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What is Instructional Design?

What is Instructional Design?

Working at the intersection of training and technology is a rewarding but challenging place to be these days. The way in which we develop and deliver instruction is going through an irreversible transformation. The constantly evolving online e-learning landscape is forcing continuous growth, learning, and adapting to different kinds of technologies and methods including learning management systems, personalized learning, and mobile delivery of training materials. Training systems are now often incredibly complex technical systems consisting of multiple interrelated and interacting pieces. It can be challenging to get the technical aspects of a learning system to work together seamlessly toward common goals. But even the best technology is no guarantee of success without the right instruction and training methods. This is where Instructional Design comes into play.

Instructional Design Basics

Instructional Design (ID) applies design thinking to the art and science of learning and teaching in order to determine how to best teach a given subject matter; how to discern what methods of training and delivery will be most effective; and how to ensure that the training yields the desired results. At its most basic, Instructional Design (ID) is a framework for training that seeks to answer these questions:

  • Where are we going?
  • How will we get there?
  • How will we know when we get there?

Instructional designers use ID to facilitate change by implementing a system that assesses training needs, creates a framework for the learning processes, builds the environment for the learning experiences, and develops methods of assessment for measuring learning outcomes. Instructional Designers do this by using design models to design, develop, and deliver their  instructional products and experiences. Using a design model helps ensure that the instruction is delivered in a consistent and reliable fashion. 

The ADDIE Model

There are many different models available to Instructional Designers, but the ADDIE model, with it’s five phases of Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation, is the most common model currently in use. 


The ADDIE model starts with analysis. In this phase, the current situation is analysed to determine if there are knowledge gaps that could be improved upon or opportunities that could be taken advantage of through relevant training. At the end of the phase, an Analysis of Training Needs and a Training Plan are prepared that include answers to questions such as:  

  • Why are we conducting this training?
  • What are the goals of the instruction?
  • How do we clearly define the problem or opportunity we are seeking to address with this training?
  • What is the desired behavioral change that is sought through the training?
  • Who is our audience?
  • What do the learners need to learn or demonstrate?
  • What resources are available to assist with their learning?
  • What are the constraints on the training?
  • How long will the training run?
  • What existing knowledge and skills do the learners already have?
  • What is context for their learning?
  • How and where will instruction be delivered?
  • What is the timeframe for project completion?


In the design phase we proceed through the course in a systematic and specific manner. We start with a  subject matter analysis and then clearly define course learning objectives, determine our methods for assessment, develop the course content and any exercises and resources to include, choose media to incorporate in the course, decide upon a visual design strategy, and then pull this all together into a lesson plan. 

Questions that are addressed in this phase are :

  • How is the subject content or skill best learned?
  • How can instructional strategies (i.e. cognitive, affective, psychomotor) be applied appropriately to affect the intended behavioral outcomes?
  • What technology and/or medium is best suited to deliver the content?
  • What structure will we utilize for the course?
  • What will the design of the course look like?
  • What strategies will be used for learner assessment?
  • How will we gather learner feedback?
  • How will we arrange to incorporate learner feedback to improve the course?

We then develop prototypes/storyboards of the course to act as a blueprint for the course and that highlight the user experience and user interface, and provide an overview of overall look and feel of the course. Prototyping allows for an initial testing phase to iron out any issues that arise and also provides a means to quickly communicate the value of the training with all stakeholders.


In this phase Instructional Developers create the full course based off of the prepared lesson plan and guided by the prototype/storyboards. Any course content and assets created in the design phase are fully fleshed out. Programmers work to develop and/or integrate chosen technologies and perform debugging procedures. The process is iterative and the project is reviewed and revised based on stakeholder feedback. Once the course is approved, a rigorous process of testing the course is completed to ensure there are no errors when using the course. 


Implementation starts the process of rolling out the training to the learners. The course is loaded to the live LMS, delivery options are set up, and the course is tested with a pilot group to be sure it functions as anticipated. 

A Train the Trainer (AKA T3) session is often also conducted to instruct training facilitators. The T3 training covers the course curriculum, the intended learning outcomes, the method of delivery, any resources such as websites, PDFs or handouts, workbooks, hands-on equipment, or tools that are in place for the learners. This training also completes a review of any technical components the facilitator should be aware of such as learner registration, training the learner on new software or hardware tools, and assessment procedures.


The evaluation phase consists of two parts: formative (in progress) and summative (at the end). 

Formative evaluation is present in each stage of the ADDIE process and the course development is adjusted based upon formative feedback as it is being developed.

Summative evaluation consists of assessments designed to assess learning that has happened as a result of the training and to provide opportunities for feedback from the learners. Getting feedback on the courses is important to allow for improving and revising the course content and user experience. 

We design the summative evaluation to help answer these questions:

  • Did we meet the goals as set out in the analysis phase?
  • Were we able to measure the extent to which learning goals were achieved?
  • Were we able to assess the amount of learning that has happened as a result of the training?
  • Are there revisions to the instructional materials or delivery method that may improve the training?
  • Were any knowledge gaps or missing training requirements identified that should be addressed in the course?
  • Does the evaluation report identify actionable changes for the current or future courses?

Once we have the summative feedback, we take the information back to the analysis phase and approach revisions to the course in an iterative manner.

Why Should My Organization Care About Instructional Design?

Utilizing Instructional Design will improve your training. Using ID methodology in the development of high quality instruction helps by ensuring that the instruction considers the strengths and weaknesses of the learners, ensures an appropriate training delivery method for the instructional content, and allows for the measurement of the outcomes of the training.

Good Instructional Design:

  • Helps to inspire learners to act and motivates them to acquire more knowledge
  • Engages learners
  • Helps learners learn more efficiently
  • Helps learners retain knowledge
  • Provides a better user experience
  • Helps communicate messages clearly
  • Helps ensure learning goals are achieved

At Edgeworks Creative, we firmly believe that good design makes a difference, and we know how to make a difference with good design. We have a proven track record of success and extensive experience with Instructional Design. We encourage you to view our website and online portfolio at to gain a sense of our capabilities and see our high-quality products including our Interactive.Training platform.