Instructional Design: The Process – Part 1

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Course creation and delivery have come a long way in the past couple of decades. There have been all types of blend in learning, using all possible avenues from brick-and-mortar classrooms, virtual classrooms, eLearning, digital tutorials, videos, to xAPI tracking all forms of social or informal learning. Instructional Design (ID) is a process or systematic approach to developing the various learning courses or programs. Enough has been written about ID and its various theories and models that define the various approaches or strategies to learning design. A new ID has to figure this out from the ocean of information available. As an ID, one would expect the A to Z of the development process readily available on the online forums. However, most of the available information is piecemeal. My endeavour would be to piece the jigsaw into a logical flow.


This is an attempt to create a broad breakup of the process, along with some references for helping with the creativity. It is a mammoth task and will require a series of articles before a picture begins to emerge. I would request the readers to bear with me and keep watching this space for more.

Process Flow

If we were to attend a workshop on Instructional Design, I would envision it to look something like this:


ADDIE model has been listed again and separately because of its importance in the ID process.

In this series, I would attempt to cover as much ground as possible, using the chart above as the target.

Introduction to Instructional Design

The instructional design theories have been the guiding beacon for the new IDs, however, if not properly utilised during the design phase, these theories lose their practicality. The objective of this section is only to introduce the concepts and encourage the beginners to learn more about the models and theories. Many educators, education psychologists and behaviourists have researched the cognitive science of learning at various times, developing approaches to find better ways of transferring learning. Some of the commonly used models and theories in ID are Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction, Dale’s Cone of Experience, Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Domains, Ruth Clark’s Principles of eLearning, David Kolb’s Experiential Learning Model, and Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Training Evaluation. The readers can click on each name to learn their details.

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Using these principles, philosophies and models, learning strategies can be devised that:

  • Make the training experiential based on David Kolb’s model.
  • Use the Dale’s Cone of Learning to accommodate all learning styles as we move from simple to complex levels of learning.
  • Follow the Adult Learning Principles to attain optimum output.
  • Make the session objectives SMART and conforming to Bloom’s Taxonomy.
  • Use the Ruth Clark’s media principles of design for effective eLearning.
  • Create a framework for effective learning using Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction.
  • Measure the learning effectiveness with Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Training Evaluation.

Instructional Systems Design (ISD)

ISD is a systematic approach to developing the training solutions. The entire process is divided into five phases with both formative and summative evaluations in every phase.ISD uses more traditional ADDIE framework for organisational and business training and Dick and Carey model for institutional and school environments. Another fundamental approach to ISD is Agile learning design. This series will focus on the ADDIE framework for designing learning solutions.

The ID models or theories listed in the introduction to ID can be plugged-and-played in the analysis and design phases of ADDIE. The ID models have a limited scope in the development, implementation and evaluation phases of ADDIE or ISD.

Before designing a learning, it helps to know the learning styles of the intended audience and accordingly decide the learning modalities. What do we mean by learning styles? Let us understand.

Learning Styles

We use five sense organs (barring the ‘sixth sense’ which is limited to a few) to perceive the world around us. If we step back and think, we will realise that each of us has a preference for one or more preferred sensory patterns. Some of us create anchors of memories using sight, sound, smell or touch. Does the smell of fresh popcorns trigger a movie time memory? It could be the smell of the fresh rain or the sight of the mountains or sea for some of you. This preference creates our learning style. Learning styles are an individual’s preferred approach to learning.

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The impact of sensory preference on the learning styles has been extensively researched. There are various classifications of the learning styles given by different schools of thought. In creating generic learning, instructional designers rely on the least complicated of these styles, i.e., VAK or VKT (Visual, Auditory, and Kinaesthetic-tactile).

Visual learning style is the dominant of the three in the majority of the population, which explains the great success of cinema, television or YouTube as the preferred medium for information. However, most people use a combination of the three styles in a varying blend, specific to each individual. We can describe these styles as:


Learning style is acquired during the early childhood, however, it can be altered. A good learning design would use the Dale’s Cone of Learning and incorporate instructional techniques that serve all three learning styles.

Learning Modalities

The technology has revolutionised the world in more ways than can be listed, and one of them definitely is education. An apparent question a learning expert asks these days is, what would be the correct mode of training for an effective solution for a given training requirement? Before we discuss how to choose the right mode of training for an effective solution, let us list some commonly used modes.

The broad division of learning modalities is digital, brick-and-mortar and blended learning. If we were to plot the three modalities, as below, it will clearly indicate that the digital mode of training plays an important role in the other two modes of training. How? Let’s break it down.

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Many traditional classroom sessions use videos or movies to present a concept or an outcome. Similarly, a blended learning mode uses a combination of digital and classroom learning in varying proportions, depending on the Learning Need Analysis (LNA). We will learn about the LNA in detail when discussing ADDIE. Each mode of learning has its strengths and its fit depends on the LNA and the learning design.

Introduction to ADDIE

ADDIE, with its modifications, is the most commonly used ISD framework. The five phases of ADDIE – analysis, design, development, implementation and evaluation – provide a systematic approach to creating effective learning.

The next post will explain the ADDIE model in detail, with a focus on the analysis and design phases. It will also have a snapshot of LNA questionnaire, ID design document and storyboard template for designing the Web-based Learning (WBT).


When discussing the process of designing a learning or training, we will talk a little more about the learning styles and learning modalities. Before stringing the concepts together to describe the design and development process, it is important to understand the components of the process.

Next up, ADDIE process in detail, with instructional concepts outlined.

By Sarika Nanda

Sarika is a blogger, a writer, instructional designer and corporate trainer. She is a seasoned professional in the eLearning space, consults for various global organisations. She likes sharing and discussing best practices for improving learner engagement and learning outcomes at workplaces.


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