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Put the Design Back in Instructional Designer!

Previously, we discussed the basic framework of the Instructional Design Model ADDIE, which is an acronym for Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate. I’ve discussed the different key components of creating effective instruction, including a specific post on Evaluation: Evaluating Learning, It’s Important! Kirkpatrick’s Model. But now, I’d love to discuss something that gets me excited in my work— the DESIGN phase!

Content or Design

Copyright by Joshua Porter,

After data collection, research, and analysis to determine the educational and training objectives as they align with the audience, the Design phase is when content decisions and creation come to fruition. Keep in mind, the end goal of instructional design is the use and the learning that occurs.

Many instructional designers, myself included, utilize Design Documents to manage and document the design of instruction. Design Documents are essentially a formal outline that details what is to be included in the instruction. They serve as a “road map” during the Development phase.

Design Documents allow for consistency among training and educational courses within a set curriculum. They also ensure accuracy no matter which Instructional Designer is assigned to work on the program.

They also serve as a valuable project documentation tool to keep track of work hand off, version updates, and changes to the curriculum.

I’m a sucker for process and anything that aids in effective work practices. Processes, documentation, and planning can help aid in the success of an instructional project. Planning via Design Documents assures that each component of instruction is thoroughly thought out. Instruction that is rushed into development before considerations of design are more likely to fail or face obstacles. For an example, view the article by the LA Times on how well-intentioned programs shouldn’t be rushed.

Many organizations have their own Design Document templates, but basically contain the same components (including, but not limited to):

  • Purpose and Objective
  • Audience/ Learner Analysis, including skills and knowledge gaps
  • Learning outcomes
  • Assessment Plan, including activities and methods of measuring learning outcomes
  • Instructional Strategies
  • Resources, including learner and instructor resources (textbooks, articles, case studies)
  • Media to be developed, such as slideshows, documents, video, podcasts
  • Scope and Sequence of Lessons / Topics
  • Team members and their responsibilities, including ID, SME, Media Experts, Graphic Artists, etc
  • Approvals
  • Evaluation Plan to measure the success of the overall instruction (not just the learning outcome assessment)
  • Maintenance Plan

I’ve been working on a project designing the curriculum for short orientation videos. I’ve taken this opportunity to create my own Design Documents for program design, scripting, and story-boarding. And I’m loving the design process! You can view the Instructional Design Documents I created in my Portfolio.


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.

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.

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