You may not be familiar with the concept of instructional design, but if you need to convey information, guaranteeing a high retention rate by your audience, then this is a very important technical knowledge that should not be put aside.
Instructional design is the process by which learning resources and experiences are developed, created and delivered. Also known as instructional systems design (ISD), this discipline follows a multi-step approach that aims to effectively design successful curricula. In short, instructional design is the systematic development of an educational programme and it is almost a synonym to didactics.
Some sources describe instructional designers as the 'architects' of the learning experience and the 'directors' of the instructional systems design process.
It is common to use the terms instructional design, instructional technology, learning experience design and instructional systems design interchangeably. This multitude of designations reveals how important these models have become during the last decades.
Even though instructional design is historically and traditionally rooted in cognitive and behavioural psychology — and goes back to the 1950s — constructivism and systems engineering have more recently influenced developments in this field. The most current branch of instructional design focuses on how to integrate technology, the internet and human-computer interaction in state-of-the-art methods of designing and delivering education.
There are many instructional design models, and most follow five-stage system of assessing needs, designing a process, developing materials, rolling them out and then evaluating its effectiveness. This is called the ADDIE procedure, as an acronym for its different phases: analysis, design, development, implementation and evaluation.
It is important to understand that learning resources include online courses, instruction manuals, video, simulations and any other format in which education takes place. One might be tempted to associate instructional design to more complex training projects, but something as simple as a sofa frame assembly instructions manual will probably have gone through a thorough instructional design process.
Why is instructional design important for online training?
Following the principles and steps of an instructional design model will force you to identify the purpose of your training endeavours — the ‘why you’re doing this’ — before you jump into action with all the ‘how will you do this’. There is a fair amount of critical thinking that needs to happen before you can successfully launch a training project otherwise you run the risk of missing your target and wasting precious time and money.
An instructional design strategy is in fact a high-level approach of how something will be taught. This method will encompass the methods, techniques and devices you will choose to instruct, and it will be deeply tied to the needs of your audience and your objectives.
There are a few specificities in online training that make instructional design indispensable:
Online learning lacks a physical trainer
In online courses, there is no physical classroom where a trainer can gauge their learners’ involvement and tailor their delivery style according to that. Even when the online experience includes synchronous sessions, it is hard to reproduce the sensorial ambiance. Online learning aims to facilitate the same learning experience, so it is essential to design your resources in a way that it overcomes the trainer’s absence.
Online learning needs to be efficient
Nowadays, the challenge does not lie in accessing information: most of the time, information is only one search engine away. But accessing information and being able to understand it in a way that helps someone do their job is not the same. If we learn something on our own, we spend a lot of time sifting through irrelevant information and extracting the important bits. It is the instructional designers’ tasks to help streamline and structure information in a way that makes it easy to learn and bring it to our day-to-day lives.
Online learning needs to be engaging
Online courses have fierce competition. Different browser windows, live notifications, the lure of social media… Implementing an instructional design approach will help you avoid creating those boring ‘click next’ courses, which are not interactive at all. Because it focuses on the learners’ experience, instructional design will make sure you create stimulating, memorable and accurately representative experiences for your audience.
Online learners have to work hard
In online learning, instructors assume the role of facilitators. The onus of learning lies with the learners themselves, which means the medium must help them use the learning environment and all the available resources as effectively as possible.
Given these factors, there is no denying the need to incorporate instructional design strategies in the development of online courses.
Bugle’s Digital Learning Solutions (DLS) team is made of instructional design experts who help clients design effective online videos to deliver training experiences that meet their learners’ needs.
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