Instructional design

Instructional design

Learning happens whether it is guided or not. The difference is that better, faster and longer lasting learning is usually guided. It is commonplace to believe that a training manual constitutes training but if you think about your own experiences you probably won’t remember an exceptional training manual as much as an exceptional trainer, and invariably they will have designed the learning experience carefully. Designing for learning can make a great deal of difference in training contexts, whether face-to-face, remote or somewhere in between.

Learn more about what instructional design is in less than five minutes

Learning skills and knowledge

Learning skills and knowledge can be thought of as a three-step process. Learn, remember and do. Each of these need to happen otherwise the training is unsuccessful. As an example, if someone understands during the training but shortly after forgets, or if someone understands and remembers but when the time comes they don’t do what they learned, then neither can be said to be a success.

Learning design should make sure the learners have the best chance to learn, for example through using multimedia principles of design, followed by spaced practice to improve retention and appropriate support when they first need to do the task or use the knowledge. All these tools and methods tip the balance and greatly increase the chance that transformational learning will occur as opposed to informational learning. Whilst there are no assurances there are ways to make sure you have levelled the playing field.


The process of instructional design

There is no one way to learn just as there is no one way to design for learning. However, there are phases that the instructional design process should go through. The first is to look at the needs of the training. This is can come down to the question: ‘What do I want people to know or do differently as a result of this training?’ This is after you answer the fundamental question of whether training is really the answer to the existing problem. Although these are the key questions, there are additional questions, like the current training and learning climate, the criteria for success, and any previous work already done. When there is a clear idea of the destination, we can start planning the journey. Working backwards from the goal we can look at how we want to deliver the course, what media to include, how we assess that learning has taken place and how we will support learners in their efforts to transfer the knowledge, skills and behaviours after the training has finished. These considerations will be framed considering time and budget.

Blended learning

Face-to-face training will always be important but that is not to say that it should be viewed as the only option. Blending face-to-face training with online delivery can benefit both the learners and those managing projects. There are different ways that technology can enhance learning before, during and after training.

Key supports

Needs analysis – A part of this analysis is to decide if, for example, training and the workshop is going to help. Is it really a knowledge gap or is it a situation where people know what to do but do not have the capability, motivation or opportunity to do something? A good needs analysis can save time and effort whilst improving outcomes. Some resources you might want to look at are:

Once we are confident about what we need, we can start developing the learning material. Instructional systems design depends on what your goals are. There are far too many options to outline, but if you are interested you can find a good list here. Here we design with considerations of complexity, adult learning theory, experiential learning, cognitive load theory, principles of multimedia instruction and so on. As well as the abstract methods and principles that are applied in the training, the practical steps are also considered. The face-to-face engagement will always be core to many project’s needs but will also always be costly and difficult to scale ffectively. Here adding performance aids and digital extensions can help.

Instructional design can support the evaluation of you learning objectives. Aside from providing metrics such as attendance and participant reaction it can moremore detailed information that can better inform knowledge, decision-making competence, task competence, knowledge transfer and effects of knowledge transfer. In terms of practical tools, we use monitoring systems that can track different dimensions of learning. To accomplish this we record learning experiences, both offline and online. Using the learning data standard xAPI we support better learning analytics and interoperability of learning data.