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Term of the Week: Instructional Design

What is it?

The crafting of learning content that responds to the needs of the business and creates learning experiences that make it possible for learners to acquire the new knowledge and skills they need to be effective in their work.

Why is it important?

Too much learning content is created by simply throwing together a handout or slide deck. Instructional design applies educational knowledge and expertise to bring the most effective content to learners. Good instructional design helps you discern what learners need to know and how to create content that meets those needs.

Why does a business professional need to know this?

Instructional design provides a structure for creating learning content that helps you avoid creating content that wastes valuable resources and is possibly doomed to fail.

One useful model for instructional design is ADDIE: Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate. This model can help you align your training program with your business needs and strategy(Hodell 2015). Here are the steps in the ADDIE model:

Analyze: Uncover needs, including business needs stated by leaders, concerns from subject matter experts, and other staff needs. This should include a review of relevant business performance data and metrics.

Design: Craft a strategy and specifications, including:

  • How learners will interact with the content
  • What the learner experience will be
  • How to structure quizzes and assessments
  • How performance support will be provided
  • How to evaluate whether the strategy worked

Develop: The point at which planning and strategy come to life, and the training deliverables are created.

Implement: Learners begin experiencing the content and you can begin collecting data for evaluation and updates.

Evaluate: As the learning content is completed, so is the evaluation plan. Evaluation focuses on the course, not the learners, and includes:

  • What gets evaluated
  • What is the timeframe for evaluation
  • How does learner progress compare to business expectations

This is just a brief glimpse into instructional design. Hopefully, it provides context, helps you hire instructional design professionals, and helps you work with professionals to create effective learning content.


About Dawn Mahoney

Photo of Dawn Mahoney

Dawn J. Mahoney CPTD (Certified Professional in Talent Development) is passionate about developing better learning content, better learning strategy, and better dialog—all of it to help facilitate people’s success. She loves to see the moment when the learning dawns on her learners and they begin to get it. In 2015, Dawn founded Learning In the White Space, which is a boutique consultancy devoted to all of the above. What might you need help with? Contact her today!

Term: Instructional Design



Twitter: @DawnJMahoney



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