I thought that I would put together a quick post to answer a question I get asked, but can have an awkward time answering: What is instructional design? Although I have been learning the design ideas and learning theories, I have never been asked to describe it. That is the reason for this post—to articulate for myself and for you and so that we may better answer that question in the future.

There are various definitions of instructional design because it encompasses a wide range of disciplines. Other titles include: instructional technology, educational technology, curriculum design, and instructional systems design. To ease any confusion, I will split the field into two segments: design and technology.

The Many Faces of Learning Design

Now, I could describe it as  the process of creating instructional materials. In essence, that is correct, but it overlooks the theories and ideas that go into designing learning experiences. There is the research into how people learn and how to best incorporate that knowledge into learning design. Instructional designers also have to determine what medium, tools, and methods to consider when designing learning material.

For example, these materials can include manuals, videos, or eLearning courses. With the reality being that it is becoming increasingly important to understand how to deliver learning online. This widens the scope of media and tools a designer can utilize when planning and creating materials.

Exploring new technologies is essential in discovering new ways to enhance instruction. Technology isn’t always the answer to making something better, but it can provide engaging and creative possibilities for learning designs.

So, To Sum Up…

Instructional design is the research of learning theory, design principles and the development of instructional methods and materials. Instructional technology is the study of practical technologies, new media, and social media technologies as tools for learning.

I have formed these two questions over time: How do we deliver an effective and engaging learning experience? And what media, tools, and materials do we use to achieve those design goals? Yes, they are loaded questions, but I think they help steer the focus of any design goals.

I hope this gives you a better idea of instructional design and what goes into developing learning experiences. Please comment below if you have any thoughts, or questions.



What is Instructional Design. (n.d.). Retrieved from Purdue University Online: http://online.purdue.edu/ldt/learning-design-technology/resources/what-is-instructional-design

What is Instructional Design. (n.d.). Retrieved from Instructional Design Central: https://www.instructionaldesigncentral.com/whatisinstructionaldesign

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