Hey, Instructional Designer, Training Specialist, Training Manager, and Freelance ID, what instructional design best practices do you incorporate into every course you develop?


If you are here, you have most likely already designed live and online courses. You design these to help people succeed in their job or some other aspect of their life. Or maybe you created a training session for your office to help your employees in an area where they were struggling. If so, let me ask you this question, “Do you see the kind of results that you are expecting?”


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Is your training course or program producing the results you were going for? If not, I have some strategies that just might help you get closer to the results you are targeting.


15 Instructional Design Best Practices


Today, I am going to share 15 Instructional Design Best Practices that I use for every course I create. These should help you get the results you want. 


Read through each of the Instructional Design Best Practices, and if you decide that you already have one of the best practices mastered, move to the next Instructional Design Best Practice You might be surprised to find that that you aren’t fully incorporating a few of these into your instructional design process. But enough talk, let’s get started!


Determine Key Players and Then Include Them


If you need the office or warehouse to become a more secure place, there are a couple of key people you should include in the training process. You would want to ensure you fully cover the safety issues. I refer to these people as “key players” and “stakeholders.” For a warehouse safety training, the key players might include the warehouse manager, security guard, frontline employees, and anyone else who has knowledge of the cause and solution of the safety issues being addressed in the training.


Figure out who you need to involve in your scoping meeting and SME interviews and make sure to include them. Overlooking this step could result in missing information that is needed to ensure the course achieves the desired results. Be thorough, and take extra steps to avoid this mistake.


Identify the Goals


Every course and training program should have at least one goal. The goals that you want to achieve with the course or training program are fundamental. The primary purpose or outcome of the course needs to be clearly stated and evident throughout the course.


For example, if you were building a course on office etiquette, you would create content and activities that support the course goal. Every single quiz, exercise, learning objective and all the “Need to Know” content works together. Like a symphony, it focuses on delivering the course goal.


The development of course goals should be an early step in your instructional design process. I recommend that you have a Scoping Meeting to set clear, attainable goals at the beginning of building your course or training program.


 Host a Scoping Meeting


Remember those “key players” we talked about earlier? Well, one of the most important instructional design best practices is to host a scoping meeting and invite those key players to talk about the needs of the course. 



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Training courses and programs are often created to solve a problem. During the scoping meeting, you and the key players will get really clear on what the problem is, what the solution is, and what the desired results are. 


The course goals and learning objectives should drive the solution.


In the scoping meeting, you will complete the “Training Analysis” with the key players to identify the needs of the training.


Identify Learning Objectives and Key Outcomes


Educators in the public school system are required to explain their outcomes and objectives at each lesson they present to their students. You are going to model your style after what they do and express what you plan on learning during this conference time.


You shouldn’t be having “The Office” style conference meetings. Especially not if you want to get things accomplished!


Cascade the Content from Objectives


Imagine that every piece of content has a thread running through it. That thread connects the content to the learning objectives and the learning objectives to the course goal. A quality instructionally designed course will ensure everything is connected.


When the content cascades down from the course goal to the learning objectives to the “Need to Know” information,  the content should deliver on the desired results. Take the time to dive into your objectives and ensure that they are connected to goals and desired results. 


Focus on the Need to Know Content


According to BrainShark, we as humans remember about four slides in a 20 slide presentation. That’s about 20% of the course, if we are lucky. When you organize the content, the focus should be on what we call “Need to Know” information.


Any content that does not thread up to a learning objective, course goal, or a learning outcome is irrelevant information. It is content that participants do not need to know in order to be successful. They don’t need this info to achieve the desired results associated with the training course. 


Chunk Content into 10-20 Minute Lessons


Chunking content is a great way to help learners stay focused and on topic while learning. There is actual science behind this. Our brain quickly runs out of willpower to work or focus. However, if you chunk the content into smaller segments, it helps the learner’s brain to stay focused. 


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It is also helpful to group your most relevant content towards the beginning or the end. We remember how things start, and how they finish. Often, the middle is a little blurry. So grouping things together at those two hotspots can help your employees remember what was taught. Grouping and chunking promote long term memory and critical thinking during your presentation.


Include Brain-Friendly Activities


Questioning, group work, reflection, scenarios, and anything that gives the learner the opportunity to practice is a brain-friendly activity.


It is during these brain-friendly activities that the brain has time to process, understand, and make the learning stick. These should “brain games” should frequent your training. Your employees can enjoy your course and learn at the same time!


Engagement Activities


Another instructional design best practice is to actively engage learners throughout the learning experience in both live and online learning environments. You must be intentional in your design process and include engagement activities often. These engagement activities can help you chunk the content as well. 


Engagement activities include just about any activity that requires the learner to work. One mistake that I often see is the engagement of one learner in a live setting versus the whole group. For example, if a trainer stands at the front of a room and asks questions expecting one person to answer, the trainer engaged one person.


Conversely, if the trainer asks a question and asks people to pair up and talk through possible answers, the trainer just engaged the whole class. 


Do you see the difference?


Let Your Design Support You in Your Delivery


Let’s talk about PowerPoint presentations in live settings and even online for a second. The last thing you want to happen is for a trainer, the voice talent, or your learner to read what is on the screen. In fact, there should not be enough content on the screen for the learner to read and know what is going to be said before it is said.


Visuals are support elements, not the star of the course. Slides should NEVER be used to read from…EVER…regardless of delivery format. That is what a script and a facilitator guide are for, and even then, those should not be read from either.


There is something called “Cognitive Load Theory” that gets into the nitty-gritty of why this type of design is bad. Check it out here.  Learners will be bored out of their minds and zone out if they are writing the notes on the screen and not paying any attention to what the trainer is saying.


Allow your visual design to enhance the delivery of the course content, but don’t let it deliver for the course. Use the screen for pictures, videos, sounds, and big ideas. Instead of allowing the screen to become the center of attention, make sure it is merely a tool that is used in the delivery of the “Need to Know” information.


Visual Interest


With all that being said, don’t just go with a bland design. You can and should use colors, fonts, images, videos, and other tools to create visual interest. In business, design is a crucial part of marketing.


Think of storefront windows, do you go into stores that are cluttered with junk or the stores that look interesting? Similarly, in the design of quality training courses, visual interest is a tool best used to gain the listener’s attention.


Limit Wordy Text


As I mentioned, you don’t want the learner to scan the info and tune out before the course has a chance to get started. If you limit the text on the screen, the learner is forced to pay closer attention to the delivery of the content.


Garr Reynolds used the term “slideument” in his book “Presentation Zen” and I always go back to this. A slideument is where a slide collides with a document and the slide is used in lieu of a document. If there is a ton of information to share, the content should be shared in a workbook or a one-pager, not on screen.


Triple Check Your Content


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When I was managing a team of instructional designers and eLearning specialists, everyone on my team was paired up with a reviewer. Nothing ever left the team to go to an SME or business owner without an internal review.


Why? Because people get hung up on small things and lose sight of the big picture. Take social media for example. How many times have you personally or seen someone else lose sight of a message because someone spelled a word wrong? It happens a lot.


I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want my boss or learner to get so caught up on a few misspelled words that the training I spent six weeks working on gets a ‘meh’ rating. You have to be positive that the content you have created is error-free and achieves the desired results.


In the Instructional Designer’s Toolkit, you will find the QA document that I used with my team. Check it out here


Measure Post-Training Analytics


Another important instructional design best practice is to measure and evaluate the results of every training course and program. If you don’t measure and evaluate, how will you know whether or not the training delivered on the desired results?


Some results are easy to evaluate and measure. Others are more difficult and may require the involvement of the analytics team. 


For example, if you know that the desired result of the safety training we mentioned earlier was to reduce the number of workplace accidents, you can measure the number of accidents month over month and year over year of everyone who took the training to determine if the training worked as it was planned to work. 


If accidents are down in the group who took the training, great! If not, what needs to change to get better results?


Finally, Tweak the Training


The last instructional design best practice I want to share with you today is tweaking. If the course or training program failed to deliver on the desired results, you may need to tweak the training or throw it all together and start over with a quality “Training Analysis” during a scoping meeting. 

Should you tweak the training if you are achieving results? Possibly. There is usually room for improvement in all that we do, but before you take on updating something that works, ask how much the results will improve if you tweak the course.


One thing I tell all my instructional designers to remember is that a training course or project is not a baby to love and protect. If something isn’t working or business need changes, we must be able to pivot without mercy. I stole “pivot without mercy” from an Agile certification program I took a couple of years ago because it is so true.


We should always be ready to pivot without mercy in training and development to support the ever-changing business needs in our organizations. 

Sometimes, you’ve just got a put a project you have been working on for months in the rearview mirror and walk away. Later gator!


Wrapping it Up


15 Instructional Design Best Practices Infographics


The 15 instructional design best practices shared here run across all phases of course development. Some may resonate with you and some may not. Pick what works for you and use it. 

Ready to dive in and become a full-stack Instructional Designer and eLearning Developer without getting another degree? Check out my 12-week immersive program: Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program.

If you have another instructional design best practices that you use, please share in the comments below. I would love to hear from you! 


Got Questions?


Instructional Design Questions


My Facebook page  is a great place to add your questions and engage with other instructional designers on different topics related to instructional design, so jump on in and join the conversation. 






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.

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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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