Instructional Design Defined

In a few of my more recent blog posts, I’ve talked about what it means to be an Instructional Designer and how I had an interest in Educational Technology at an early age. I thought it’d be a good idea to continue down this path of origin by defining Instructional Design and Educational Technology. This blog post will focus on Instructional Design, but feel free to read my post on “Educational Technology Defined”.

Most people get a slightly confused look on their face when I tell them that I am a Manager of Instructional Technology. But when you really think about instructional design and educational technology, it is all around us.

For example, if you have ever had to complete a training seminar for work, maybe a harassment or safety course, you’ve experienced Instructional Design.  If you’ve ever read an instructional booklet for a consumer product, it was instructionally designed by a technical writer. If you’ve ever traveled by airplane, the pre-flight safety demonstrations were instructionally designed. Ahaha! Instructional design IS all around us!

classroomMost people associate Instructional Design with the education industry only, but it is used prevalently in businesses and other industries, too. Interestingly, Instructional Design first originated during World War II by the Military. Training materials and assessment tests were developed based on learning theories and principles of instruction.

Instructional Design, also known as Instructional Systems Design, is the act of creating an questionexperience with the purpose of increasing a person’s knowledge or skill in a way that is effective and appealing. It must be effective because the objective of increasing knowledge or skill must be achieved. It must be appealing because the person (or learner) must want to partake in the instruction.

An effective Instructional Designer will conduct an analysis to determine the current state (what the learner currently knows or can do) and the needs (capabilities or hindrances) of the learner. Another component of Instructional Design is properly defining the end goal of instruction. And of course, an Instructional Designer must create an “intervention” to assist the learner in achieving that defined end goal. An example of an intervention would be a hands-on laboratory experiment in a science course or a video showing the correct way to change the oil on your car.

Analyze                Define                  Intervene

Instructional Design is often associated with pedagogy or “the process of teaching”, but the field is also associated with andragogy or adult learning theory, since many of the instruction is created for adult learners.

There are also different methods for which the instruction is given. For instance, student-only instruction is self-paced learning like the tutorials you can find on YouTube or are asked to complete by Human Resources via an online website. Another mode of instruction is Teacher-Led instruction. This is what most people associate with education- a traditional classroom experience. Finally, community-based instructional settings provide learners with an opportunity to conduct hands-on learning in a supervised environment. An example of this would be a Fire Department having its members extinguishing a controlled fire.

The main result of Instructional Design is the outcome. The outcome can be measured and assessed or other times the outcome is hidden and therefore, not so easily measured.

Instructional Designers typically follow a model for creating instruction. The most common design model, which is discussed in length here, is the ADDIE model. The ADDIE Model has five phases:

1)      Analyze – Determine the Needs and Outcomes

2)      Design– Plan the instruction

3)      Develop– Build the instruction

4)      Implement– Bring the instruction “to market” or give the instruction to the learners

5)      Evaluate– Determine the success of the instruction

Instructional Designers also work with different learning theories such as cognitivism, behaviorism, and constructivism. Each of these learning theories are discussed further in the post- Learning Theories.

The thing about instructional design (and audio editing and movie editing for that matter) is that you only notice it when it’s of poor quality. A good instruction will result in a change in the learner’s knowledge or skill with little notice of actually being taught.


About Julie Tausend Burba

Instructional Designer at Hulu, Ed Tech and Project Management enthusiast. MBA Technology Management, MS Management, BS Communications, Traveler and Cook.

Posted on April 8, 2013, in Instructional Design, Tausend Talks Shop and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Good website! I really love how it is easy on my eyes and the data are well written. I’m wondering how I could be notified whenever a new post has been made. I have subscribed to your RSS feed which must do the trick! Have a great day!

    • You can also sign up to receive each post by email. I only write once a week, sometimes twice a week, so your email inbox won’t get filled. You can also choose to follow me on twitter, where the new posts will be tweeted when they are published.

      Thanks for reading,
      Julie Tausend of Tausend Talks

  2. Red Ram Media Kempten

    Very good blog you have here but I was wondering if you knew of any message boards that cover the same topics talked about here?
    I’d really love to be a part of group where I can get comments from other experienced individuals that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Kudos!

  3. Really informative blog article.Thanks Again. Keep writing.

  4. I am new to Instructional Design and found your blog post to be very informative. As a former Systems Engineer (SE) for NASA, I see many of the same processes/steps used in your ADDIE model that System Engineers use for creating/designing systems (Systems Life Cycle). Just for grins, I did a quick comparison using a frequently used Systems Life Cycle model which is almost identical to your design steps.

    ID Analyze=>SE Problem Definition Phase: What is the problem and what is the expected outcome? What is known and unknown? Who is the customer are what are their needs and wants? What is the ultimate purpose and mission?

    ID Design=>SE Concept Phase: filtering of ideas, what are some of the alternatives, feasibility, tradeoffs regarding cost to performance? What are the User considerations?

    ID Develop=>SE Developmental/Design Phase: Using what we learned in previous steps, what are the systems requirements? Next, Build/Fabricate and constantly test to satisfy those requirements. Train operators (or instructors) to the system.

    ID Implement=>SE Implementation: Fully release the product to the Users.

    ID Evaluate=> SE Verification & Validation: Gather data from fully released system and compare to original requirements. Analyze data to ensure mission objectives were met. Make adjustments as necessary to maintain operation.

    I suppose I never thought of ID as it related to a SE approach to design, which was ignorant of me. We both go through multiple steps to achieve a desired outcome. Good design of ANY system is a process. I hope I didn’t bore you too much with my comparison.

    Thank you.

  5. Thanks for re-posting my article!

  1. Pingback: Instructional Design Defined | Initiate! What i...

  2. Pingback: ADDIE Instructional Design Model | Tausend Talks

  3. Pingback: Process of Teaching: Pedagogy and Andragogy | Tausend Talks

  4. Pingback: Instructional Design Defined | EdTech and Instr...

  5. Pingback: Learning Theories | Tausend Talks

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