Why Instructional Design Strategy Matters

instructional designers meet to talk strategy

instructional designers meet to talk strategyIn our blog, we focus a lot on learning objectives and evaluations because these two things connect where we are going (objectives) and how we will know when we get there (evaluations). But, in between those two stages, comes a very important element: instructional methods.

After the goal and the learning objectives of a program are defined, the instructional designer then must choose the teaching method that will accomplish the objectives. Choosing the right instruction method is an essential skill for the instructional designer to have.

Methods chosen depend on what must be learned (knowledge or a skill), at what level it must be learned (the student simply needs awareness or the student requires mastery of the topic), and in what setting is the instruction taking place (in a classroom, online, on a mobile device).

Which instruction methods support  knowledge gain?

  • Readings
  • Small group discussions
  • Question and answer sessions
  • Lectures
  • Demonstrations
  • Discussions

Which strategies support skills gain?

  • Guided observations
  • Demonstrations
  • Simulations
  • Role play
  • Case studies
  • Games

Many learning leaders choose the path of least resistance, which means the easiest and often quickest way to convey information is a lecture paired with a PowerPoint slide set. This may be the go-to choice for many reasons, such as time constraints, staff shortages, or even lack of formal training in instructional design. But if your goal is to create effective learning, then instructional strategy takes on more urgency. To create a measurable learning program, you must first know the conditions of performance and the level of performance required. When you consider those two things, you often realize that lectures and slides may not be enough.

Let’s look at an example. The customer service department manager has noticed that customer complaints about rudeness have risen. She also notes that call volume and  influx of new employees have created job stress. She requests that the learning department create a program that will teach ways to reduce stress on the job. The learning professional defines the objective and goals as follows:

  • Course key performance indicator (KPI): Reduce customer complaints of rudeness.
  • Course goal: Provide stress management techniques to use at the customer service desk.
  • Measurable course objective: When working the call center desk, the student demonstrates the 30-second stress reducing technique, including all the steps in the correct order.

The KPI notes the metric targeted by the training. The measurable course objective specifically identifies what the student will know and the level of performance mastery that is expected. The objective makes clear the student knows the technique and can demonstrate its correct use. It’s easier to determine if the objective is achieved when it provides this type of detail. It also narrows down the instructional design strategy options that will work best.

The initial presentation of stress-reducing techniques may very well be lecture and slides. However, it’s unlikely that would achieve the course objective. The instructional designer could supplement the lecture with small group discussion that focuses on the opportunity to use the technique on the job. Instruction may include first watching a demonstration of the stress-reducing technique. Another option would be role-playing where the student practices using the technique. Knowing the performance conditions and performance criteria gives the instructional designer the information needed to design the best ways for the students to learn the skill. These strategies enable designers to create programs that closely mimic job requirements.  This creates the link between course objectives and measurable business results.

At eParamus, our goal is to teach learning professionals how to perform good learning program design, which includes understanding instructional design strategy. Want to learn more? Then please contact us here at eParamus. We can train you on instructional design best practices.

Please follow eParamus on LinkedIn and feel free to connect with me, Laura Paramoure, PhD to discuss the learning challenges you face.

Photo copyright: stockbroker / 123RF Stock Photo


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