Based on Anastasia Mavraki’s webinar for Moodle Academy with the same title
The term instructional design refers to the systematic and reflective process of translating principles of learning and instruction into plans for instructional materials, activities, resources and evaluation.
In other words, an instructional designer is someone who creates learning experiences that lead to learners acquiring particular capabilities, which can go from simple recall of knowledge to cognitive strategies that allow a learner to find solutions to new problems within a field of study. Within e-learning, the instructional designer is an expert who facilitates how to use technology to support good pedagogy.
The principles of instructional design are universal and apply to all kinds of learning: from primary school to further education. In this blog, we look at how instructional design can be applied to online learning in workplaces or corporate training, as it is often termed.
The process of instructional design – the ADDIE model
The design and development of a course is not a linear process: when you design learning experiences, it’s necessary to iterate in your design in order to align the learning goals and the material with the actual needs of your learners. When it comes to providing a clear process for course design, the ADDIE model is the most straightforward of design models as it depicts the five key phases of course design in an iterative way: analysis, design, development, implementation and evaluation.
Analysis should be conducted before you start any learning design and development effort. Analysis enables you to determine key aspects of your training, for example, the reason training is required or whether eLearning is the best solution to deliver the training. Some of the things you’ll be looking at during this phase are:
- Target audience analysis: the key characteristics of the learners will influence the design and delivery of training. From their previous knowledge to their location, learning context or their access to technology. If you have never met your future learners, you can conduct research by interviewing members of their organization or reading articles that discuss the motivations and interests of particular age groups. If you’re designing training programs for employees, having a look at job descriptions can also help you understand your target audience better.
- Task analysis: identifies the job tasks that learners should acquire or improve, and the knowledge and skills that need to be developed or reinforced. Task analysis is mainly used in courses designed to build specific job-related skills, also called perform courses.
- Topic analysis is carried out to identify and classify the course content and is typical of courses that are primarily designed to provide information, also known as inform courses.
The design phase is where you determine the general learning objective of your training, as well as the sub learning objectives and the learning outcomes, that is, the actions that show whether learners have conquered the learning goals. You will also define the order in which the objectives should be achieved, also known as sequencing, and will choose your strategy for instruction, evaluation and delivery. This is also the stage where you will be making decisions about the production of your content. For example, whether you will use simple and non-interactive eLearning materials like documents or pdfs, combine them with multimedia materials, etc.
To help you connect the learning objectives with the activities that will make up your courses, you can use the very helpful ABC Learning Design tool.
The outcome of the design stage will be a blueprint for you to use as a reference to develop your course.
The development phase of instructional design consists of three steps:
- Content development, where you write or collect all the required knowledge and information for the course.
- Storyboard development, where you integrate all instructional methods and media elements and put them together in a document that describes all components of the final interactive product, including images, text, interactions or assessments.
- Courseware development, where you actually develop all these materials, media and interactive components, and integrate them into the platform of delivery, such as a learning management system (LMS).
In this stage, the course is delivered to learners by making it accessible to them, for example through an LMS. In courses led by training facilitators, this stage also includes managing and facilitating learners’ activities.
There’s different things you may want to evaluate at this stage of your design process: learners’ reactions, the achievement of learning objectives, the transfer of job-related knowledge and skills, or the impact of the project at an organizational level.
To learn more about instructional design, sign up to the free course in Moodle Academy, which includes:
- Learning theories and which of their principles you can adapt in your online or blended learning courses to achieve your learning goals and address the needs of a specific target group.
- How to write measurable learning objectives.
- A content template that helps you see how your learning objectives match with the learning outcomes and the assessment criteria of your course.
Interested in other frameworks for instructional design? Check out our blog post on Fink’s Taxonomy of Significant Learning Experiences.