While instructional strategies evolve with the instructional technologies, the principles of good design remain constant. Instructional design is both a creative and pragmatic endeavor that requires a repertoire of process models, cognitive theories, learning science, and instructional strategies. As the instructional designer adapts to each project’s unique requirements, this set of universal checkpoints can assist along the way in creating exceptional learning experiences:
- Focus squarely on the problem to be solved.
- Write measurable and actionable performance objectives.
- Prioritize and structure content. Filter “must know” or “must do” from “important to know” or “important to do.” Sideline content that is “nice to know.”
- Identify common mistakes and misconceptions that may interfere with performance. Uncovering misconceptions advances real understanding.
- Design instructional experiences that include relevant examples, explanations, analogies, and stories to keep learners engaged and content interesting. Include humor and drama as appropriate.
- Choose instructional strategies germane to content.
- Provide practice opportunities and interactivities. Learning by doing builds understanding more effectively than learning by watching, listening, or reading.
- Provide meaningful feedback to instructional activities. Feedback is a teaching moment, not a confirmation of right or wrong.
- Create assessments clearly tied to the content and expected outcomes. Include knowledge checks during instruction.
Below are a few of the key principles we apply to every instructional design.
Accommodating Learner Audience
- Understand your audience – identify learners’ interests and motivation. The instruction must be able to answer, “What’s in it for me?” to learners in the first few minutes of instruction.
- Provide learners with strategies for retention and ideas about how to transfer new knowledge and skills to their jobs.
- Conduct usability tests, and ensure training materials align to learners’ needs.
- Include job aids or other resources as material takeaways to help learners apply new knowledge.
- Plan for how learning will be followed up on the job and reinforced later through updates, refreshers, or advanced training.
Working with the Design Team
- Include the entire team in the creative concept, design, and planning of the project.
- Identify project constraints together (time, money, special circumstances, etc.).
- Design with sustainability in mind – ensure content can be updated or translated.
- Work closely with writers and multimedia artists during development and production of instructional assets to ensure instructional integrity.
- Prepare and provide knowledge transfer to the end-client or project owner, and assist with implementation.
The pace of change in learning technology, trends, and even learning topics is speeding up. How you apply basic principles to changing needs is vital to the success of the learning experience you are designing. As the instructional designer adapts to each project’s unique requirements, it is important to bear in mind these universal checkpoints when creating exceptional learning experiences, and then asking a simple overarching question: “How do I (or do I?) adapt each principle to the audience, technology, and project objectives?“
We’d love to hear how you’re sticking to principles while adapting to change. Let us know what you’re doing; what’s been successful and where you’re struggling. Together, we can all advance our objectives and improve the learner’s experience.
Check out Karl Kapp‘s video in our blog post titled A Better Way to Approach Innovation and Technology.