instructional design process

Instructional Design Process: A Step-By-Step Guide

A Step By Step Guide To The Instructional Design Process

Every organization has its own process for developing online training courses. Some organizations follow a linear process, while others prefer an iterative one. Some organizations prefer to work on the entire training at once, while others prefer to identify small segments within the training and develop them concurrently through collaboration. There are several factors that influence an organization’s decision to follow a certain process—training requirements, client expectations, tools, development time, flexibility, complexity, budget, etc. No matter which approach an organization follows, there are a few steps that remain mandatory in every Instructional Design process. Understanding the purpose of each mandatory step will help the instructional designer successfully achieve the desired output or build online courses at every step, irrespectively of your approach! Let’s look at a few of them.

Step 1: Analyze Requirements

Analysis is perhaps the most important step of the Instructional Design process. When analyzing, never limit your efforts to understanding just the training and business needs. Stretch your analysis to include four other areas as well: Audience, Content, Technology, and Expectations.

  • Business And Training Needs

Business needs differ from training needs. A business need helps you understand the holistic need for training. The training need, however, helps you understand how the training will help to meet the business needs.

Business And Training Needs Tip: A good understanding of the business needs comes handy while evaluating the impact of training on business after final implementation.

  • Learners’ Profile

Analyze learners’ profile based on their roles, responsibilities, professional experience, educational qualifications, skill sets, age, technical proficiency, ethnicity, and geographical location. In addition, gather information about their existing knowledge about the topic, challenges faced, and most importantly, find out the learning gap that this training is expected to fill up. Also, find out their learning needs and/or preferred mode of training.
Learners’ Profile Analysis Tip: Ask your client for an opportunity to interview some learners.

  • Content

Instructional Designers are not Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), but a thorough understanding of the content is a must. Read the source content multiple times to understand its key message. Note down your questions and forward them to an SME for clarification. In addition, ask for examples, scenarios, and case studies that can be used to support the content and/or assess the learner.
How: Ask your client to schedule a meeting with the SMEs.

  • Technology

The eLearning industry is rapidly evolving with new technology and new tools. Hence, it is critical to understand the technology that the client organization and the learners are most familiar with. Ask questions to understand the client’s preferred development tool, prevalent Learning Management System (LMS), available devices to launch the course, etc.
Technology Tip: Stay up-to-date with the changing trends in technology, weigh the pros and cons of each tool, and suggest the best option available for development to the client.

  • Branding

Brand is what gives an organization its unique identity. Hence, understand the writing (tone, tense, voice, vocabulary) and graphical standards (images, fonts, characters, icons) that are followed in their organization. Also, ask the client to share samples of previously designed courses, if possible for reference.
Branding Tip: Visit the client’s website and study their marketing/promotional material to analyze their preferred design strategy and understand their brand identity.

Step 2: Identify Learning Objectives

Once you analyze the requirements, frame the learning objectives. Learning objectives help you distinguish between the ‘good-to-know’ and ‘must-know’ content, and determine the emphasis every piece of information needs in the training. Also, your assessments should be drafted mapping to these learning objectives.
Learning Objectives Tip: Ask your client to validate the learning objectives in terms of the expected learning outcome.

Step 3: Develop Design

Design development is a process in itself. First, segregate the content into small chunks of information and organize them in a logical sequence. Once the topic list is ready, determine an instructional approach for your course (story-based approach, problem-based approach, video-based approach, game-based approach, etc.) in line with the scope defined during analysis. Insert engagement points into your Instructional Design by adding an attention-grabbing activity, motivational videos, reflection questions, interactivity, scenarios and examples, a summarizing activity, etc.
Design Development Tip: Ask your client to validate the design strategy, especially when developing a curriculum. This will help ensure consistency in all modules and relevant resource materials.

Step 4: Create A Storyboard

A storyboard is a visual document that lets you organize your content with visuals and present a flow for the topics. Identify the type of content you are dealing with. It could be facts, principles, process, classification, or relationship. Present the content for each page using relevant text, images, icons, characters, development notes, etc.
Storyboard Tip: Simultaneously develop other related documents, such as glossaries, job aids and voice-over script, and share them with the storyboard, so that the clients can review all the deliverables holistically.

Step 5: Develop Prototype

Develop a functional prototype before starting the complete development. Identify four to five unique pages of different types and develop them using the approved design strategy and the client’s branding guidelines. A prototype will help your client visualize how the storyboard will be transformed into a functional module.
Prototype Development Tip: Ask the client to validate the prototype and point out any deviations from expectations. Managing deviations at this step will save time and development efforts during complete development.

Step 6: Develop Training

Once storyboard and prototype are signed off, initiate the development of training that will be finally uploaded on the LMS. This will include developing visuals, interactivities, knowledge checks, and assessments per approved storyboard along with recording and integrating voice-over of a professional artist. As a resource, you can download ready-to-use eLearning templates to expedite your development process. These eLearning templates present visually appealing layouts and include placeholders for content. Simply download and integrate eLearning templates that cater to your content type—introduction, scenario, process, assessment, etc. and customize them further as needed.
Training Development Tip: Include three rounds of review in this step by instructional designers, graphic designers, and quality assurance to ensure the training is instructionally, graphically, and functionally sound.

Step 7: Deliver Training

LMS is a platform to host eLearning courses for an organization. Ensure your course is compatible with the LMS on which the training will be hosted. Also, understand the different features of the client’s LMS like tracking learners’ progress and assessment performance, generating course completion report, and adding pre-training and post-training resources.
Training Delivery Tip: Ask the client for an opportunity to communicate with their LMS administrator to understand the features typically leveraged in their organization.

Step 8: Evaluate Impact

The final step is to evaluate the impact of training. Typically, the evaluation can be done at two levels – at learner’s level to analyze if the learners found the training to be engaging and useful, and at organization’s level to evaluate if the training has positively impacted the business and helped achieve the business need.
Impact Evaluation Tip: Always document the results of the evaluation step. Analyze what worked and what didn’t work for the training, and carry forward this learning to future projects.

Every project is different and so are its stakeholders and their expectations. Take liberty to customize these steps and create your own step list for the Instructional Design process.

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