4 Tips for Modern Instructional Design

Similar to corporate learning, instructional design (ID) is a field that is undergoing a bit of a transformation. While corporates are shifting their efforts into workflow learning and performance impact, instructional designers will see their roles shift as well. This shift is multi-faceted and will require practitioners to learn new skills, adopt new methods and expand their overall role in the organisation. To provide some guidance, here are 4 tips for modern instructional design that you should look into.

1. There are no more fixed models or approaches

Instructional design is a field full of frameworks and models (e.g. Gagne’s nine stages, ADDIE, etc.). However, it’s the overuse of these types of models and frameworks that has pushed the ID practitioners so far away from the business. The problems are multifaceted. On one hand, these models don’t really work with the speed of the business. On the other hand, they produce very boring and homogeneous type of learning. Design is never absolute, but always relative. Thus, instead of pushing subject matter through different dated models, modern instructional designers should focus on solving the business problems at the speed of the business through iterative development and practical problem solving.

2. Instructional Design’s focus is no longer just on materials

A bad system kills good material – and vice versa. If instructional designers want to produce impactful learning experiences, they can no longer focus on just the material. Even the best and most beautifully designed material will never work if it has to be accessed through a system with bad user experience. Hence, ID practitioners have to start working on a higher level, focusing on the learning experience as a whole. User experience is no longer a nice-to-have, but it’s perhaps the most important thing. Additionally, the profession will likely incorporate more and more elements of service design into its normal workflow.

3. IDs should start with the end in mind, not the design

As important as design is, it should never be the starting point. As corporate learning becomes increasingly performance-focused, the goal of the ID work will be to evoke the needed behavioural change in the organisation, not just convey knowledge. We often see unnecessary complexity just because the designer had discovered “a new cool thing” that they felt compelled to incorporate everywhere. No one today has time for that. To really understand the behaviours in the organisation and how to deliver performance impact, instructional designers will be required to align much more closely within the business. ID practitioners have to be ready to deliver solutions also outside of the traditional scope of their jobs- After all, training is rarely the right answer to a business problem. Perhaps one day the ID team will even share the same KPIs as the operations!

4. Instructional designers need to grasp new tech but not get fixated on it

The technology landscape around instructional design is developing very fast. Over the last decade, we’ve seen tools such as videos, animations, simulations, AR, VR and many more emerge. It’s more important than ever that ID professionals know these tools. These are the mediums your learners have and will get used to as consumers. And you shouldn’t expect them to tone down their expectations for your corporate learning. However, it’s again important not to get carried away with one particular technology. A good example of “getting carried away” would be the slide-based eLearning authoring tools and their prevalence. While they’re good tools, many instructional designers and learning professionals seem to know nothing else. The worrying moment comes when we start measuring learning projects in ‘number of slides’ (oops, that might have already happened…). Once again, it’s thus important to keep the end in mind and select the technology based on that.

Overall, corporate instructional design has to become more integrated with the business – or face extinction. The roles within the function will become broader and perhaps represent more “service design for learning”. On a professional level, there are great opportunities for individuals who get this right. Remember, if you need help in developing these modern instructional design capabilities in your organisation, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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