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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.


An Instructional Designer’s Philosophy

the_thinkerI’ve previously wrote about Being an Instructional Designer and Instructional Design Defined.

I once read, and wholeheartedly agree, “Instructional Designers create easy-to-understand educational materials for training and development purposes. They understand the process of learning and use graphics & creative strategies to make the material effective and interesting.”

As I think about who I am and what I do, I decided to share my thoughts about my career passion. As an Instructional Designer, I have a philosophy to designing effective instruction.

My instructional design philosophy can be summed in a few points:

  1. Learning should be about connecting to the content and then sharing your knowledge and interests with others.
    • An instructional designer curates knowledge. We provide learners with valuable connections to subject matter experts and information.
    • Learners should be able to explain or repeat the lesson to a partner.
    • Learners should be able to share the knowledge with a group of people.
  2. Adults need to know why they need to learn something and how it benefits them. Making this transparent is the start to good Instructional Design
    • Learners should be able to discuss how they use the information, how it benefits them, and any issues they have with the information.
    • A good instructional designer facilitates this discussion and provides recommendations, best practices and suggestions for mitigating the issues.
    • Learners should establish goals. If learners are not driven to set goals for themselves, instructional designers must aid in the development of these goals. Once learning goals are set, instructional designers must create and facilitate instruction that helps accomplish these goals.
  3. Good instructional design allows users to experience and interact with the content.
    • It’s okay to learn by doing and learn by making mistakes.

    Instructional Designers don many hats, including that of producer, coordinator, and facilitator. Read more about these roles here.

Educational Technology Defined

As promised in my post “Instructional Design Defined”, I’ll be discussing what Educational Technology means.

So what is Educational Technology? At a quick glance, the phrase can be daunting. However, take a step back, break the phrase down and what do you have?

Educational = Education = Learning

Technology = Tools

classroomSimply put, Educational Technology are learning tools. And therefore, an Educational Technology professional is one that encourages the practical application of technology tools in the classroom with the end goal of positively impacting the learning experience of the student.

The field, Educational Technology (also known as EdTech), is the study and practice of facilitating technological processes for effectively improving learning and performance. Educational Technology is commonly found in the education and higher education industries. However, the skills of Educational Technology professionals can be beneficial to corporations as well, specifically in training and human resource departments responsible for the successful on-boarding of its employees.

Many Educational Technology professionals, such as myself, have a background in Instructional Theory (Instructional Design) and Learning Theory (don’t forget I promised you a blog on Learning Theories!).

ComputerEducational technology includes software, hardware, Internet applications and interventions or activities. Essentially, any tool that may prove helpful in advancing student learning can be categorized as an Educational Technology. I plan on writing a series of blogs detailing how specific educational technologies can be beneficial to the learner and the implications it has for the educator.


Technology Type Examples
Software PowerPoint, Keynote, Learning Management Systems, Games, Videos
Hardware Classroom Projector, Smart Phone, Tablets, Document Camera, Computer, Calculator
Internet Applications Learning Management Systems, Google Drive, YouTube, iTunes U, Podcasts
Interventions/ Activities Online quiz for harassment training, Simulations

Educational Technology must be used to enhance the learning objectives, not just “technology used for technology’s sake”. Educational Technology must serve as a complement to the overall educational goals, not be a distraction.

Therefore, it is important to plan and deliberately decide, which technology will be used and how it will be used when FIRST designing learning interventions.

ADDIE Instructional Design Model

ADDIE is not just a good name for my future puppy, it’s also a framework model used by Instructional Designers and Training Professionals to create effective instruction and interventions. For more information on what Instructional Design is, see my post titled “Instructional Design Defined”.


ADDIE is a systematic Instructional Design Model that outlays a process. A system means that one phase must be completed in the process before the succeeding phase can commence.

In this case, the ADDIE Model consists of five phases that Instructional Designers and Training Developers must follow:

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

The Analysis phase is when research is conducted to determine not only who the learners are, but what their current state of knowledge is of the topic to be learned. The learning objectives must be determined during this phase in order to fill the knowledge gap between what is known and what should be known.

During the Design phase the Instructional Designer decides how the content will be delivered to the students. This may include what media and communication mode is used, as well as what assessment tools will be created. The Instructional Designer must ask: How will the students achieve the learning objectives established during the Analysis phase?

When you’re ready to put it all together, the Development phase takes place and the instruction is physically built. Instructional materials and assessment tasks designed during the preceding phase are compiled in a nice instructional package.

The Implementation phase is also known as the “launch”. The intervention created during the development phase is finally delivered to the learners for instructional purposes.

The final phase, the Evaluation phase, focuses on how effective the objectives of the instruction and intervention were met in terms of the established success factors determined during the Analysis phase. Did it work? Did students learn? Did some components of the intervention fail? Were there any surprises? Make sure you evaluate the project and its outcomes so that improvements can be made.

ADDIE is essentially, a check list for accomplishing an instructional design project. Your project may not always succeed, but a postmortem analysis should be conducted to determine the strengths and weakness of the Instructional Design project.

This model can be varied according to developers’ needs. Some Instructional Designers like to build the intervention in several iterations, also known as Rapid Prototyping, and then evaluate each prototype accordingly. With this variation, the model becomes A-D-D-E-D-E-I-E. Analyze, Design, Develop, Evaluate, Develop, Evaluate …. Implement and Evaluate.

Other models for the effective design and implementation of instruction include the Human Performance Technology (HPT); the Dick and Carey Systems Approach Model; and the Instructional Development Learning System (IDLS) to name a few. But don’t worry, I’ve made note of these Models and plan on writing a blog post on each! Until then, thanks for reading.

Being an Instructional Designer…

21x1qERPR4L._This article discusses what it’s like to be an Instructional Designer from the viewpoint of a young professional at the start of career.  It answers the questions, “What Excites You About Being an Instructional Designer?”, “What Difference does Instructional Design Make?”, and  “What do You Hope to Achieve through Doing Instructional Design Work?” It will be published in the 7nth edition of “Designing Effective Instruction”.

What Excites You About Being an Instructional Designer?

There are many exciting things about being an instructional designer. One that excites me most is how versatile the field is; almost every company and every industry needs an expert that can help develop and implement effective training practices. For example, Fortune 500 companies need training experts to work with Human Resources, instructional designers can be employed in the restaurant industry for establishing training procedures, or professors in an online program can benefit from the skills of an instructional designer. This variety of opportunities results in a dynamic field for instructional designers. In my own experience, I work with different Subject Matter Experts and content within an online higher education program, which makes my every day work refreshing and exciting, yet the change of content provides new and rewarding challenges.

Another reason why it’s exciting being an instructional designer is that it provides opportunities to work with both people and technology. At times, I work with instructors and professors who are not always confident in applying technology and learning tools to their online courses. Being able to break down difficult concepts so that they can see how technology can benefit their teaching strategy is rewarding, especially when implementation and understanding of the technology are a success.

It’s exciting to assist in adjusting pedagogy so that learning is more effective and appealing to different learning styles. I advocate for the learner so that they achieve their learning objectives in a way that is appropriate for their capabilities. Today’s diverse student body and work force has resulted in a variety of learning needs, including those with impairments. Instructional design plays in integral role in assuring that all learners have a chance to succeed in their educational goals.

Finally, with the advancement in learning technologies and the drive of learners to obtain knowledge, instructional design is exciting because of the chance of innovation it affords. In my work, I’m asked to evaluate new technologies to determine if use would be beneficial to the overall learning goals of the institution. As an instructional designer, I enjoy being a part of a driving force of change in education.

What Difference does Instructional Design Make?

Utilizing instructional design principles and models can result in significant change in the overall learning process. Instructional Design bridges the gap between content and learning by evaluating the current state and needs of a learner and setting appropriate goals for instruction. In addition, instructional design results in the creation of an “intervention” to facilitate the newly defined instructional goals.

Instructional Design focuses on the learner, the instructor, and the dissemination of content by adjusting pedagogies that result in efficient, effective, and appealing learning situation for a variety of learning types. Learning is no longer a one-way street where learners are “talked at” and asked to recite material verbatim. Instructional design makes a difference in establishing the best way to articulate and assess learning.

What do You Hope to Achieve through Doing Instructional Design Work?

My goals in doing instructional design work include improving the way learning is done by advocating the needs of the learner. I also hope to improve learning by inspiring instructors, trainers, and professors on how they can branch out from the typical course lecture (talking head) to a greater interactive course environment. In doing so, I hope to stimulate effective learning that leads to an overall retention and success of adult learners.  On a greater scale, I hope to take part in innovative research that continues to shape how learners, instructors and content interact.

Process of Teaching: Pedagogy and Andragogy

When I wrote  Instructional Design Defined on April 8, 2013, I gave a basic overview of the field I very much enjoy being a professional in. I promised that more information would come regarding terms and theories that I only briefly mentioned in that post.

This week, I will give more insight on the Instructional Design terms of Pedagogy and Andragogy.

Instructional design is often associated with Pedagogy or the “process of teaching”. As an instructional designer and an instructor, it’s very important to consider not only WHAT will be taught, but also WHO is being taught and HOW a lesson will be taught.

A successful instructor or instructional designer will consider the students’ background knowledge and experience. Some things to consider (but not limited to):

    • Is the student a Novice?

    • Is the student an expert seeking a refresher?

    • Has the student completed prerequisite courses?

    • Does the student use the topic daily?

It is also important that the instructional designer considers the situation, and the environment when designing a curriculum:

    • Does the lesson have immediate and important implication (such as safety protocols)?

    • Is the lesson being conducted in person or online?

    • Is the lesson self-guided or instructor-led?

In addition, a Pedagogical approach to instruction will consider the learning goals set by both the students and the instructor.

A related term is Andragogy or the teaching process developed for an audience of adult learners. Andragogy is intended to engage adult learners with the purpose of creating a meaningful learning experience. Adult learning theory typically states that learners are self-directed and autonomous in their learning goals and that instructors act as facilitators of learning.

Andragogy focuses on six assets (created by Malcolm Knowles):

  1. Adults need to know the reason for learning

  2. Learning through experience and making mistakes. Learn by Doing is a common phrase.

  3. Adults are involved in the decisions of their education including the planning and evaluation of their instruction.

  4. Topics should have immediate relevance to work.

  5. Problem-centered versus content-oriented.

  6. Internal motivators versus external motivators such as rewards result in better responses from adult learners

As many of you know, I have held several roles. Not only am I a Manager of Instructional Technology, but I also instruct an undergraduate course online and I have experience as a Graduate student taking both online and traditional classroom classes. This combination of roles has given me different perspectives as an Instructional Designer.

From my experience as an online student, my best experiences and learning outcomes were achieved when my professors designed the lesson structure for the online environment. Understanding that an online environment lacks synchronous interaction with students is important in overcoming a barrier to learning.

I’ve retained more information from classes that used a variety of tools to share the information. Examples include using voice recording over lecture notes and video demonstrations of content. In addition, classes that had me working on demonstrating my knowledge in the forms of projects, presentations, and exams were beneficial to my retention of knowledge.

However, my worst recall comes from classes that simply had PowerPoints of class notes available to read without any clarification or direction on how to apply those lessons to real life. Just because a class is conducted online doesn’t mean the instructor should take a “set and forget” approach to teaching.

Consideration and care of how the information is received and interpreted by students is important in the achievement of learning objectives.

Learning Theories

This week’s blog is going to be a short introduction to several different Learning Theories commonly used by Instructional Designers and Educational Technologists in designing and building curriculum.

Learning Theories are frameworks that describe how content or information is absorbed, processed, and retained during learning. Four of the well-known learning theories focus on Educational Psychology. They are Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism, and Transformative learning theory.

Behaviorism– Learning means acquiring a new behavior through conditioning. Two ways that a learner is conditioned is by classical conditioning or operant conditioning. Classical conditioning is where the behavior becomes a reflex in response to stimulus.  Operant conditioning occurs when a learner is rewarded or punished for their behavior.


Cognitivism– This Learning Theory states that learners generate knowledge through sequences of mental processes. The mental processes include recognition, recalling, analyzing, reflecting, application, creating and evaluating. Cognitive Learning defers from Behaviorism in that it looks beyond behavior and focuses on how human memory impacts learning.


Constructivism– The Constructivism Learning Theory is when learners have an active involvement in their education. The theory states that a learner does best when they are able to build new ideas or concepts based upon current knowledge and experiences. Instructional Designers must, therefore, understand what the learners already know in order to develop effective instruction.


Transformative Learning Theory– This learning theory focuses on how the learner will revise and interpret learning to change their point of view. Transformative learning is the process of changing one’s frame of reference. An important part of transformative learning is for learners to change their frames of reference by critically reflecting on their assumptions and beliefs. It is also important that learners consciously make and implement plans that bring about new ways of defining their worlds. This can be done through reflection, feedback, debating with those of different viewpoints, and critically examining evidence.


An Early Interest in EdTech….

Job hunting makes you think a lot about yourself, your experience, and your goals, as well as your past. I, not so long ago, accepted a new position in the Educational Technology field. The process of job hunting and getting settled in my new position has made me think a lot about how I became interested in Educational Technology. Many people want to know why I chose this field.

In short, I had great professors at Ithaca College that defined and highlighted the positive implications instructional design and Ed Tech can have on corporations and education. But thinking more deeply about my past, my first infatuation with Educational Technology came in high school. As a junior, I enrolled in Advanced Placement (AP) courses. My high school had a small student body and a small quantity of faculty members. To give students AP offerings, some of the courses were conducted via Distance Learning.

I walked into my first AP class in the basement of the school, near the cafeteria, technology labs, and football weight room. A corner of the school I seldom frequented. I expected the typical classroom layout with a teacher at the front of the room and chalkboard from which students can transcribe notes. I was mistaken.

In front of the ten student tables was a wall of televisions. A camera focused on us, displaying our images on one of the screens. On two other screens were classes filled with students we didn’t recognize. And on yet a fourth television, a man stood at a podium. This man was to be our United States History teacher for the year. He was located in a school district 45 miles from my classroom. He was teaching in front of one of the other groups of students displayed on the television. The third class was located even further away from my high school, 70 miles away. Remarkably, I recognized one of the girls as an opponent field hockey player.

The three classes from three different school districts had synchronous (in-real time) class sessions together for the entire year. The teacher used a Document Camera (similar to an over-head projector, it uses a camera), PowerPoint and streamed videos as instructional aids. I was enthralled with the fact that I could take an advanced course even though our school could not supply us with an in-person teacher.

Thinking even further back, I realized that Educational Technology even impacted me as a young girl. My younger brother was born legally blind (he can see, but not well). To assist him in his education, he was provided a Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) to help enlarge his papers and books on the television. Yes, this is the same technology used for Security purposes. He simply slid the paper under a camera which projected it on a television. The television had several adjustments for enlarging the text or changing the contrast of the color to help facilitate easier reading for the visually impaired. Although this CCTV was beneficial to my brother, I think I was more intrigued with it than he. I took every opportunity I could get to play with it. Who knew my passion for exploring new learning tools would start at such an early age?

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