Many individuals when facing the challenge of rolling out their initial online training product envision the web-based course to be similar to the one delivered in the classroom– just online. While this is one approach, it is not necessarily the most effective method. The role of the Instructional Designer in developing online courseware is a combination of both science and art while applying principles of Instructional Systems Design including the Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation and Evaluation (ADDIE) method. The objective is to break the brick and mortar-based educational paradigm and replace it with a tailored, learner-centric approach.

Just as in the classroom, effective online training/education centers on the characteristics of the learner, the performance environment, and the associated culture. Using the available classroom or other materials, the Instructional Designer identifies the required Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSAs) and specifically how associated Learning Objectives and performance steps support these KSAs. The Objectives and Steps are then broken into topics that can become Shareable Courseware Objects (SCOs), which can then be combined into SCORM packages and delivered via a Learning Management System.

The following diagram is a high-level depiction of the Instructional Designers involvement in, and considerations for, converting instruction to online courseware.

High-level depiction of the Instructional Designers involvement in, and considerations for, converting instruction to online courseware.
Source: Bruce Verde, Leidos, Inc.

During the Development phase, SCOs are programmed and arranged according to the Instructional Designer’s instructions by Interactive Multimedia (IMI) developers. However, for the online courseware to be engaging and effective Instructional Designers must also understand how media selection and instructional design work hand-in-hand to create a meaningful learning experience within the framework of the Expected Operating Environment (EOE). They know that both technology and learning theory must come together for optimal learning products. To do this they combine existing and emerging technology (such as Tin Can/xAPI and mobile) with industry best practices to provide a relevant, timely and quality learning experience. The following table depicts how some classical instructional design strategies may be implemented through the Instructional Designer’s creative use of technology.




Experiential Learning

Learning through reflection on doing, which is often contrasted with rote or didactic learning

The DO, OBSERVE, THINK, and PLAN cycle is employed to enable learners to reach the desired level of learning and exhibit the desired competencies.

Example:  Students may enter the cycle at any point, which can be determined by pre-tests, surveys, etc. Other examples of this method include the "TELL, SHOW, DO" approach often used in simulation-based software training whereby the learner is introduced to a feature or function, shown how it works in the application, then given the opportunity to perform the activity.

Collaborative Constructivist Learning

Sociological theory
of knowledge that applies the general philosophical constructionism into social settings

Students are actively involved in the learning process and a main activity is solving problems.

Example: Students use inquiry methods to ask questions, investigate a topic, and use resources to find solutions. The supporting technology that may be combined with asynchronous, branching instruction might include wikis, and white boards.  By skillfully combining the technologies the Instructional Designer can guide the learner to arrive at a solution.

Problem-based Learning

Student-centered pedagogy in which students learn about
a subject in the context of complex, multifaceted, and realistic problems

Students learn through facilitated problem solving. Learning centers on a complex problem that does not have a single correct answer.

Example: Students are introduced to the learning materials in an asynchronous mode, then provided a scenario containing a problem to be addressed. Students work in groups using a web collaboration tool to identify what they need to learn in order to solve a problem and are guided through the remaining online material by the "path" they have defined.

Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning

Encompasses several principles of learning with multimedia

Words and pictures presented to the learner via a multimedia presentation,  are processed separately by the learner to become a verbal and pictorial model, and then integrated with prior knowledge retrieved from long-term memory.

Example: A variety of images, audio and text are organized to convey information that supports current and prior learning and increase comprehension, retention and learner performance.

Discovery Learning

Participant will gather Data and make determinations based on case study information.

Students 'learn by doing' and acquire information in a way that makes it available for problem solving.

Example: Students interact with their environment by exploring and manipulating objects, responding to a series of questions, and producing a solution to problems. Simulations such as those using 2nd Life, SIMs 3, or the military-focused VBS 3 software, add realistic performance-based capabilities.

In sum, the Instructional Designer combines a knowledge of learning, the process of Instructional Systems Design, and technology best practices to create new, exciting, effective and accessible education and training. They truly do combine both science and art, and by doing so become the “educational linchpin” in the process of converting instruction to online courseware.

For more information on Instructional Design, learning strategies, and Instructional Technology there are a number of readily available resources. Among them are:

What is the role of the Instructional Designer in creating online courseware?