Instructional Design: understand what it is and how to do it

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Instructional Design

Have you ever found yourself planning a training without knowing where to start? This is more common than it seems. Teaching-learning programs require well-thought-out planning to optimize content absorption. It is to make this “architecture” of teaching programs that  instructional design exists.

If you’re still not familiar with the topic, keep reading! In this text, we will teach you how instructional design works in practice and how to apply it to your  corporate training .

What is instructional design?

Instructional Design is the planning, structuring and development of educational content such as courses, training and teaching programs. It is about “designing” learning materials with a high level of detail, in order to achieve certain objectives.

Structuring educational content requires definition of roles, target audience, clear objectives, a strategy for conveying the message, alignment with the strategy and positioning of the business and an organized way of putting everything into practice. Without these precautions, courses and training may not be effective and may escape the initial focus.

Therefore, instructional designs is a way of putting everything in order so that materials are able to teach learners in the best possible way. It can be applied both in formal education, such as in schools and universities, and in open courses, such as training programs and online courses.

Us corporate training, good instructional design is essential for employees to absorb the content. Poorly planned training in a company is a  disaster : it does not generate employee engagement, does not reach the development objective, the quality of work does not improve and the results for the company simply do not come.

That’s where this technique comes in: instructional design practices are guided by research in education, psychology, and communication. Therefore, it is scientific knowledge applied to optimize teaching. In fact, there is even a specific professional to do this structuring of learning, the instructional designer:

Instructional designer

The  instructional designer  is like a course engineer. He is the professional who knows instructional design like the back of his hand, and is duly qualified to put into practice all the tools he has to create effective content – ​​whether courses, training or classes – that teaches clearly and optimizes learning.

This professional is usually hired by educational institutions when they decide to create a new course or when a learning program does not yield good results and the company does not know what to do.

However, instructional design is not restricted to these professionals. It is essential that  teachers, instructors, content creators, and HR professionals  know at least the  basics  of instructional design practices.

How does instructional design help in practice?

Instructional Design

Instructional design basically works for four purposes:

  1. Create effective learning processes and teaching materials  capable of teaching what is intended to be taught;
  2. These processes and materials should  teach as much as possible with less wasted time and effort;
  3. Materials must be  easy to consume and simple to learn, taking into account the target audience profile;
  4. Cost-effectiveness needs   to be viable.

Therefore, good instructional design helps in creating more efficient courses and training for your company. This brings a number of benefits. Look:

Benefits of instructional design

Focus on the learner

Good instructional design puts the focus of training  on the learner . That is, the design of the learning process takes into account the level at which the learners are in the knowledge of the subject, their learning style, capacity for evolution, main difficulties, etc.

Create a systematic process

When there is good instructional design work in creating a course or training, no part of the contents it’s there for nothing. Every detail is thought  of to optimize learning , and the teaching process is organized with roles and responsibilities.

Sets goals

When a training or course is poorly planned, it is doomed to fail. If there are no clear goals and no one knows the best ways to achieve those goals, no one will get anywhere. That’s where the benefit of having a good instructional design comes in: it helps to  define goals well  and apply the  best techniques  to achieve them.

How to do instructional design in 5 steps

When we think about instructional design, 3 questions need to be answered:

  • Where will we go?
  • How will we get there?
  • How will we know when we arrive?

The answer to the first question is the definition of instructional objectives. The second is the definition of the strategies and methods that will be used. And the last one is the evaluation of the results. To make a learning process with instructional design, the most common is to use 5 steps:

1. Analysis

The analysis stage consists of understanding the scenario and identifying the  learning problems  to be solved. These problems are nothing more than the gap between the performance that employees should have and what they actually have. These gaps indicate skills and abilities that need to be worked on.

It is part of this stage to be aware that these performance gaps do not always occur due to lack of training. Some organizational problems may be related to poorly designed processes, low motivation, inadequate equipment, etc. Many companies make the mistake of trying to solve, through training, problems that do not have their root cause in the lack of training.

Now, when the performance problem is caused by lack of knowledge or skill, then we have an instructional problem to solve. So, the mission here is to find these problems, which requires investigation.

A good practice is to listen to employees and managers, who are directly involved with the work process. Sometimes it is not possible to hear everyone. Therefore, you can prioritize people or areas as performance indicators of business. For example, if sales indicators are below targets, it may be a sign that you need to focus on training your sales team.

Other key issues of the analysis stage, in addition to the survey of needs of learning are:

  • Survey of conditions(infrastructure, budget, deadlines, etc.)
  • Analysis of the target audience(who are the learners, their prior knowledge, motivational aspects, etc.)
  • Analysis of objectives(what do learners need to be able to do?)
2. Planning

It is in the planning stage that the actions to solve the identified instructional problems will be thought. This is where you will think about the  training format , the  instructors , the   necessary  media  and  tools , teaching methodologies,  etc.

It is also here that teaching materials are planned, that is, classes and supplementary materials. The content must be sequenced into activities, disciplines, modules, etc.

The main questions of this phase are:

  • What are the most appropriate teaching strategies?
  • How to motivate learners?
  • What are the most appropriate training media and models?
  • How will the content be sequenced?
  • Will there be any kind of challenge or will the classes be just expository?

With the planning done, an important document emerges: the  instructional project . It is a way of materializing the planning and documenting it. This document contains the problems encountered in the analysis phase, the objectives and the way in which they will be achieved. The project can take the form of a concept map, to facilitate its observation. In addition, you can create an instructional design matrix, which is a visual tool for organizing planning.

The secret is to be as detailed as possible. The better your plan, the easier it will be to execute.

3. Development

Now it’s time to get down to business and develop the planned content. The more careful the analysis and planning phases are, the easier the development phase will be.

It is very important that you produce content that is  easy to digest , simple for learners to understand. Try to avoid long content and use interactive content, as they will help to achieve employee engagement.

It is also important to assess the  performance  of the teaching program throughout its development, to address gaps and loose ends before the program is implemented. To do this, constantly review the plan and ask for feedback from future learners and experts.

In the end, ask yourself if the developed product conforms to the instructional plan and if there is any way to improve it before implementation.

4. Implementation

Now, it’s time to put everything into practice and implement the learning program. To avoid problems, it is common to start with a  pilot course  applied to a small group of people, as a single company team.

Thus, problems can be fixed before the program is implemented on a larger scale.

5. Evaluation

the stage of evaluation is the last, and consists of verifying if the initial objectives were reached. In addition to identifying whether the learning program was efficient, it is necessary to look for points that need improvement for future programs.

A good way to measure results is to use training indicators. The indicators demonstrate, in numbers, the level of effectiveness of the training applied. We have an info graphic with 11 training indicators to follow closely. Read on to understand how it works!



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