A lot of people who work in training or learning and development either haven’t heard of the term Instructional Design (ID) or really aren’t very sure what it is.

What is Instructional Design?

ID is about “solving performance problems” according to Cathy Moore in her blog post about how to become an Instructional Designer. Christy Tucker says that the role of ID is to “design and develop learning experiences” – from her blog post series.

The Rapid E-learning blog reminds us that “the success of your course hinges on a critical question: does it help your audience learn and apply relevant skills and knowledge?”

A great place to start with ID is with some focuses on what you should actually be doing. Jane Bozarth’s article focuses on creating assessments that are based on what people actually do at work, which then means the rest of the learning solution is focused on that need.

Jane also highlights the difference between ID and visual design. The visual design of any learning materials is essential as part of getting the message across. An ID may be involved with visuals and other media, or that might be a separate role. Depends on your own skills and the size of the team you are in.

On the Rapid E-learning blog is a great picture (part of the visual design Jane Bozarth wrote about) to highlight what the learning solution needs to be – and I’m all for the lightbulb moment:



Activities rather than content

There is a great infographic and list of skills that an ID needs to have on Origin Learning. The first skill is to “break away from formal and heavy content. As an instructional designer, you will have to translate such formal and heavy content into instructional curriculum in an innovative manner.”

The article goes on to say that “it also means involving meaningful activities and exercises that can help facilitate the process of learning to a larger extent”

There are a number of learning models and theories, many with various benefits, some are questionable these days. There is a great list of them, with links for more information on the e-learning industry website, including this image to set the scene:



What do people need to DO AT WORK?

Too many training courses focus on what you will ‘understand’ or ‘know’ by the end. This isn’t about application of learning, it’s about content transfer.

One process that really helps to focus on what people really need to actually do in the work place is Action Mapping, made famous by Cathy Moore. It’s a fabulous consulting tool to find out why people aren’t doing what they need to or should be. It’s looks at all the options for helping to solve the problem, including what is in the environment that is causing the issue, what communication challenges are there and more.

Does it always need to be a course?

Charles Jennings is one of the most well known and oft-quoted speakers on the subject of 70:20:10. In his blog he explains it this way to organisations: “The 70:20:10 model is to help them re-position their focus for building and supporting performance across their organisations. They are finding it helps them extend the focus on learning out into the workflow.

Charles talks about extending learning into the workplace more in this blog piece, which offers some great insight and ideas on doing this in our organisations today. Also there is this blog about the benefits and challenges of doing just that.

In the 70:20:10 Into Action paper from the 70:20:10 Institute the numbers that make up learning solutions are described as such:

  • 10 solutions include training and development courses and programmes, eLearning modules and reading
  • 20 solutions include sharing and collaboration, co-operation, feedback, coaching and mentoring
  • 70 solutions include near real-time support, information sources, challenges and situational learning.

This great LearningNow TV 13 minute interview shows Charles talking about what 70:20:10 is and not getting hung up on the numbers – making sure it’s about performance too.

Is that all there is to it?

Of course this is only scratching the surface of what ID’s do and the things that can help them.

You should know about the moments of learning needGEAR methodology, which includes spaced practice (and you can watch an excellent one hour conversation about spaced practice with Don Clark), learning theoriesID jargon, that learning styles aren’t scientific and more. Also my blog on a Google Hangout with Will Thalheimer, focusing on the brain, limitations in learning and spaced repetition.

But this makes a good start!

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