Have you ever come across an online course and thought, “wow”? What contributes to that wow factor? The answer is great instructional design (or ID), which helps the audience learn and apply the skills taught in the course.

So, what is ID?

I have been an instructional designer for almost 10 years now and one of the most frequently-asked questions thrown my way is “what is instructional design?”

The way I look at ID in the present-day context is this: A creative, systematic process which uses learning theories, frameworks, planning, writing, and technology to create a great learning experience. 

What are these learning theories and why do we need them? Let us look at two key examples:

Key ID Theories

The ADDIE model, the best-known and most frequently-used ID models. ADDIE stands for five key stages in the MOOC development process: Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation. When we design a MOOC, we work extensively in each of these phases. For example, we conduct a thorough analysis of the learner’s needs and use the results to decide the design of the course.

Gagné’s 9 Events helps create and present engaging content that the learner can retain. To make this happen effectively, nine key “events” are mapped into the course: Gain attention, inform learners of the objectives, recap previous learning, present content, elicit performance, provide feedback, and assess performance.

Keep in mind: it’s not always necessary to map all nine events on to the course content.

Four Key Benefits of ID for Learners

So, do you have a favorite online course? What do you like about that course? Is it the content, the way it’s presented, or your feeling that is was exactly what you wanted?

Here are the four key benefits of effective instructional design:

  1. It creates learner-centric content. A good instructional designer spends a substantial amount of time knowing the learner better. When creating a MOOC, a set of personas are crafted to understand the different types of learners.
  2. It defines measurable objectives. A good course is result-driven. Right at the beginning of the course, you will know what to expect and how this knowledge can help you.
  3. It uses interactive strategies to encourage learner participation. A MOOC that has engaging discussion forums, live webinars, office hours, and chat has higher engagement levels.
  4. It provides learners with a consistent learning experience. This does not mean replicating the content, but developing a learning pattern so that nothing comes as a surprise for the learners. So in a MOOC, you would know when to expect a summary of the key points covered.

It may be daunting to create course content that sticks with the learner, but one skill is all you need – instructional design.

[This blog post was written by Monica Shah, Senior Instructional Designer, IIMBx]