Instructional design is the process through which an educator determines the best teaching methods for specific learners in a specific context, attempting to obtain a specific goal. This reference guide is designed to help you apply sound principles of design to the creation of your courses. The overview presented here is based on the model developed by Walter Dick and Lou Carey (PDF, 22 KB), which provides a systematic, step-by-step approach to designing, and effective and objectives-based instruction.
Content is presented here in a linear manner, but there will always be movement between and among phases. Also, remember that not all of these phases may apply to your situation.
Assessing instructional needs is the first phase of instructional design.
To begin designing instruction:
Begin with the student:
Consider the learning environment:
If you decide to conduct a needs assessment, the following resources may help you with the process:
If you decide to conduct a needs assessment, here are some online materials that may help you work through this phase.
This website includes links to tools for use in assessing instructional needs. The tools presented here are specifically written for multimedia products, but the methodologies may be adapted for all instructional assessment needs.
University of Idaho
Instructional Development for Distance Education. (This was developed by Engineering Outreach at the University of Idaho.) For needs assessment, see particularly "The Need for Instructional Development" and "The Design Stage."
Needs Assessment: A Systematic Approach for Successful Distance Education. This is an online article that outlines the needs assessment process for effectively implementing distance education.
Although not always possible, it's good practice to spend some time thinking about and researching your potential learners or your target population.
Usually, it's best to create instruction around a particular audience, rather than designing content and then searching for an audience.
It's important to consider:
Be aware that we now live, work, and learn in environments that are increasingly culturally diverse. Remember that some cultures may not encourage classroom participation, so some students may be hesitant to speak up or volunteer information. Nuances of body language and nonverbal communication may vary widely from culture to culture. All of these factors carry implications for selecting your instructional strategy and developing your instructional materials.
If you have the opportunity to analyze your potential learners, the following documents may guide you through the process.
Guiding Principles for Faculty in Distance Learning. Guidelines developed by the Working Group of the Indiana Partnership for Strategic Education. Specifically, see "Principle 1: Faculty Benchmarks and Principles: Course Design."
Adult Education in Practice. Adult education "tipsheet" from Waycross College.
Strategies for Learning at a Distance. Developed by Engineering Outreach at the University of Idaho. Profiles the distance education learner.
Kolb Learning Styles
Provides an overview of Kolb's learning theory and includes a link to Gardner's multiple intelligences.
A learning objective is a clear, concise, objective description of what your learners will be able to do at the end of a given instructional unit. Of all the activities involved in the instructional design process, developing objectives is one of the most critical.
As you develop your objectives, the following documents may help you through this phase.
Although this Web site anticipates an audience of secondary school teachers, this high-level overview works for all educators.
Writing Learning Objectives
This website was developed by Park University. It provides a very clear guidance for writing effective learning objectives.
Depending on your instructional goal and course content, you may need to test your learners' knowledge. So, as part of your instructional strategy, you may need to think about creating tests or other assessment tools. How will you and your students know when the required objectives have been achieved?
The best time to develop test items is after developing learning objectives. Your assessment instruments, then, will be more likely to actually measure what you want your learners to accomplish.
Assessment doesn't only occur at the end of an instructional unit. Think about how to integrate formative assessment during instruction. Check in with your students by frequently asking questions and soliciting feedback.
Use these tools for guidance:
Strategies for Teaching at a Distance.
This guide, part of Idaho State University, discusses instructional strategies specifically related to distance education.
An instructional package usually consists of a student manual, instructional materials, pre- and post-tests, and an instructor's manual. You may choose to employ worksheets, handouts, job aids, computer-based training, the Internet, laboratory work, learning objects, learning portals, or audio/video material.
Prior to developing your instructional materials, consider your intended development and delivery mode. Will your delivery mode be self-paced and instructor-independent, such as online learning? Will your delivery be a combination of instructor presentation and use of materials? Think about how you will cover all required instructional events. Consider, too, the resources and budget you have available.
Also, consider whether you wish to create your own instructional materials or whether you want to use materials that already exist. Remember, though, to avoid using material just because it's available; make sure the material is appropriate for your instructional goals.
When developing your instructional material, think about using the following steps:
As you develop your instructional materials, the following may help you work through this phase:
Take a look at some online materials that may help you work through the Develop Materials stage.
A primer on instructional design
Provides an overview of the instructional design process, describing how all stages impact the development of instructional materials.
Increasingly, instructors are turning to the Web as an educational method. Here are some quick tips to keep in mind when developing Web-based instructional materials.
Advanced Distributed Learning
This initiative provides information on Shareable Object Reference Model (SCORM). If you are developing Internet resources, this is useful information.
It may help to use tables or questionnaires to gather valuable data from your test audience, whether your audience consists of potential students, fellow subject matter experts, or learning specialists.
If you have the time and opportunity to evaluate your instruction, the following documents may help you work through this phase:
If you have the time and opportunity to evaluate your instruction, the following online materials may help you work through this phase:
This site provides a number of useful evaluation tools; although they are specifically designed for multimedia projects, the tools may be adapted for use in any instructional design project.
Continuing education units
Learn how to get continuing education units.
International Association for Continuing Education and Training
Provides guidelines for maintaining quality in distance education offerings.