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The Key Principles of High-Quality Instructional Design

The quality of instructional design is often gauged on three things: effectiveness, efficiency, and cost. 

Effectiveness has to do with how well the instruction enables learners to achieve stated goals or expected outcomes.

Efficiency deals with the energy and time invested to complete the instruction while cost covers all expenses incurred for its design and delivery. 

These are good points, to begin with. It's equally important, however, to zero in on the details involving the design and development of quality instruction. As with any other good design principles, there are human characteristics deeply involved here. 

Richard Buchanan, a professor of Design, Management, and Information Systems, said it best: “a good design can be defined not only to be creative, stylish with an extraordinary visual look, but it must consider human engagement in its activities.”

Follow these five golden principles to help you achieve high-quality instructional design:

instructional design principles

1) It must begin with an end in mind

This is a phrase popularized by Stephen Covey, as you may have noticed. We borrowed it since it tells us something simple yet powerful. Applied in our domain, the phrase suggests that your design has to achieve something specific—a defined goal.

It often starts with a question: what do I intend to achieve? What student learning outcomes will the material serve? What should learners know, understand and apply in real-life settings? What will inspire students to learn and strive for excellence?

Beginning with an end in mind allows you to design an instructional material efficiently—without waste of time and energy. You no longer need to jump from one area to another only to find some pieces missing.

2) It must be student-centered

Student-centered instruction is one where learners do more exploring and instructors do less telling. Such an approach makes a lot of sense since the aim, after all, is to turn students into ACTIVE participants. Instructors or trainers are not out of the picture. They are, however, tasked to assume the role of a facilitator or someone to guide students in acquiring knowledge and applying newly acquired skills.

Consider the instructional material you're working on and ask yourself the following questions:

  • How will the students learn?
  • What will they learn?
  • How can we effectively determine whether students are learning and applying their lessons?
  • Under what conditions are students learning? (i.e. are they doing the course as part of their assigned roles at work?)

By asking these questions, you are deliberately designing instructional materials that focus on learners. Every aspect of the design and development stages is geared towards their specific needs.

Also read:

3) It is refined through continuous assessment and improvement

You have to take note that instructional design is, and will always remain, A PROCESS—not an end result. And it's a never-ending process. Once a design is approved, an assessment to improve upon it follows. 

Think of it as a piece of software. You and your team start out with a set of features. Eventually, you'll find bugs or some flaws and fix them. 

Guess what, your software and, by extension, your instructional material, may reach the state of near-perfection. But it's never going to be perfect so the design process will never be finished. It's alright. Do your best to look for areas for improvement and improve them. Repeat.

Must read: No Perfect Courses by Christy Tucker 

4) It follows a well-defined system

Just because the process never stops doesn't mean it's unsystematic. High-quality instructional design doesn't happen by chance. You can't produce it on a whim. 

Professionals in the eLearning industry follow different models, some more systematic than others and some open-ended. Many of them may be grounded on certain principles and theories.

Regardless of their differences, they all follow a robust methodology. Make sure to have a robust system in place, one that covers the following logical sequence of analysis, design, development, application or implementation, and assessment.

Read: A Quick Overview Of Four Instructional Design Models

Also read: How to Create an eLearning Course in 12 Steps

5) It considers the big picture

A well-crafted instructional design is holistic. It carefully considers the smallest aspect of instruction without compromising the whole.

This holistic approach to design considers the whole as something more important than the sum of its parts. And it makes sense because all those parts, though seemingly separate, are closely interrelated. A good instructional designer sees the interconnections between them. Doing so solves the problem of compartmentalization, fragmentation, and the transfer paradox—all of which are commonly found in education.

Read more: Use These 5 Instructional Design Strategies to Create an Effective eLearning Course

       Winning eLearning


Overview of Instructional Design. Chris Davis (Director of Assessment, Baker College)

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The Basics of Motivational eLearning Design

When we think of the word, motivation, instantly two things come to mind. First, when we are young, many outside things motivate us, a desire to do something, the reality of punishment from our parents, positive and negative reinforcement of what we are doing, etc. All of these things help to motivate children, and in some cases, it has a positive effect, and in other cases, it does not. The more proactive the motivation, the more positive the response to that motivation, the more reactionary the motivation, the more negative the response. The second picture that comes to mind is a learned reaction to something. Like Pavlov and his dogs, which would salivate when he rang the bell, motivation can be at times subconscious. However, there are much more things that drive the motivation of human beings, and in the arena of learning, there are some critical pieces to the puzzle that have to be developed so that learners feel the value of what they are learning and how it will benefit them. The rewards of their success must be considered from a variety of sources and satisfy them on a variety of levels, and as instructional designers of e-learning programs, we must not only understand these factors but be skilled in utilizing them in the courses that we design.