What is instructional design?

Posted by Greten on 03 Feb 2019 under Terms

Instructional design is the development of materials and processes to enable the impartment of knowledge and skills. Instructional design draws from several disciplines including, but not limited to behavioral and cognitive psychology, as well as pedagogy. User interface engineering is sometimes involved in developing computer-based learning materials.

A chalk board with drawing of a brain at the center connected to a computer, a paper, and a piece of puzzle.There are two words in instructional design: "instruction" and "design". Instruction is the act of imparting knowledge by a systematic method, making it synonymous to teaching. Instruction is also commonly understood as a series of command or direction that a person should strictly follow to accomplish a goal. This definition is also applicable in the learning process because teaching certain skills, such as those that involve muscle memory, involves repeatedly following instructions. The second word, design, is the arrangement of different materials and methods to accomplish a specific purpose. You can think of design here as something like interior design or user interface design. You do not arrange construction materials or the user interface elements only in a way that you believe is most pleasing in the eyes. Instead, you also consider factors such as how the lights will reflect in a room or how easy it will be for the users to click an icon to do a specific task.

Elements of instructional design

A good instructional design should have the following elements:

  • Learning objectives: the first thing that you need to consider in designing instruction are the learning objectives. List what the students need to learn in a particular lesson you are designing. You should have a way of assessing whether the learners achieved the learning objectives, such as an exam or a project portfolio. Otherwise, you need to rewrite it.
  • Plan: you need to plan how you will develop the learning materials, how the learning processes will be implemented, and how the learning objectives will be assessed. At this stage, you will use the different learning theories from pedagogy and/or psychology, such as the AGES model.
  • Development: using the plan, you will now develop the learning materials and the quizzes or any other instruments needed to measure learning. This is the stage where you develop the videos, HTML5 modules, slides, or practice worksheets.
  • Delivery: the learners will use your materials and follow your processes and instructions. They will access the media from your LMS and/or follow your facilitation as they work on practice exercises or roleplay the skills in which they are training.
  • Assessment: the learners will take the quiz or whatever instruments you developed to assess their learning. Some of these can be similar to the practices and exercises in the delivery, but this time, they are scored and used as bases as to whether they are considered to have successfully completed the learning.
  • Feedback: if the assessment aims to measure whether the learners accomplished the learning objectives, the feedback aims to improve the instructional design to be more effective in imparting knowledge and skills. You can ask for feedback from other instructional designers to see your plan or your finished learning materials, or you can use the results of the assessment by checking which part of the lesson did most learners answer incorrectly and see if you can improve anything in that part of the lesson.

These elements of instructional design may or may not be obvious depending on the instructional design model you are using. For example, in the ADDIE model, all of these stages are present with other names: Analysis (formulate objectives), Design (planning), Development, Implementation (delivery and assessment), and Evaluation (feedback). In another example, in the Successive Approximation Model (SAM), the feedback happens several times during the planning, development, and delivery stages.

Examples of instructional design

Instructional design is commonly understood in terms of elearning. In elearning development, the stages of instructional design are more visible: you do research about the topic and set what the learners need to learn (learning objectives); write a storyboard (planning); create learning material in authoring tools such as Captivate or Storyline (development); have learners access it through the LMS (delivery); have them take quizzes, which can be among the Captivate or Storyline slides or within other pages of the LMS (assessment); and use the test scores from learners and feedback from other stakeholders to modify your learning materials (feedback).

Elearning is also more used in corporate training, and corporate trainers are among the first adopters of instructional design methods as they were earlier developed and used by the military.

In the classroom setting, lesson planning can also be considered instructional design. As a teacher, you plan and deliver the lesson and facilitate the students' assessment. You may also use learning materials such as videos or slide presentations and processes such as solving problems on the board.

An instructional design does not need to include any form of electronic or web-based technology, for example, Montessori and Kumon methods. The Montessori Method relies on physical objects that learners can manually manipulate. On the other hand, the Kumon Method relies on repeating practice using paper worksheets. Both methods are products of sound instructional designs that started before the information age.


Last updated on 03 Feb 2019.

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Instructional design and educational technology for effective learning