Instructional Systems Design (ISD) defines the analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation of instruction. ISD is a systems approach to an instructional intervention designed to help facilitate learning by changing an individual's knowledge, skills, attitude or behaviour. This process focuses on improving individuals' performance (i.e., increasing productivity and quality) as they perform their jobs.

The instructional structure is a plan, an improvement and a way to deliver learning outcomes. The students need to build these experiences as it helps them procure either information or abilities. Instructional designers follow different hypotheses and models identified with how individuals learn the intellectual procedures behind the learning experience. These models guarantee the guidance as viable/feasible for granting information or instructing abilities to students. Instructional creators are considered the "draftsmen" of learning experiences. In both instruction and professional workplaces, they regularly fill in as chiefs and task supervisors of the course improvement process.

Building up an online course that is drawing in, advances collaboration inspires students and encourages learning. However, it is pretty tricky when it comes to attempting to alter an eye to eye course for the online arrangement. The instructional design makes a domain for learning by organizing content and performing exercises that help students encourage meaningful learning.

Instructional Design & Online Course Creation is the process of bringing together content, learning objectives and assessment to create a meaningful learning experience. Instructional design is how we approach online course creation to reach a specific outcome. This involves analyzing your learners, identifying their needs, developing goals and objectives, designing the content and implementing it.

Importance of Instructional Design in Online Course Creation

The importance of instructional design in online course creation has become increasingly significant as the demand for high quality and engaging content for courses grows. It is not enough to create content for your course. The content must be designed to focus on the intended learning outcomes, with effective ways of delivering information and methods of assessing student comprehension. Instructional design is a principal improvement strategy of an instructive program; it provides insights into how an individual learns and how well guidance can be introduced. Arranging an informative program starts with just one fundamental inquiry. When the responses have been knit into the design, the program has the substance and strategies for delivering a successful learning experience.

Instructional Designers generally follow these steps when designing online courses:

Designing for web-based or technology-based learning takes a bit of time and planning. The instructional design process can be broken down into stages: analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation.

It includes a range of activities that make learning more effective, efficient, appealing, relevant, and accessible.

Analysis - What will the training accomplish? Who will it target? What materials can be used?

The first step in the instructional design process is to analyze the performance gap between what is currently happening and what needs to happen to reach the goal. This phase is critical because it provides the foundation for all subsequent stages. During this phase, the instructional design team determines the learners' current knowledge level for the performance problem or desired outcome. The team will also conduct a task analysis, which identifies all of the tasks that must be performed to close the performance gap.

The task analysis will also specify prerequisite skills and any prerequisite knowledge or information learners need to complete each task successfully.

Design - How will the training work? How will the materials be presented?

A prototype or storyboard (which describes how each screen will look) is created during the second phase, and learner objectives are defined. These are written so that they are observable and measurable (i.e., include an action verb). Once objectives have been established, an assessment strategy is developed to determine if learners have met each objective at a given level of mastery. An instructional strategy for each objective is also developed based on learning theory and best practices for adult learners.

Bloom's Taxonomy provides a useful framework for selecting objectives. The taxonomy was first proposed in 1956 by Benjamin Bloom to classify educational goals and outcomes in terms of complexity. It has been expanded upon since then by many researchers.

While there are six levels in Bloom's Taxonomy, only three are relevant to instructional design:

  1. Knowledge
  2. Comprehension
  3. Application/analysis

Development - Create the learning materials and activities.

Development is the third stage of instructional design; it refers to creating or assembling materials such as text and media into a finished product. This stage of instructional design often occurs in tandem with the earlier stages because it can be helpful for designers to create materials as early on in the process as possible so they can get feedback from experts about whether their designs make sense for their intended audience.

Implementation - Deliver the training and evaluate its success.

Implementation usually refers to delivering the instruction to learners. Ideally, courses should be piloted before being used more widely - this allows testing them and making any needed changes before putting them into use with many people. Courses should also be evaluated once they have been in use for a while - this might involve measuring how many people complete the course or how much knowledge they gain from completing it. Still, ideally, we would look at whether or not they can apply what they have learned in their work or life (which may not be measurable!).

Evaluation - Does the training meet its objectives?

Assess learner's performance and identify the effectiveness of training methodologies used (i.e., determine whether objectives have been met).Evaluating the training program is an essential step in the instructional design process. Evaluation helps determine whether objectives have been achieved and how successful the training was.

While training is underway, gather any data you can. In addition to asking for learner feedback, you may want to collect information from:

  1. Online learning management system (LMS) reports
  2. Learner activity on virtual classroom chat logs
  3. Your team's observation of learner activity during live sessions
  4. The quality assurance (QA) team's review of recorded sessions or other content assets
  5. Measuring post-training performance is also essential. This can be done through:
  6. Objective assessments such as tests or quizzes measuring knowledge retention and application
  7. Subjective evaluations such as surveys or interviews with learners, managers or sponsors
  8. Metrics such as time spent on task, success rates, cost savings and other numbers that show return on investment (ROI)

According to the Association for Talent Development (ATD), instructional designers improve performance by analyzing the needs of learners, designing and developing instruction to meet those needs, and evaluating the effectiveness of instruction.

What does an instructional designer do?

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), instructional designers are involved in:

Assessing training needs - Assessing training needs is a fundamental aspect of the instructional design process. To provide the best learning experience for your audience, you need to know what they already know and what they need to learn.
There are several ways to assess training needs. One is through a needs analysis. This type of assessment looks at the gap between what a person knows and what they should know. The goal is to determine whether or not training is needed and then narrow down exactly what training is necessary. The second type of assessment occurs during the development process itself. You can check in with your learners throughout the process to make sure that they're still understanding the material and getting what they need out of it.

You may also assess training needs after the course has been delivered. This can be done through surveys or interviews with participants and their managers. Whether you're new to instructional design or have been doing it for years, assessing training needs can be challenging, especially when you try to identify the right people who can give you information about your learners' skills and knowledge gaps, as well as what motivates them and how they learn best.

Identifying the target audience - It is critical in designing an effective training program. Identifying target audience - Whenever you write anything, you need to know your audience. Instructional designers use the target audience to describe a specific group of learners who will benefit from and be involved in a training program. Developing a training program for high-level executives will be different from creating one for customer service representatives. The target audience will be specified in age, language, occupation and learning capability. The target audience's profile will help us choose an appropriate delivery platform and content strategy. The knowledge about the target audience's characteristics will also allow us to write learning objectives and develop an effective evaluation plan. Target Audience Identification starts with conducting a need analysis in which we identify the gaps between the current state and desired state of an individual or organization.
Target audiences can also be further divided into subgroups with similar needs and characteristics. For example, if you are designing a training program for customer service representatives, you may have two different levels of service reps in your company: junior and senior. Junior reps may have recently started working at your company and need an introduction to the company's policies and procedures. In contrast, senior representatives may only need a refresher course on these topics.

It would be inefficient to design one training program for both groups because they have different needs (and learning styles). If you divide your target audience into these two subgroups, you can create two different programs that cater to each subgroup's specific needs.

Developing course objectives - The course objectives are a statement of what the students will do after they complete the course. These statements should be specific, measurable and achievable.
The course objectives should be developed at the beginning of the course design process. This step is essential for three reasons:

  1. A clearly defined set of objectives will guide your development of the course content and assessments, ensuring that you include relevant information for your students.
  2. Your course objectives will serve as a guide for you as you develop your syllabus to ensure that it is aligned with these educational goals (see the section on Developing a Syllabus for more information).
  3. The objectives will assist you in evaluating whether your course was successful in achieving its intended outcomes (see the section on Evaluating Online Courses for more information).

For example, your school district is planning a professional development program for the elementary school teachers in your neighbourhood. You are on a team of instructional designers that has been hired to help design this training program. The purpose of the course is to train teachers on how to use technology in the classroom effectively. You need to write four-course objectives for this course. For example, you might write one objective stating that students will be able to: "Identify three free Web 2.0 tools and explain how each tool can be used to enhance learning in the classroom."

Most educational institutions have standards and guidelines for developing course objectives and learning outcomes. You should make sure that you understand this process before developing your course objectives.

Selecting delivery methods - Selecting delivery methods in instructional design is a creative process. There are no hard and fast rules to follow, but it is essential to consider the following criteria when selecting a delivery method:

  • Alignment with the needs of the learner and the business
  • Compatibility with other tools that are used for learning
  • Cost of development, implementation, and maintenance
  • Usability and accessibility for users
  • The alignment with other training initiatives that are currently underway or planned for the future.

Outlining content - The whole point is to break up the content into meaningful chunks. These can be topics, concepts, or ideas. When you create your outline, you will want to keep this in mind. The outline should be easy to read and follow. A well-written outline will help you organize your thoughts logically and give you an idea of where specific topics fit in the content. Some people use the term "chunking" when breaking up content into smaller pieces. This is because it is easier for a person to comprehend smaller pieces of information at one time. It is also easier for us to remember small chunks of information rather than large volumes of information all at once.

Outlining your content allows you to quickly identify missing pieces or gaps that need addressing before publishing the final product.

Designing learning activities and materials based on adult learning principles - It is essential to consider the adult learner when planning learning activities and materials. The instructor must understand the learner's needs, characteristics, and motivations. The following principles have been developed through research on adult learners:

  • Need to Know-Adults need to know why they need to learn something before attempting to learn it.
  • Experience (Life)-Adults have a reservoir of knowledge that can be tapped to facilitate learning.
  • Self-concept of being Responsible-Adults need to be responsible for their education decisions involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction.
  • Readiness to Learn-Adults is ready to learn those things they need to cope with real-life situations.
  • Orientation to Learning-Adults are goal-oriented and practical in direction; relevancy is critical in adult learning.

Building interactive content - Building interactive content in instructional design is a great way to engage your learners and tailor your courses to their needs. Interactive content can be used as a form of assessment and allows you to get learner feedback. It can also add interactivity to your course, making it more fun, engaging, and memorable. Interactivity is not just clicking through slides; it's engaging with the material in a meaningful way. The more interactive you can make your content, the more you can tailor it to the individuals completing it.

By adding interactive elements to your course, you can create web-based training that is much more customized than traditional training methods. This helps ensure that the content is beneficial for the learners who need it most.

Reviewing course designs with subject matter experts (SMEs) - After an instructional designer creates the course, you can ask an SME to review the course design. The designer will probably present you with a detailed storyboard or prototype of the course.

The typical review meeting includes:

  • Presentation of the storyboard and prototype by the designer
  • Questions about the material from you and other SMEs
  • Clarifying the discussion between you and the instructor
  • In most cases, a second meeting is scheduled to present revised materials to you and other SMEs for your approval before development begins.

Evaluating course effectiveness - To evaluate the effectiveness of a course, it is necessary to define what is meant by "effectiveness".
The two most common definitions are:

Attainment of course objectives: Can the student perform the tasks specified in the original objective?

Change in performance: Does the student's actual performance in a job situation change after taking a training course?

Other factors affect the effectiveness of a course. For example, if the student is not motivated to learn, they will not learn effectively. The instructor must also be aware of this fact and should attempt to motivate students from the beginning of class. Students may have difficulty learning in technical courses because they do not understand technical terminology. An instructor may be competent in delivering information about a topic but may have poor interpersonal skills. A student who does not like or respect an instructor may have difficulty learning from that instructor.


Instruction design is essentially a problem-solving methodology. It allows you to break down a complex learning process into its parts and challenge those parts in innovative ways.
In some cases, instruction design leads to minor tweaks in course content—in others, it can completely change the course's delivery. No matter your goals for online course creation, instruction design will likely be vital to your success. So will instruction design be the key to online course creation moving forward? In part, yes—but it's not a secret recipe. It's simply a systematic approach to implementing learning goals and a clear and visible plan of action. In every e-learning development project, there should be consideration of process and design and quality content creation.

It gives structure to the experience, which makes sense of all the pieces and parts. In short, the instructional design ensures that students get the most out of their online learning experience.

Riddhima Parkar
Content Marketing Associate
Table of Content
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