Tips from an Instructional Design Expert

Instructional Design - 2013 Sept 12

Designing an e-Learning course is extremely rewarding, especially when your learners love your finished product. But do you ever get overwhelmed when you open up your authoring tool and stare at that blank screen? We decided to find out how the pros do it, so we asked a couple experts for some insight into their e-Learning development, from instructional design to graphic design and execution. Check out what we learned about instructional design, and stay tuned for Part II, where we share some awesome tips from a professional graphic designer!

  • Why is instructional design important when developing e-Learning?
  • The big reason for instructional design, especially from a business standpoint, is ROI (return on investment) and ROE (return on experience). You need instructional design to make sure your learners are engaged and retain your information. True engagement and retention rarely happens without good instructional design.Instructional design is a very measured and scientific process; you are breaking down the course material to its base components and then building that back up to ensure that students can apply the material and knowledge from the course to their specific job tasks. Using instructional design to ensure your course is aimed at a measurable outcome—application of skills learned to job performance—is good for your learners and you. Learners like to come out of a course feeling like they’ve gained a skill, and managers like to know the money they spent on training was worth it!
  • What is the first thing an e-Learning developer needs to determine, as part of the instructional design process?

    Ask, “What is it you want your learners to be able to do when they’re done with a course?” Try to determine the outcomes, the desired performance at the end of the course, not the content they want. Find out what a perfect job performance would look like. Identify the outcome, as opposed to the material you want on a page.

    There are so many instructional design models out there. How do you pick one to use?

    The ADDIE Model is a long-term, proven model and provides a great starting point. Most instructional design models use the same underlying principles to help you get good results; they just use different ways of presenting or implementing those concepts. You can combine elements from different models, but in the end it all comes back to the same five steps: analyze, design, develop, implement and evaluate. That’s the heart and soul of instructional design.

    Storyboarding is a big part of instructional design. What’s a good tool to use for storyboarding?

    PowerPoint is a great tool to use to create storyboards. Storyboards are essential to get buy in from the client before actually programming a course in Lectora® e-Learning software. PowerPoint is pretty universal, so it’s easy for a client to open a PowerPoint file and make comments. And it’s a lot easier to make major course changes in PowerPoint than a finished Lectora file that you’re ready to publish.

    What do you think the hardest part of the instructional design process is, especially if someone is new to developing e-Learning?

    The hardest part often is communicating to a client why it’s important NOT to create e-Learning driven by the “next” button. Lectora users may also encounter this problem with managers or department heads who aren’t used to doing e-Learning. It can be difficult to get non-training people to buy into the idea that if you spend the time to do proper instructional design upfront, you get shorter, more engaging e-Learning and measurable results.

    Do you have any tips for helping e-Learning developers get buy-in for instructional design?

    The best way to get buy-in is to find an example, one small task that directly impacts the department you are creating training for, and show your manager or department head how applying instructional design principles can improve the training for that task and lead to more successful results.

    Try to predict quantifiable results that show how using instructional design can improve ROI. Say you’re doing sales training, and there’s one sales guy, Bob, who is closing more deals than everyone else. Identify one critical performance-related thing Bob is doing different from the norm—one that makes him so successful—and show how you can create training for that skill, which in turn will help everyone do their job as well as Bob. Then you get a whole sales force of Bobs—and what sales manager doesn’t want that?!

    So, if you can apply instructional design to a very small piece of a meaningful puzzle and show your stakeholders measurable results, that’s usually enough to get buy-in.

Now you’re prepared to implement instructional design in your own e-Learning development and reap the benefits of increased engagement and retention!

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Christie graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University with a bachelor's degree in English and Writing. When she's not writing about e-Learning, Christie enjoys traveling or playing piano and guitar.

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