If you’re tasked with creating any kind of learning intervention, instructional design is where you’d turn. Instructional design is the intentional design of educational experiences. It includes the why, what, how and who of a lesson. When you’re designing a program or developing instructional materials to promote any kind of learning, instructional design guides your efforts.

Instructional design is a broad term that encompasses several concepts. It involves determining how learners learn—from what content is effective to how to tailor methods for different learning needs. The goal of this process is to design learning experiences that can support the completion of tasks within time and budget constraints while maintaining high productivity, accuracy and quality. It applies to all kinds of learners—child or adult.


  1. Meaning Of Instructional Design: A Closer Look

  2. What Is Instructional Design: Key Approaches

  3. Things To Keep In Mind With Instructional Design

  4. Examples Of Instructional Design

  5. What Is Instructional Design For E-learning?

Meaning Of Instructional Design: A Closer Look

Designing a curriculum is broken down into several steps. It always starts with understanding the situation, goals and objectives and it always ends with an evaluation. Let’s look at the various parts.

  1. Understand The Need

The first step in creating an effective learning program is to understand the target audience in as much detail as possible. This includes identifying their knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors (KABB). The instructor is responsible for providing information not previously known to the students that’ll help them meet their goals.

  1. Outline Objectives

The next step involves determining what goals and objectives the instructor needs to meet based on the KABB of the target audience. These could be in keeping with an academic curriculum that’s already been laid out—such as in a school. It could also be to address emerging needs—such as in an organization where new skills need to be adopted.

  1. Develop A Plan

The next step for the course architect is creating a program that takes learners’ needs into account and ensures they can reach the learning outcomes. The lesson plan, course material, exercises and assessments are all put together at this stage.

  1. Implement The Plan

Implementing the design plan involves setting up a means for student engagement, which will result in the student learning what they need to know. This could be online or offline, self-paced or time-bound.

  1. Evaluate The Learning

After the content has been delivered, learners are evaluated on what they’ve  covered. There could be a short-term and a long-term evaluation plan.

These are the five broad principles of instructional design in education. In the hands of a skilled teacher, they can be powerful.

What Is Instructional Design: Key Approaches

Instructional design takes a holistic approach to problem-solving. It’s not prescriptive. Using the design principles, instructors can choose from a host of methodologies that range from lectures to lab work, group projects to study.

How a course is planned depends on many factors. The nature of the content, the resources available, the kind of students and teaching capacity and objectives are key among these. With that said, there are two broad approaches in instructional design: didactic and learning-centered.

  • Didactic

Didactic instruction is when a teacher instructs the audience on the content in a lecture or presentation. The teacher explains the subject matter to an audience in written or verbal format. The instructor may use handouts, slides and other visual representations of the content.

  • Learner-Centered

In learning-centered or learner-centered instruction, the instructor focuses more on the student’s understanding of the subject. There’s more student involvement, whether with physical material or through interactive or web-based lessons.

An alternative is to use a combination of both methods. For example, an instructor may teach students about global warming and then have them work individually to create a video explaining the issue in action.

Things To Keep In Mind With Instructional Design

Instructional design in education must be laser-focused on what counts. Here are the key questions to ask before getting started:

  1. What is the nature of the content to be delivered?

  2. Have the learning objectives been planned with care?

  3. What resources already exist within the organization for their use and what will they have to create from scratch?

  4. Are there subject matter experts in this field? Can they pool their collective information to create appropriate content?

  5. What is the learners’ current level of comprehension and proficiency in the subject being taught?

  6. Will the course material help the learner achieve the required level of comprehension and mastery?

  7. How will learning be evaluated at the end of the course?

These are some of the core concerns of the instructional designer. Above all, the content needs to be engaging, relevant and usable. The instructional design team can then choose an approach that achieves all these objectives.

Examples Of Instructional Design

What is instructional design in teaching adult learners? Say an L&D head is designing a course for employees on how to use a project management framework. Here are the steps they might follow:

  1. They would conduct research to determine what employees really need to learn and match it to the objectives of the organization

  2. In the development stage, they might create an instructor-led interactive training course that can be delivered digitally (online) or tabletop (in person)

  3. The evaluation and revision plan is built into the fabric of the program. It’s divided into two parts: short-term evaluation and long-term evaluation. Short-term evaluation is an ongoing part of the course, while long-term evaluation occurs after a learning activity has taken place

  4. Reflection is key to this process. As an instructional designer, reflecting on their work with their audience in mind is key. Why were they engaged? Why weren’t they engaged? What could the instructor have done differently?

For more examples of instructional design, instructors can explore various curricula to study its different approaches.

What Is Instructional Design For E-learning?

Educational institutions use various instructional design strategies in order to produce effective online courses that are learner-centered.

There are many ways in which instructional design for e-learning differs from on-campus instructional methods. Here are some key ones:

An online course provides an individualized education in which students learn at their own pace

  • Most times, online courses have a lot of material divided into several sections. The instructional designer needs to work on strategies whereby learners can navigate from one module to the next. This could include the use of click-paths, multimedia components, interactive objects and live performance tracking

  • Learners may be of different ages and skill levels and this needs to be built into the design of the course

  • How can online education be made more interactive is a question course designers are always asking themselves. Student forums are a popular route to create a classroom ambiance

To ensure that students get the most out of their online learning experience, some of the design strategies used in creating an online course are:

  1. Screencasts

The screencast is an especially useful learning tool. It allows learners to view what the instructor is doing. It gives students a way to understand how things work. The instructional designer’s job is to make sure these screencasts are of high quality and have relevant information. They should be simple and easy to understand, with clear steps.

  1. Scenarios

Scenarios are often incorporated into online courses to help learners understand concepts better. Scenarios are any relevant examples that can help a student relate to the material better. They’re like simulations, in which learners are asked to imagine they are in a situation to help them problem-solve using skills covered in the course itself.

  1. Self-Assessment

Self-assessment allows learners to understand where they stand. They can do a self-evaluation by answering the questions at the end of a lesson. In this way, they can monitor their progress and determine if they need extra attention on a subject.

An instructional designer’s role requires the highest level of proficiency to do it justice. Harappa’s Inspiring Faculty Program helps teachers, professors and instructors by bringing them up to date with all the latest classroom techniques. The landscape of education has changed and demands upon teachers and professors have changed too. From how to design course material to how to inspire young people in need of coaching and mentorship, our self-paced program will help teachers transition to the needs of the moment. The pandemic year has been particularly challenging for educators—upgrade their skills today to help them navigate these challenges!

Explore Harappa to learn more about topics such as Instructional Design Models For Teaching, Instructional Technology, Distance Learning and Information On Learner-Centered Approach that will help organizations tap into their employee’s potential.

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