What is Instructional Design?
On the surface, this question sounds like it should have a straightforward answer. But, often the definition of instructional design can be murky, because there is a lot that it encompasses. Right now, I am facilitating a couple of introductory-level instructional design courses at different Canadian universities. I thought that it might be helpful to draw upon some of their course resources to summarize what instructional design is, from my perspective.
In one of my courses, participants are asked to review a blog post by Tom Kulhmann (2008). Kulhmann's post What Everbody Ought to Know About Instructional Design provides a video example, and discusses it's instructional design elements. Along the way, he injects five key bullet points about what instructional design is:
For the most part, I agree with Kulhmann's observations -- although I would argue that "compresses the learning process and saves time" is not always a desired objective of the ID process. That would all depend on the context -- and in some contexts, you may want to deliberately extend the learning process! However, I think that there are enough "gems" in Kulhmann's points to craft a basic working definition of instructional design for the purposes of those "new to the game."
Instructional design is the process of establishing clear learning goals, and then creating a plan, environment, and resources, that engages learners with meaningful content and clear and purposeful activities.
Yes, there is a lot more to instructional design than what this definition would imply! I'm deliberately keeping things succinct for the purposes of this post. But, perhaps a look at what instructional designers do might give a better sense of the scope of the field...
What is the Role of the Instructional Designer?
The precise roles and tasks of an instructional designer may vary, depending on their school or organization. I've created the following infographic to illustrate the breadth of the roles that I've played as an instructional designer and instructional developer. These roles include:
And, of course, there is a lot of overlap between all of these roles!
Kulhmann, J. (2008, July 22). What Everybody Ought to Know About Instructional Design. [Web log post]. Rapid eLearning. Available from https://blogs.articulate.com/rapid-elearning/what-everybody-ought-to-know-about-instructional-design/
Rob Power, EdD, is an Assistant Professor of Education, an instructional developer, and educational technology, mLearning, and open, blended, and distributed learning specialist.
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