Instructional Design Essentials: 3 things you need to know to get started in instructional design

So many aspiring instructional designers have the same question: what are the instructional design essentials I must know to get started in the field? 


I’ve got the answers here, all in the same place. You’ll find an overview of andragogy, some design principles for adult learning, and a high-level summary of the instructional systems design models ADDIE and SAM.



These topics will give you a great starting point so you have a handle on the instructional design essentials! Once you’re grounded in these topics, you can dive deeper into the areas you need to strengthen. Then, you’ll be as prepared as possible to design effective learning solutions!


ID Essentials #1: All About Andragogy

Here’s an important word to get familiar with if you’re interested in instructional design. Andragogy is a theory of adult learning that says adult learners have unique characteristics. Because of those characteristics, your approach when designing adult training must differ from how you would create learning for children. 

Andragogy vs. Pedagogy

I spoke to a teacher hoping to transition to an instructional design job but needed help making it past the interview phase. First, we talked through a couple of common interview questions. One of them being, “How would you approach training differently for our audience than you do in your current role?”


They responded that they wouldn’t do anything differently because they didn’t believe that andragogy (adult learning) was that different from pedagogy (children learning). Yikes! 


You will see parallels between andragogy and pedagogy, especially if you’re a teacher at a higher grade level. But the differences are critical, and hiring managers are very interested in how you approach them, so let’s explore a few.


The main difference is that pedagogy tends to be traditionally teacher-centered. So, the teacher is considered the expert, and students are more passive recipients of learning.


Andragogy is learner-centered. Adults need to be active participants in their learning. They may set goals and evaluate their progress. The teacher is a facilitator of knowledge or a coach.


Understanding Andragogy Assumptions

Malcolm Knowles’ theory of andragogy is based on the idea that adult learners are self-directed and have a wealth of life experience that can be leveraged in the learning process. This differs from pedagogy which assumes that a younger learner needs more direction and exposure to experiences.


According to Knowles, adults are motivated to learn when they see the relevance of the learning to their lives and when they have the opportunity to apply what they have learned practically. 


Andragogy also emphasizes the importance of active and problem-focused learning. They like to evaluate scenarios and create solutions. Adults also like active discussions and debates.


Adult learners should be encouraged to reflect on their experiences and their learning process. 


How many of these assumptions resonate with you as an adult reading this?


ID Essentials #2: Design Principles for Adult Learning

So, how can you bring your understanding of andragogy into your training design? The following design principles are considered instructional design essentials! Let’s put it all together. 


Designing compelling learning experiences for adults requires understanding their needs and preferences. So, be sure to explain clearly what is being taught and why. Help learners understand the relevance and purpose of the material so they are more motivated to engage with it. 


Another important principle is to incorporate task-oriented and experiential methods to engage learners and allow them to apply their knowledge and skills. This could include problem-solving exercises, group discussions, or role-playing activities.


Self-directed learning is also a practical approach for adult learners. This doesn’t just mean offering self-paced courses. Instead, create opportunities for learners to make choices and have control over their learning experience. For example, offering different activities or assignments to choose from can give learners a sense of ownership and engagement. 


Also, it’s important to consider learners’ backgrounds and experiences when designing a learning experience. This can inform the difficulty level and the types of content and activities included. For example, senior executives may have different learning needs than first-time managers, and it’s essential to tailor the learning experience accordingly.


Finally, content must be relevant and applicable to adult learners. Unlike children, adults have the choice to participate in learning experiences, and they can opt out if they don’t find the content helpful or meaningful. Therefore, ensuring that the learning experience is tailored to the learners’ needs and interests is critical. 


By following these principles, instructional designers can create engaging, effective, and relevant learning experiences for adult learners that promote lifelong learning and growth.


ID Essentials #3: Instructional Design Systems

Another instructional design essential for newbies includes instructional design systems. Instructional design uses a systematic approach to designing and developing learning solutions. Two popular systems include ADDIE and SAM.


I will give you a quick overview of these systems, but the best way to learn them is to work through an instructional design project following one.


ADDIE is a systematic process that instructional designers use to create effective learning experiences. This repeatable process consists of five phases: analysis, design, develop, implement, and evaluate.



In the analysis phase, designers collect information such as requirements, audience, and delivery medium. It’s also where they conduct scoping meetings, the training needs analysis, and interviews with subject matter experts. All of this information is critical to creating a successful learning experience.


In the design phase, designers organize the information collected in the analysis phase and think about how to chunk it to maximize learning. They also identify engagement strategies and reduce learning loss. Additionally, designers finalize learning objectives, create storyboards or course blueprints, script, and identify assessment questions.


The development phase is where designers build the actual learning experience. This could be an e-learning lesson in tools like Articulate Storyline 360, Rise, or Captivate. Alternatively, designers might create instructional videos. Whatever the format, the goal is to create a product that can be implemented in various ways, such as live in a classroom, virtual instructor-led, or through a learning management system.

When it comes to implementation, this is when instructional designers launch the learning experience. Whether it’s a pilot or the final version. We deliver training in many ways, including live, virtual, or through various digital platforms.


Finally, in the evaluate phase, designers step back and assess how well the learning experience performed. This includes looking at learner reactions, assessment questions, completion rates, and other data points. When they evaluate the learning experience, designers identify issues that need to be addressed, such as poorly written questions or weak content, and make improvements.



The other model I’ll review for you is SAM or Successive Approximation Model. SAM is a more agile development model. The emphasis is on iterative cycles of design, prototyping, and review.


Using SAM, instructional designers create something quickly, assess its effectiveness, and improve based on feedback.


SAM includes a preparation phase, an iterative design phase, and the same development, implementation, and evaluation phases as ADDIE.


Where SAM differs from ADDIE in the iterative design phase, as it involves designing, prototyping, reviewing, and applying feedback multiple times before moving into development.


SAM’s aim is to get feedback earlier and more often, so there is less rework and fewer issues in the final product.


Wrapping It Up

As I mentioned, I can only give you an overview of these instructional design essentials in one blog post. If you’re interested in taking a deeper dive and learning about andragogy, design principles, and ADDIE and putting that knowledge into practice by creating your portfolio pieces, check out the Instructional Design and Tech Accelerator System and Certificate Program.


The Testimonials are In:


Shola Richards

Working with Shanwtay and Katie at the Instructional Design Company was a dream come true. Their creativity, expertise, and professionalism throughout the entire process was beyond top notch. I engaged them to help turn my first book into a training course, and I could not be happier with how the final product turned out. If you have an instructional design project and you’re considering which company to work with, you can stop your search and thank me later. They are truly the best in the business.

Shola Richards


Graphic Designer

I joined the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program because I struggled to find jobs in instructional design beyond the development phase. I’ve done a couple of training programs with lots of random projects, but I was overwhelmed, not connecting the dots, and not good at structuring my writing to hit learning objectives. I was looking for motivation and direction at beginning a better Instructional Designer.

After taking the Instructional Design & Tech Certificate program and joining my fantastic team for support, I found the structure and approach to be what I need to take my next steps, evening improving my skills in the development stage.

Gayle Bower


Teacher, Future Instructional Designer

I love how this course let’s you work at your own pace. I got great tips and learned many things. The ongoing support for multiple people and groups is what I love the best. You are never alone in this process. I have been able to adjust my resume and began creating a portfolio of work I’ve completed to add when applying for jobs. I use many of the PowerPoint skills in my lessons and trainings. I would highly recommend this for anyone wanting to become an instructional designer.

Laurie Henderson


Teacher, Future Instructional Designer

I have searched for the last few years to find some suitable career change where I wouldn’t have to earn another degree and where I could use the talents and skills I already have as a teacher. When I came across the Instructional Design Accelerator course, I loved the fact that Shawntay was a former teacher and could relate to a teacher’s need to transition from the classroom. This was what sold the course for me. Her experiences are invaluable especially when translating teacher duties to instructional designer duties. I would (and have) recommended this program to other teachers I know who are looking to transition out of the classroom. I do appreciate ALL of her feedback on my projects!

Wendy McMillian


L&D Project Manager

The Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator certificate program is one of the most comprehensive ID programs out there for beginners. If you’re looking to grow your schools in ID and development then I highly recommend this program. Not only will this program give you an overview of theory, but you will receive a thorough walkthrough of how to apply what you have learned. Although I had already secured a position in Learning & Development when I bought this course, it helped me to move up into a new position as a Learning & Development Project Manager!

Gabby Grimaldo


Future Instructional Designer

If you have any interest in ID, sign up for this program NOW! Shawntay and her team are top notch! The course content exceeded my expectations in a big way and the encouragement and support continues to be so valuable. You will not feel alone going through this course, you will learn so much, you’ll have many cheerleaders, and you will have fun!

Shanna Howe


Future Instructional Designer

I am really enjoying this program! It’s prerfect for someone who is thinking about a career shift to Instructional Design and does not have a lot of experience. This is my first real introduction to Instructional Design and it’s been the perfect beginner course to help me get my feet wet. The modules are broken down well and it’s great to go at your own pace and at your own time. The modules themselves are very comprehensive and you learn a lot from all of them. I really like how each one build upon each other and you’re working towards the bigger project of designing your first training course from scratch. I’m learning so much from going through this course! I was provided great feedback from Katie and Shawntay through the process via Trello Boards, comments on the Google documents, and Facebook group. This course has been well worth the time and effort and I appreciate the fact that I will always have the resources available to me after I complete the training (just in case I’m not quite ready to transition yet).

Aviva Berkowitz


Future Instructional Designer

I can’t say enough great things about the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program! The length of the program is perfect; it doesn’t feel rushed and there’s just the right amount of structure to give you the accountability you need. There are so many opportunities to get live answers to any questions you have related to the course content or anything ID-related! This program gave me the support and structure I needed to both feel affirmed in the relevant skills I already had coming in and to fill in the gaps I had as a career-changer going into ID. Shawntay, Katie, and all the coaches are super helpful and supportive. I now feel confident that I have the tools and access to resources I need to apply for ID jobs without wondering if there’s something I’m “missing” in the preparation process. I’d highly recommend this program to anyone wanting to transition into ID or who just wants to brush up on their skills in the field.

Krista Johnson Awomoyi


Freelance Instructional Designer

I’d highly recommend the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program. I’m blown away by how much I learned in just 12 weeks. I had ID experience prior to taking this course and was just looking to get a better understanding of applying adult learning principles. This course well exceeded my expectations! Not only did I gain a clear understanding of adult learning principles, I was also able to apply those principles by creating assets for your portfolio using PowerPoint, Adobe Premiere Pro and Storyline. The hands on support that we received was top notch.

Darlene Dalgleish


Instructional Designer

This program is one of the most robust yet fulfilling L&D programs I’ve seen. I learned so much about the industry and about the limitlessness of my own capabilities. I am so appreciative of Shawntay and all of the trainers who took part in the program. They went above and beyond with not only guiding, but communicating live and working one on one or in small groups. If you are on the fence, I say take the leap and you will not regret it! There’s so much to learn, not only from the trainers, but also the learners in your group. Everyone comes in with their own skills and can be additional support and guidance for you. Thank you for creating this program!

Shawnice Edge


Instructional Designer Training Facilitator

Shawntay is an amazing individual. She is very knowledgeable in all aspects of ID and eLearning. She is also very compassionate and loves to help and see everyone around her grow and prosper. Shawntay has been a great mentor to me and she has helped me mature as an instructional designer and eLearning developer. She has provided me with opportunities when others have overlooked me. I am very grateful to have met and built a lifelong relationship with Shawntay.

I recently got hired into my first instructional design / training position and Shawntay was one of the first people to congratulate me!

Brian Hightower


Freelance Instructional Designer

My teacher-to-instructional-designer journey began two years ago when I left my teaching comfort zone and started my first freelance ID job. Now, I’m stepping out of the classroom and taking my freelance work full-time, so I’m thrilled to be joining the Tech Accelerator program. Adding technologies like Articulate 360 and Adobe Premiere Pro to my qualifications will help me take my courses to the next level and attract more clients!

Sarah Smith


Teacher Transitioning into Instructional Design

I am genuinely grateful for this course. I wanted a real-world perspective and feel like I got it. I’m teaching now, but nearing retirement age but can see myself working as an instructional designer well into my retirement years. My other goal is to take as many courses in statistics as possible in hopes of bringing some mathematical precision to the ROI question. Like you say, getting accurate metrics to measure ROI can be a challenge, but I intend to work on that part. That’s unimportant right now, what is important is the fact that I feel like this course was well worth every penny I spent and I would to it again in a heartbeat. I have too much going on right now, but as soon as I get some time freed up I intend to take your course in project management.

Lee R


Turns Your Written Thoughts Into a Masterpiece!

Shawntay Skjoldager can turn your written thoughts into a masterpiece. She is great to work with and the most organized person I know!

Sheryl Rhoades
President and CEO, The Creative Entreprenuer


Shawntay has been incredible!

Shawntay has been incredible and her team is responsive and effective in translating my training programs into professional presentations. Don’t hesitate to contact her for your project.

President and Principal of HRM Consulting, Inc.


IDC is My Secret Weapon to Soar Above My Competition!

The IDC team has been my secret and special weapon of success. They have delivered above and beyond with every single project out in front of them. They have met and beat timelines. They have been Uber responsive every step of the way. I keep them on speed dial and have and continue to recommend them to friends and clients. If you are in need of instructional design and plenty more, this is THE ALL-STAR team that will more than deliver and help make you and your project soar above the competition.

LT. COL. Jason O. Harris
U.S. Air Force Officer, Special Operations Pilot, U.S.A.F. Academy Instructor, Motivational Speaker


A Tremendous Asset to the Project Team!

Working with Shawntay and the Instructional Design Company has allowed our university to meet the growing demands of our programs. Shawntay’s expertise allowed for the course development to be completed on time and met all of the university requirements. Shawntay’s project management skills were phenomenal and allowed my team to work on other areas while she completed this project for us. Her work is of high quality and her professionalism and willingness to help made her a tremendous asset to the project team.

Amanda Buckley
Academic Quality Assurance Specialist, Abilene Christian University


Creative & Highly Talented!

Shawntay is a creative and highly talented instructional designer.  She brought a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and leadership that enabled her to own the design and creation of a full scale facilitator curriculum and train-the-trainer program.  It was a pleasure to partner with Shawntay, her project management and communication skills ensured the project was on time and on budget.

Susan Gatti
President, IMMIXID


Breaks Down Mammoth Projects

“Shawntay is quick study and carefully synthesizes information for presentations that are clear, concise and captivating. Her personality draws the audience in and her content mastery is excellent. A team player and organizer, Shawntay has the ability to break down mammoth projects, keep everybody on time and on task.”

Rick Miller
Author, Speaker, Strengths Coach


eLearning Development

“I have had many opportunities to work with Shawntay—mainly in the support of implementing new eLearning initiatives. I have been very impressed by her ability to quickly learn how to use rapid eLearning development tools and effectively use them to create multiple courses within a short timeframe. Shawntay’s enthusiastic nature, attention to detail, and dedication to her work make her a pleasure to work with and a great asset to both Texas A&M University-Commerce and the broader training community within the Texas A&M University System.”

Ashley Christian
Director of Learning Strategy, Caveo Learning


Top Notch Professional

Working with Shawntay has been an immense pleasure. She is atop notch professional who brings enthusiasm and extensiveexpertise to professional curriculum development and execution. Her knowledge of tried and true techniques to maximize the effectiveness of presentations is invaluable.

Nancy Drapeau, PRC
Vice President of Research, CEIR - Center for Exhibition Industry Research


Fortunate to Find Shawntay!

“I was fortunate to find Shawntay when our organization was looking to expand and update our educational offerings. Shawntay proved herself to be an educational and personal development expert who immediately made an impact with our clients throughout Europe. Everyone who came into contact with Shawntay was immediately impressed by her level of expertise and willingness to share her knowledge with those around her. I would not hesitate to recommend Shawntay to anyone looking for an education subject matter expert.”

Jonathan Burt
Director of Qualifications and NSD Services, Mary Kay Inc.


Short Turn Around. On Time. Under Budget!

“We hired Shawntay to develop a training facilitator’s guide and PowerPoint slide deck for an operations manual heavy with technical content. The project was made more challenging by a very short turn around, 5 business days, and the fact that the operations manual wasn’t complete and was being updated simultaneously with the facilitator’s guide and slide deck. Despite these challenges, Shawntay delivered as promised. On time and under budget.”

Dave Beeman, CPP
Vice President, Andy Frain Services


Need an Expert Who Consistently Delivers?

“Working with Shawntay you will immediately notice her professional presence and poise, but over time her tenacious pursuit of excellence and her skills in instructional development and adult learning will really impress you. I worked with her at Mary Kay, and was able to experience firsthand her great rapport with regional partners in Europe, understanding their unique sales force training needs. In addition, Shawntay consistently exhibited grace under pressure, made executive decisions to move business forward. If you are looking for an expert who consistently delivers and goes the extra mile to get things done, contact Shawntay!”

Mellora Moore
Marketing Director, Academic Partnerships


Quality Products & Solutions!

“I had had the pleasure of knowing and working with Shawntay on more than a few occasions. I found her to be a very good business partner and very committed to delivering a quality product or solution in a timely manner. I have always had a positive experience in partnering with Shawntay and would recommend that you consider leveraging her talent.”

Judy Owen, CPC
Transformational Leadership Coach


“Invest in yourself and take your skills to the next NEXT level!”

Get yourself signed up for Shawntay Skjoldager’s Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program today and be on your way to success! Within the first week of taking her course, you will experience growth! Be sure to plug into her Facebook Q&A sessions for personalized help, too. This is THE course to take if you are new to instructional design or have landed on the training team and need help getting started.

Patrick Hodges
Managing Partner, PHiG


“Her enthusiasm for adult learning is contagious!”

Shawntay has exceptional knowledge and experience with all aspects of creating and implementing effective, performance based training for adults. She is exceptional at needs analysis – identifying target audiences and collaborating with business owners to keep training focused on business needs. And she is great to work with – always providing great support to get projects done on-time and on-target. She is always on the look-out for new and more effective ways to engage learners. Her enthusiasm for adult learning is contagious!

Mike Stubblefield
eLearning Developer/Instructional Designer, Vivos Therapeutics


“Spot on”

I have known and worked with Shawntay  as a education program director and use the expertise of ShawntayMichelle for the development of my presentations.  The service has always been “spot on” with professionalism, care and attention.  Shawntay’s recommendations to my ideas make me look good to my clients.

Owner, Certified Consulting Services


“Shawntay Skjoldager reached in and made my training life so much easier!”

I am new to the training design and development world and I was SO excited to get in there, but I really lacked the real-world knowledge that would set me apart from my peers. And, then Shawntay Skjoldager walked into my life with an outstretched hand and a seemingly endless list of ways to knock every training out of the park. From the Training Analysis Form to the Tay Tay tips, this course made my life so much easier and even ironed out the review process that I had been struggling with for months.

Take time to invest in your own learning and make sure to put Shawntay Michelle at the top of your personal development list!


Katie Carter
Training Specialist, LegalShield

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