Home > eLearning, Freelancers, Instructional Design - General > The science of Umami, and why Instructional Designers should care.

The science of Umami, and why Instructional Designers should care.

I cooked a steak for supper yesterday, and finished off the mushroom, onions and red wine sauce with some umami powder.

Some what?

Umami – the taste of “savoury meatiness”, found in parmesan cheese, lemon peel, mushrooms, and synthesized as monosodium glutamate, or “flavour enhancer”.

Scientifically identified in 1908, yet we still mainly teach that there are 4 tastes – sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Why over 100 years later is the term still in its infancy?

What’s this got to do with Instructional Design?


We still talk about “learning styles” – perhaps they should just be viewed as preferences?

Many people still let SMEs give us bullet points, but how often do we explain what bullet points ACTUALLY ARE? (…how many of us know?)

We still mainly “tell” in courses, rather than let people discover their errors, and then learn how to solve problems. We are scared of people feeling as though they “failed”, (even if they DID, but we then explain WHY and let them practice for success, in a safe, online environment).

How long will it be before we have the courage, as a profession, to constantly and assertively let our Subject Matter Experts and customers know that there IS another way, that there is an alternative to linear courses?

Changing perceptions and comfort zones is a hard road to follow, but it IS our job to do it. Challenging can be scary, especially when the next invoice is riding on it, but ultimately, it is HUGELY rewarding, both for us, and our clients.


  1. July 23, 2014 at 12:36 am

    Kind of ironic, since I just took an ID test on learning styles this morning, and so true. I love working with those customers who are willing to let go of the bullet points and do more experimental and exploratory learning, and find that it can be hard for some organizations, especially corporate organizations, to let go of the bullet points. I worked in one for many years that was very old-fashioned and still new to eLearning, and while they eventually moved into more interactive eLearning, it took time and persuasion to get them there.


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