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What is Instructional Design?

What is Instructional Design?
In short, instructional design (ID) is a systematic process for designing effective and efficient instruction. Instructional Designers follow a systematic process that (1) determines what the need is – the performance gap, (2) determines if the gap can be solved through training – or if it is the result of other factors, (3) if training is a solution, produces instruction, performance support and other “aids” that help learners perform effectively (close the gap).

If it is decided that training is the “right fit” Berkeley Lab Training instructional designers work with the client (often the SME), stakeholders, and the target audience (customers) as part of the process. We follow the ADDIE process (Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate), or the SAM model (Successive Approximation Model) depebnding on the project needs. We design instruction using the CCAF model (Context, Challenge, Activity, Feedback) that was pioneered by Michael Allen and is a "learn by doing" model.

We highly recommend reading Michael Allen's Guide to eLearning. and The science of instruction, or evidence-based training methods by Ruth Colvin Clark.

ADDIE Process explained:

1: Needs Analysis: This first phase of the instructional design process is to determine what the deficiencies or problems are. It can be thought of as the process of identifying gaps between what should be happening and what is happening, and accounting for the causes of these gaps. In this way, it is a systematic search for identifying deficiencies between actual and desired job performance and the factors that prevent desired job performance as presented in the following steps:

  1. What are the performance expectations (desired state)?
  2. What is the current state of performance?
  3. What are the gaps to performance (Needs) and causes?
  4. What are the solutions to bridge the gap?

The process is often an eye-opener for clients, because often the client has already decided that training is the solution and has already put toggether content to solve the problem (inform). There is often a strong tebdency to see training as delivering information "Telling as teaching." The needs analysis looks to uncover what type of "intervention" will produce the desired results.

A useful model we use to help clients uncover whether training is a useful “intervention” is the “six boxes” model. In short, this breaks down performance issues (causes) into the following:

What causes performance gaps?

Learner analysis is part of the overall analyis process. It is used to determine who the audience is so that you can design instruction that takes into account the learner's experience and other factors. Key things to determine are:

The idea is to "know the customer" so that you can design instruction and employ strategies that align.

2: Design:
The design phase translates the knowledge, skills or performance requirements, identified in the analysis phase, into performance objectives. Performance objectives represent the measurable performance behaviors that learners will be able to demonstrate when successfully completing a learning activity. We utilize behavior-based objectives as the foundation for being able to evaluate the effectiveness of the instruction.

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). The learner analysis helps shape this decision to inform the type of instruction that is aligned to the skills being learned. For example, online instruction cannot evaluate how skillfully someone performs tactile skills, but can be effective at cognitive behaviors (problem solving, decision-making and human performance skills). The design decision may point to the benefits of a blended learning program to take advantage of both in-person or instructor-led and e-learning or perhaps even self-study.

3: Development:
The development phase is where we develop the instruction. We take the information gained in analysis and design and create the activities, exercises, graphics, instructional materials, evaluation etc. We utilize “rapid development” because we want the client to “see” and “experience” the instruction as it is developed. This is often in place of a storyboard. We also involve users during this process. It makes for a more efficient iterative process. We have our own media lab to produce videos, graphics, animations, interactive assesments, etc based on the needs of the instruction we are developing.

4: Evaluation:
If training doesn’t yield the desired results we need to know why. Training can be costly so if it is not effective it is a waste of time and resources. We follow Kirkpatrick’s four levels of evaluation. There is a separate guide using a risk-based, or value-based model. For courses where there is a high risk-to-error we go through to level 3. All courses go through level 1 and level 2, and the level 1 data is available online (here).

What do instructional Designers do?
Overall 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.
Here are are some of the things instructional designers do during the course of a project: