Guest Blog Post by: Eileen Rudden, Partner at LearnLaunch

Jason Gorman, VP of Learning Experience Design Services at Six Red Marbles, led a lively class called Instructional Design 101 for the LearnLaunch community at First Republic Bank last week.

Jason first prompted participants to identify:

  • What do I want to design
  • What is the goal of my design

The group had a wide array of projects they were considering, from the creation of MOOCs for K-12 ELL teachers to teaching Hispanic culture to the creation of a learning discharge care plan for a total hip replacement surgical patient.

Instructional design involves the 3 P’s:

  1. People
  2. Process
  3. Pedagogy

The most important focus of instructional design is to serve the learner. That is the touchstone, according to Jason, and it’s about people.

The instructional designer needs to have the ability to identify the needs of the learner, research known pedagogies, and lead a team in the creation of effective learning materials. The team might include an instructional designer, a graphic designer, a software developer, or others.

A popular process of instructional design falls under the acronym ADDIE: Assess, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate.

  • Assess: methods to assess what learners need – these include customer interviews, observations, and interviews with other stakeholders
  • Design: planning before starting to create (e.g. diagram out the learner’s journey, create storyboards or wireframes)
  • Develop: execute by creating materials
  • Implement: roll out to learners
  • Evaluate: formative and summative assessments

This looks like a linear waterfall process, but Jason recommends that it be an iterative agile process. Testing should happen as early as possible.

All instructional design should be informed by pedagogy. In fact, up until this part of the class, the discussion seemed similar to that of product management. However, instructional design needs to encompass and be informed by the relevant research on learning. An instructional designer must research and find the relevant pedagogy for the particular area he or she is working on.

The overall goals of learner-centered instructional design are that it be memorable, relevant, and engaging. To be engaging means that the instruction holds the learner’s attention.

CAST just released new Universal Design for Learning (UDL) guidelines on design theory and practice, and Jason highly recommends them. If one designs for people with the most extreme needs, everyone else will be better served.

To be relevant, it’s important to understand the learner’s ecosystem. For example, in the hip replacement patient example, the patient’s supports are their family, doctor, nurse, physical therapist, and pharmacist.

In summary, Jason recommended starting with a clear goal for your instructional design and tackling the project in three phases.

  1. Discovery: looking at research and interviewing in order to uncover how to meet the learners’ needs to achieve your instructional goal
  2. Iterate: be learner-focused, develop an evidence base for decision making (interviews, analysis, pedagogical research)
  3. Prototyping: develop three options (through rapid prototyping or paper prototyping); Axure wireframe software has been useful to Jason’s teams.

Like other design processes in software or other areas, he thinks of the cycle as Design-Develop-Evaluate. It’s a circular process that can be repeated as often as possible.