Instructional Design

Instructional design in e-learning refers to the process by which content is tailored, moulded and created to make the learner’s journey to knowledge as efficient as possible. It is ‘a systematic process that is employed to develop education and training programs in a consistent and reliable fashion’ (Reiser & Dempsey 2007). Effective Instructional Design ensures that e-learning platforms are doing more that just putting content in front of the learner. The process should ensure that the learning experience is remodeled to better fit the patterns of how people learn. Instructional Design aims the fit the content to theories of learning rather that getting the user to adapt themselves in order to absorb the content.

Instructional Design is informed at its core by cognitive and behavioural psychology and is further enlightened by pedagogically tested theories of learning. Designers aim to reduce cognitive load by sculpting the format of the instructional materials. This requires more that just simply content cutting, doing that risks rendering the whole process pointless. Instead the content should be disseminated in a manner that conforms with cognitive load theory.

The most enduring model for the creation of instructional materials is the ADDIE process (Analyse, Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate). In the initial analysis phase the instructional goals and objectives are established and the base knowledge and skills that already present in the learner are identified. This phase takes into account audience, learning constraints, delivery options and the project timeline. The design phase is a logical and orderly development of strategies that work towards the projects goal. Essentially the project is mapped out and prototyped. The development stage refers to the creation of what was designed in the previous stage. Implementation is about delivering and distributing the instructional materials. The evaluation phase is an ongoing process present in each stage of the ADDIE process as the design is constantly judged and reformed. Summative evaluation consists of testing to see if the project meets its criteria and also provides opportunities for feedback from the users.

The most widely adopted adaptation to the ADDIE model is rapid prototyping. This changes the process into one of iterative design whereby constant and quick prototyping allows for for immediate feedback that can instantly inform the design.

Instructional designers when creating e-learning content would find themselves: structuring content to fit student learning (helping to reduce distance learning drop out rates); creating media content to support the learning process such as video content; developing assessments and adapting instructional materials to suit an electronic environment.

Instructional design should increase and enhance the possibilities of learning ensuring learners are completely engaged so they have a faster learning experience that leaves them with a deeper level understanding.