IDT, IxD). While many of the fields have remained an
expression of human creativity in their own realm, the Information Technology (IT) revolution
has greatly expanded the scope of each, quite ironically, by narrowing the gap each has to one
another. IT has acted as a fuzzy interface because it was not a byproduct of IDT. It has been
“fuzzy” because there has been no credible mediator that has established guidelines that can
properly bridge how fields interact with one another. There is no “how to” manual nor there is a
1-800 number we could call. It is in the mist of the IT revolution that we are at a critical point in
the integration and intertwining of practices and fields that had been vastly left running parallel to
each other without even a minimum degree of interaction.
Best Practices of Interdisciplinary Design 7
The pace at which each field is becoming more interwoven, however, poses cross cultural
instructional design challenges and development opportunities given non-standard practices of
interdisciplinary design. If we are to also conceive design as an art, not as an artifact, it is
important to understand how individuals communicate with other individuals and how people
communicate with people within their own culture and cross-culturally. It is at the core of
human-to-human interactions that we can define what Interaction Design is “by first researching
and understanding user's goals, expectations, behaviors, and needs and then deliberately designs
to meet and exceed these needs and desires for designated user groups (Wikipedia, 2006).
As we come to realize the tight relationship between Interaction Design and Instructional Design
& Technology, it is relatively easy to acknowledge all the similar theories that have been
interplaying readily in both fields. If “Interaction Design improves the usability and experience of
the object or system” (Wikipedia, 2006), Instructional Design establishes such experience from
the ground-up through rules, theories and models that relate more to the cognition of the user,
who is involved through the whole workflow.
Anchoring Interaction Design in the Best Practices of Instructional Design is done by
acknowledging that the core of the notion of design is to give it away because it was never
preconceived without the knowledge that was formulated from the user or artifact and his, her or
its needs. Design is making sense for others – and by this – capturing territory that is lost in the
communication pathway. Innovation is driven from the desire to bridge this loss. Another anchor
that can help formulate Best Practices is that Design is focused on creating meaning, which is
Best Practices of Interdisciplinary Design 8
brewing tangible criteria that connects solutions to problems, stake holders to products & services.
Meaning will be what people bring to it as a snapshot in time of culture, economics, politics and
their particular views of the world.
Geography of thought.
The Benefits of Anchoring Interaction Design in the Best Practices of Instructional Design are also
prevalent as outsourcing and open sourcing are rapidly maturing movements that must not be
ignored. While outsourcing is the work done for a company by people other than the company’s
full time employees, open sourcing can be defined as non-binding, non-profit collaboration for the
design, development, deployment, sustainability and improvement of many products (either
hardware or software –like the Linux Operating System-) and services.
Pervasive human-computer interactions (HCIs) continue to evolve and current technology has
driven an interconnect of economies whose products and services can be provided by mass
micropreneurs who tap onto global markets not necessarily with the appropriate training that
could maximize their market insight partly because of a lacking base of knowledge that is located
in the Instructional Design & Technology field. This may be great news for consultants, because
it is clear that with such prevalent need for skills, guidelines, standards & best practices, the field
of Interaction Design can be greatly benefited from such a strategic alliance. Micropreneurs have
the courage, conviction and charisma to express, model and conceptualize their ideas while not
necessarily intrinsically communicating the attributed meaning that a solution may have been
conceptualized with. It is in this interaction that the field of Instructional Design and Technology
Best Practices of Interdisciplinary Design 9
has a great repertoire of experience much more closely related with human cognition and in
understanding how people think.
Listening to designers giving business advice is like hearing a cat bark.
In the field of Interaction Design, “the dynamics of interpersonal communication, speech and
writing, the pragmatics of talk and interaction… become critical factors …described less by an
approach steeped in the rational choice approach taken by cognitive science than that by
sociology, psychology, and anthropology” (Wikipedia, 2006).
Placing center stage in Instructional Design as a pivotal lean and efficient conduit for interactions,
the delivery of pervasive instruction is plausible and its ramification in the global continuum is
yet to be realized. Instructional Design is increasingly becoming a center stage of the outsourcing
movement and it is readily making a more profound proliferation in the open sourcing movement.
According to Friedman (2005), the world is becoming a flat place where the opportunity to
receive and deliver services is only physically limited by the bandwidth of the IT infrastructure
on both ends. No longer is a big company needed to steer the effort of creating a product or
tendering services. Micripreneurs can tap into the global economies by partnering with other
Micropreneurs that may be elsewhere in the world. The notion of sharing a space and a time zone
is greatly challenged in our current world reality. Companies are time-shifted, resource-diversified
and creatively unbound.
Best Practices of Interdisciplinary Design 10
However, being creatively unbound and having the workforce or key aspects of product lifecycle
management (PLM) spread across countries, languages, cultures and economies poses an
intercultural business communication challenge if this work is done, literally, thousands of miles
away. According to Gibson (11, 2000), the “differences in the way decisions are made,
communication style, the role of meetings, structure versus informality, management style and
the use of local language” are intrinsically critical challenges that have to be faced by any country.
It could be conceived that many Eastern companies such as Samsung, LG and Sony have
outsourced their Design efforts to Western countries while they manage the manufacturing in a
controlled “home” environment.
The Benefits of Anchoring Interaction Design in the Best Practices of Instructional Design are also
evident in this context as the outsourcing bandwagon gets filled with a broader array of industries
across countries and economic systems and even if they had jumped either willingly or had gotten
carried along by its inertia, there will be a lot of passengers in this wagon that do not know how
to communicate and share knowledge in effective ways. Even if their products are sold, their
services are given, it would only be a marginal level of success compared to the potential that can
be unleashed by acquiring best practices of Instructional Design & Technology.
In recent years, the integration of information systems and the Internet have made such business
practices extremely efficient in market-based economies. The past two decades, knowledge-
driven Information Technologies have tremendously simplified, invigorated and challenged the
field of Instructional Design. Perhaps one of the core issues with the perception for the field of
Best Practices of Interdisciplinary Design 11
Instructional Design and Technology is that in a global context, the field has many different
names which are also changed routinely. According to Paquette (2004), [Instructional Design and
Technology] can be termed “Instructional Engineering”, integrating instructional design, software
and cognitive engineering processes and principles.” Reigeluth (1983) and Merril (1994) further
diversify the case by contributing that “in American literature, this discipline is known as
‘Instructional Design (ID)’, ‘Instructional System Design (ISD)’ or ‘Instructional Science’ ”.
Montessori, one of the pioneers of the IDT field, (1958) further explains that “in Europe, the
term used is Scientific Pedagogy. In a sanity judgment, if IDT was a person, he or she would be
diagnosed with multiple personality disorder. It is in this disarray of terms, interchangeable
acronyms and doubtful credibility that has been carried along since the IDT field had more
formality after WWII. The IDT field’s biggest challenge in finding its ‘Mojo’ is the fact that its
status quo is challenged from within with all the variety of nomenclatures.
The Benefits of Anchoring Interaction Design in the Best Practices of Instructional Design are also
plausible as new collaborative models that are location-free and 100% collaborative have steadily
driven Instructional Design to a whole new realm. How is it then that the field of Interaction
Design (IxD) can benefit from the best practices of Instructional Design when the field’s own
mojo is spread across different ‘personalities’? Paquette makes the case of the relevance to drive
common standards into the discipline by explaining that
“The work on Educational Modeling Languages [Koper 2001], and the subsequent
integration of a subset in the IMS Learning Design Specification, is the most important
initiative to date to integrate Instructional Design in the Standards movement. In
Best Practices of Interdisciplinary Design 12
particular, it describes a formal way to represent the structure of a Unit of Learning and
the concept of a pedagogical method specifying roles and activities that learners and
support persons can play using learning objects. Instructional Engineering, as defined
above, and Educations Modeling Languages have much in common. They put the main
emphasis on pedagogy and Instructional Design. They share a software engineering
approach, EML being represented using the UML software modeling methodology.”
With such a massive flow of information around us, standards are needed to prevent
havoc and also to aid the conglomerate fields that have already propelled Instructional Design to a
whole new ballpark. The Benefits of Anchoring Interaction Design in the Best Practices of
Instructional Design are more clear in this context, as the DNA of any of the Design fields is
usability, which “is typically described in terms of five characteristics: ease of learning,
efficiency of use, memorability, error frequency and severity, and subjective to satisfaction”.
The opportunity at large is to acknowledge that most of the cognitive ‘legwork’ falls into the
boundaries of Instructional Design and Technology. Developing creative, transparent and
efficient intercultural collaborative models that are underlined by a common framework of
standards, communication, best practices, continuous development, deployment, improvement
and expansion gives Instructional Design a new personality, it becomes a ‘Rosetta Stone’ in this
workflow. This framework must, at any rate, be intrinsically simple, ethnographically unbound
and cross-culturally adaptable given the nature of most open source projects.
Best Practices of Interdisciplinary Design 13
The field of IDT has no choice but get its Mojo back in order to play a credible role in other
Design fields. Instructional Design & Technology is “a methodology mostly concerned with the
processes and principles that will produce good specifications of a learning system” (Paquette)
The keyword in this case is methodology. For more technology that we can think of, without a
method, there is no added value to the scientific innovation inheriting to a specific device. Driving
good methodologies that are simple, ethnographically unbound and cross-culturally adaptable is
the key to Instructional Design. The ball has landed in the IDT court and it is time to make a
It’s like Christmas with no Santa.
What is the right mix of technology, methodology, know-how and innovation? The easy answer
maybe the right answer, and such is that we can only know when we make it happen. It may be
uncomfortable, you may be yelled at, or praised for, empathized with or derogated by. It is,
paradoxically, an uninviting environment; yet it is unacceptable not to take action and remain on
the sideline. The opportunity of discovery and growth is exquisitely irresistible and it is in such
spirit that many thinkers, innovators and geniuses out there push the Human Spirit forward.
Because we thrive for Global Justice and many of them tirelessly aim to make a better world
around them. This is then the Human essence of why it is important to have standards, standards
that must be implemented in methodologies that can be globally enhanced to spread knowledge.
Technology is not the catalyst of change, it is the human behind it. Technology has come and
gone and what makes people move forward is not the great version of a new software nor the
next top-of-the-line device, it is a mental connection based on belief, hope and faith.
Best Practices of Interdisciplinary Design 14
E Pluribus Unum
“[Harnessing] the distributive powers of the Internet, [parceling] the work out to thousands,
[using] their piecework to build a better whole – putting informal networks of volunteer coders in
direct competition with big corporations. It works like an ant colony, where the collective
intelligence of the network supersedes any single contributor.” (Thinkcycle, 2006)
The Benefits of Anchoring Interaction Design in the Best Practices of Instructional Design are once
again clear also in this context. Such practices provide instructional support for both Creative
Professionals and end users is the key bridge that must be built through cross-cultural
communication by the Instructional Designers in order to prosper in their creative endeavors with
efficiency, and with solid building blocks of confidence in every area. According to the
Wikipedia, to bridge the digital divide,
“ease of access is a fundamental aspect, but it is not the sole factor. Effective access also
depends on ability to use ICT (Information and Communications Technologies)
effectively, and on the quality of digital content that is available and can be provided. The
quality of connection, auxiliary services and other factors that affect effective use are also
important (Davison and Cotten, 2003). Access can be through a range of devices and each
provides a different level of support. Once an appropriate level of access is achieved, the
individual then requires an education that includes literacy and technological skills to make
effective use of it. From this point on, participation becomes possible because of the
Best Practices of Interdisciplinary Design 15
wealth of usable information that becomes available coupled with the equally important
capacity to provide information to others.”
The best practices of the field of Instructional Design and Technology make IDT become
the key broker –or bridge- in this relationship and has intrinsic benefits for creating better bonds
in the cross cultural interactions that many times will happen, will indeed become a win – win
relationship of synergy for both actors in the creative continuum. The relationships and the
forged alliances must be established with enough cohesion to create synergy but not
interdependency. In other words, if we are to engage in building solid relationships, as the saying
goes “We must teach people how to fish”.
Would there be a time when collaboration replaces corporation? We must keep our feet on
the ground for the time being and gain an understanding of how we communicate within ourselves
and with each of the other six billion people we share the planet with before we embark into a
journey we have no conception off. . The time to act is now and it is only after we take the first
step into this journey that we will discover much more than if we just stood still on the sideline.
As Speer mentions: “talking the talk is easy... walking the walk is really hard”.
Best Practices of Interdisciplinary Design 16
Friedman. (2005). The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century. New
York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 3.
Gibson. (2000). Intercultural Business Communication: Fachsprache Englisch. Berlin, Germany:
Cornelsen & Oxford University Press GmbH & Co, 11.
Nielsen. (1993). Usability Engineering. Boston: Academic Press.
Paquette. (2004). Educational Modeling languages: From an Instructional Engineering
Perspective. Montreal, Quebec: Presses de l’Université du Québec.
Peer to Peer (P2P) Foundation. (2006). Open Source Industrial Design. Retrieved July 2, 2006
Speer. (2006). The Next Decade in Design: Paradigm Shift. Innovation,Spring 2006, 31-
Spolsky, Joel. “Great Design: What is Design?”. (2006). Retrieved October 1, 2006 from
Wikipedia. Digital Divide. Retrieved July 5, 2006 from
Wikipedia. (2006). “What is Interaction Design?”. Retrieved October 7th, 2006 from