Education, Human Resources, Learning, and Development – instructional designers come from just about everywhere! But what is instructional design, and why is it important? Most people haven’t ever heard of the field.
Instructional design isn’t a common undergraduate focus, so it seems to slip by unnoticed. But K-12 schools and the corporate world would come to a standstill without it.
So, what is instructional design, exactly?
As an instructional designer myself, I struggle to explain what it is that I do to my friends and family. You would think that it would be intuitive, right? I mean, the name kind of explains it all: design of instruction. But somehow, it’s never that easy!
It’s the same in corporate settings. Colleagues often don’t understand what instructional design, or training for that matter, is.
ATD has a clear definition that will give us a good starting point:
“Instructional design is the creation of learning experiences and materials in a manner that results in the acquisition and application of knowledge and skills.”
Like most definitions, you’ll find if you google “what is instructional design,” that one is still a little too technical for me. I love a good scenario, so…
…Let me break down the meaning of instructional design with a scenario.
Let’s say a company wants to introduce software to replace a paper record-keeping system. The software will cut the time employees spend on paperwork in half. Chances are, the company paid big bucks for this software. Now, they need their employees to use it correctly to reap the benefits.
So the problem was the time it takes to complete paperwork, and the solution is the software, right? Not if you look at the scenario with instructional design in mind. The problem is that employees are using an outdated recordkeeping system. To get a good return on their investment, the company needs to help employees use new software effectively. So the solution? Training!
Using ATDs definition, training on the new software would be the learning experience. Specifically, training might be a manual/job aid, video tutorial, online course, or even a simulation. The acquisition and application of knowledge and skills? That’s when the employees can navigate and use the new software thanks to well-designed training.
This brings us back to instructional design. Instructional design is the process used to get that well-designed training. To understand what is instructional design, it’s essential to understand the instructional systems design model.
Let the SME develop the training, right? Wrong…
Let’s go back to our record-keeping scenario from above. Management will realize that someone needs to teach staff how to use the new software. This is when the company would reach out to their friendly neighborhood instructional designer in an ideal world. In the real world, as you know, the responsibility can fall into the hands of an employee who has never designed training before.
It isn’t uncommon that management will ask the employee (aka the subject matter expert) who has had the most experience with the software to put together a tutorial or lead a training session on the topic.
That means training can be developed by someone who has zero background in instructional design.
That also means that the training will likely fall short in engagement strategies and brain-friendly learning experiences.
Zzzzzzzz. What? Sorry, I dozed off for a second.
It may seem intuitive to management to ask a subject matter expert to develop and/or lead training, but let me tell you why that ain’t the best approach.
Undoubtedly, the SME knows the subject area inside and out! That is why they are great at their job! Unfortunately, they are not subject matter experts in the area of instructional design so they most likely are not great at your job! Thank goodness for that! Can you say job security?
Most content area subject matter experts do not have the background knowledge or skill set to develop content in a way the learner can relate to or in a way that maximizes learner retention of content or skill acquisition.
The best scenario would be to have a subject matter expert pair up with an instructional designer. Two subject-matter experts work together. Each bringing their own strengths to the partnership to develop relevant, engaging, and meaningful content.
Okay, so we’ve talked about what instructional design is and who should be involved in the development.
Now, let me introduce you to my little friend…ADDIE.
The ADDIE method is an Instructional Systems Design (ISD) model, which is a framework for creating, developing, and implementing learning.
ADDIE is one of the most common ISDs and my personal favorite because it is super easy to follow.
ADDIE is a methodology to take a training need from an idea to implementation.
In the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program, we really take a deep dive into each step of ADDIE. We analyze the instructional designer’s tasks for each phase, which really simplifies everything.
Completing the training needs analysis is the first and (in my opinion) the most important step. A thorough analysis is like the base of a pyramid. Without it, your training project may come crumbling down!
In the analysis stage, the instructional designer gathers as much information as possible from SMEs, department heads, business owners and other stakeholders. The more thorough your analysis, the better chance you have at creating a killer course that will wow the client.
Here is some essential information to uncover during the analysis stage:
- Is training really needed? Hopefully, the company or client has already figured this out. If they haven’t, the instructional design process will shed light on any unnecessary training.
- Identify business objectives.
- What are the learning objectives of the course? How do they align with the business objective?
- What are the learner’s needs?
- Determine what skills or knowledge the learner already has. What new knowledge do they need?
- What does the successful implementation of this new learning look like in the workplace?
- Is there a certain training format best suited for this learning/audience?
To become an expert in facilitating the training analysis, check out these free resources:
- Post: conducting a training needs analysis
- Post: leading a project kickoff meeting.
- Downloadable: Training Analysis template (included in the Instructional Design Starter Kit)
Here’s the stage where the phrase instructional design originates. Some people are scared off by the words design and designer. I understand! As someone who can just barely sketch out stick figures, I do not consider myself artistic.
So here’s what really happens in the design phase of instructional design, you’ll see it’s nothing to fret.
- Conduct SME interview to gather all the content to be included in the course
- Finetune the learning objectives
- Finalize the course format. Will it be face-to-face or online? How long will the session(s) be? If online, will it be video learning or housed on an LMS? Will there be participant or trainer guides that need to be developed?
- Organize and outline or storyboard the content
- Finesse content to make to ensure it is learner-friendly
- Draft knowledge checks
In your instructional design process, the development stage is where the magic happens. Here’s where all the organization and planning that’s completed in the first two stages come together. You’ll finally start to see your course take shape during development.
Here are some other things you can expect to happen during this phase:
- Finalize the tweaks to the script.
- Build screens, slides, or videos.
- Add learning activities and interactions
- Work on audio, graphics, and video. Many instructional designers work with specialists for this step. Don’t worry if you’re not an expert!
- Run through an internal quality assurance review.
- Get approval from stakeholders again!
Implementation is the launch of your course. It is where you upload the course to a learning management system or it is presented live. This is the point where the course starts delivering on the business objectives and learning objectives and people begin learning.
Some organizations will run a test or pilot audience. This gives the instructional designer the chance to return to the development phase if necessary, and make edits before the course is launched to the full audience.
You didn’t think the instructional design process ended with implementation, right? After the course has been implemented, the instructional designer should monitor the course and learners’ performance.
Once a course is implemented, there is usually some data that is collected. If your organization is NOT collecting data, make yourself look like a rockstar instructional designer by suggesting some data collection opportunities!
Possible data collection opportunities include user feedback, the number of people taking a course and completing a course (not the same thing by the way), support tickets entered, assessment performance (overall and by question), or learner behavior/performance change.
In this phase of ADDIE, you will review all the data to identify areas of improvement and measure that the training is fulfilling business objectives.
Based on the trends you are seeing in the data, you may need to return to an earlier phase to implement changes.
It may seem like a lot of work, and I won’t lie, it is! But the framework that instructional design (and specifically, models like ADDIE) provides is easy to follow.
And guess what, it is even easier when you develop the knowledge and skill and have access to easy to use free resources that support all-important instructional design activities.
Simply, download this FREE Ultimate Instructional Design Starter Kit to immediately unlock the tools you need to complete the activities described in this post.
Why Does Good Instructional Design Matter?
For whatever reason, instructional design has managed to remain a well-kept secret. Now you know the answer to the question, “what is instructional design?” Here’s why you (and everyone!) should care:
Quality, intentional instructional design ensures business goals are achieved!
Companies offer training for many different reasons. Sometimes training is offered for personal development, but usually, there is a business need that drives a training development (like my record-keeping scenario).
In addition, employee retention is influenced by training opportunities. More than 70% of job candidates are interested in advancement opportunities (MRINetwork), which means training opportunities that prepare the employee for the next level is super important.
Job seekers actively look for growth opportunities when considering a new position.
Companies that provide employees with quality learning are better at meeting their goals. Businesses that align their goals with a learning strategy are 40% more likely to see an increase in their key metrics (Brandon Hall Group).
By now, hopefully, you see a theme. Instructional design is the thread that lays the foundation for quality learning. Training opportunities that deliver on business needs, influence job candidates’ decision to accept/reject an offer, or influence an employee’s reason to stay or leave a company doesn’t just happen.
When companies build quality training with quality instructional design, they are influencing many aspects of the business.
Instructional Design Makes the World Go ‘Round
Well, not exactly, but it does make learning possible! Here’s the thing: adult education can be tricky.
If the learning experience was poorly designed or lacked instructional design altogether, the training may not stick and learners may be disengaged now, and when future learning opportunities roll out. That means that whatever resources you invested in the training are wasted. Plus, you deal with the consequences of employees not having the needed skills to perform and meet business objectives.
All this is to say that instructional design is the glue that makes learning stick no matter the delivery medium.
Now, go out and create some sticky learning now that you know what instructional design is and how it boosts learning. I always love hearing how you are using instructional design to make awesome learning experiences for your various audiences. Jump over to The Hangout, a group for all things instructional design, and share your methods with the community!
The Testimonials are In:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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).
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
Beth B. De Lima, MBA, SPHR-CA, SHRM-SCP
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.
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.
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.”
Author, Speaker, Strengths Coach
“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.”
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.”
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!”
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.
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!
eLearning Developer/Instructional Designer, Vivos Therapeutics
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.
Al Lomas CMP, CEM, CMM, CFE
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!
Training Specialist, LegalShield