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What is Instructional Design?

In short, instructional design (ID) is a systematic process for designing effective and efficient instruction. In an overly simplified way instructional designers determine what learners need and produce a learning experience that makes the acquisition of knowledge and skill more efficient, effective, and appealing. In more traditional terms, an instructional designer identifies the skills, knowledge and the attitude gaps of a targeted audience and helps create select and suggest learning experiences that close this gap. At Berkeley Lab the ADDIE process is often used: Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate.  Here is a brief overview of the ADDIE process.

  1. Analyze: This first phase of the instructional design process is important. It allows you to identify the key elements you will need to design effective instruction by performing a needs or gap analysis:
    • What is the desired performance? This process involves identifying the specific knowledge and skills needed to perform task or job safely or efffectively.
    • Are there regulatory or policy, or business drivers that indicate a "need" for training? If so, do they provide specific criteria or outcomes, or are they general "staff must be trained?"
    • Now that you have a clear understanding of the requirements and the knowledge and skills that are needed, the next step is to determine what the actual performance is (in the workplace). This part of the process determines the extent of “gap” and the factors that cause the performance gap; is it a skill deficiency (“I don’t know how to do…”), or a problem of will (“I don’t wanna”), or a knowledge gap (“I didn’t understand how to…”). if there are other factors that affect performance such as a lack of clear expectations, a lack of motivation, management issues, or cultural, and language issues, these are accounted for as part of the analysis.

  2. Design: The design phase translates the knowledge, skills or performance requirements identified in the analysis phase into performance oriented learning objectives. Learning objectives define a measurable performance (behavior) that learners will demonstrate when successfully completing a learning activity.

    Design also involves consideration of appropriate modality of instruction (e.g, web-based, classroom, hands-on, practical training, or a mix of modalities sometimes referred to as blended or mixed mode learning). Design also invoves developing methods to evaluate learning (exams, quizzes, hands-on activities, etc) that align to the type of learning that is targeted. Design is a creative process that integrates learning theory, and information design, so that the training meets the learner’s and organizations needs. The outcome is a thorough blue print of the training in the form of a storyboard, content, assessment.

  3. Development: The development phase is where instructional designers take the Storyboard they created in the design phase and actually create the activities, exercises, graphics, instructional materials, etc. This phase also involves beta testing and debugging any issues that turn up. The client is very involved in review and input.

  4. Implementation: This is the phase where the course is delivered. For both classroom and eLearning training it involves piloting the course with customers and stakeholders and making improvements over a period of a few weeks. It also involves adding the course to the applicable LBL Training systems, communicating the requirement, and all of the administrative support activities used to successfully launch a course.

  5. Evaluation: After the implementation phase, the course is evaluated to measure how well it achieved the objectives detailed in the analysis and design phase. LBL evaluates courses based on Kirkpatrick’s four levels of evaluation. There is a separate guide for understanding this more fully, but in short the four levels are:

What do instructional Designers do?

Overall an instructional designer identifies the skills, knowledge and the attitude gaps of a targeted audience and helpscreate select and suggest learning experiences that close this gap.

Here are are some of the things instructional designers do during the course of a project: