Home Interviews - Education Technology Thought Leaders Instructional Designer James Hill Discusses the Ups and Downs of Technology (Interview)

Instructional Designer James Hill Discusses the Ups and Downs of Technology (Interview)


Experienced Instructional Designer provides insights into getting the most from today's (and tomorrow's) instructional technologies.

In his role as Instructional Designer at The Home Depot Inc, James Hill designed and developed training programs and performance improvement tools for front-line sales employees. He has also designed learning for the transportation industry and military.

What follows is a brief interview between James and Maestro eLearning, as a part of a new series called Trainer Talks.  This series, which will be published on various influential blogs, explores the difficulties of being a trainer and how to overcome them, along with tips and advice to make training more effective and more engaging.

Q. How have 21st century technologies (e.g. Internet, software, etc.) helped you?

Twenty-first century technology has really helped me as an instructional designer by opening up multiple design options. When I started in the industry we were limited to traveling facilitators delivering paper based training materials or very basic computer based training burned onto CD/DVD.

Now I have multiple design and delivery options available to me. I can design web based training that can be delivered across the globe or I can design blended solutions with facilitators delivering lecture interspersed with interactive simulations and knowledge checks. This has allowed me the freedom to step outside of the box and really look at a problem without the limitations of a delivery method.

Q. How have 21st century technologies not helped you?

I believe the biggest hindrance of twenty-first century technology is that it can be seen as a “one-size-fits all” solution, as opposed to a tool that should be used for the situation it was designed for. I've seen a technology forced on a designer even though it was not appropriate for the audience or the material. When the training program was unsuccessful the technology was blamed and no longer available when it would have been a great delivery tool.

Q. What might organizational learning look like 10 years from now?

I think that in 10 years organizational learning will be almost unrecognizable. More training will be done with virtual environments and “serious games” than any of today's delivery methods. This will create two distinct groups within organizations; behavioral instructional design that will engineer the interactive scenarios and technologists that will engineer the virtual environments. The key to successful organizations will be managing the interactions of these two “guilds” to form coherent and balanced training.

Q. A recent buzzword ringing in our ears is “informal learning.” Readers are asking, “Are trainers and designers responsible for the informal learning process?” What would you tell them?

No, but they should strive to understand it and where it is possible to influence it. Our audience has many older, highly experienced employees working alongside younger inexperienced employees who may be in their first formal job. As an organization we encourage the more experienced employees to share their knowledge even going so far as to develop checklists to guide them through the process. Newer employees are encouraged to listen and learn from their more experienced peers.

Q. What books, blogs, and/or magazines would you recommend for your colleagues?

I enjoy the blog “Occasional Rants” by Patrick Dunn. Over the years I've found a lot of good training information from the United States Naval Institute, especially from the leadership development aspect and utilizing technology as a training tool.

I also like to look through non-discipline materials to see what is going on in the wider world and how it may apply to the learning environment.

Thanks to James Hill and Maestro eLearning for this interview. Maestro eLearning is a customer service company in the business of creating custom online training courses. They’re collaborating with industry professionals to deliver more value in their series “Trainer Talks.”  If you would like to participate in an interview, contact genatyalor@maestroelearning.com.



  1. He has been involved with computer-based and web-based training for over twelve years. The focus of this white paper will outline the benefits of web-based training along with a practical framework for developing ROI when looking at the cost of traditional training methods verses e-Learning…..


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