Instructional Design –Digital Interactive Learning

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What is Instructional Design?

Instructional Design is the practice of creating instructional experiences which make the acquisition of knowledge and skill more efficient, effective, and appealing.It is the art and design of creating an instructional environment and materials that will bring the learner from the state of not being able to achieve certain tasks to the state of achieving those tasks.

Instructional design is based on theoretical and practical research in the areas of cognition,   psychology and problem-solving. It is  historically and traditionally rooted in cognitive and behavioral psychology. Constructivism (learning theory), has influenced the thinking in the field recently.

The process of  Instruction Design consists broadly of determining the current state and the needs of the learner, defining the end goal of instruction, and creating some intervention to assist in the transition.

Ideally, the process is informed by Pedagogically(adult learning) and anagogically(adult learning) tested theories of learning and may take in place in student-only, teacher-led or community-based settings. The outcome of this instruction may be directly observable and scientifically measured or completely hidden and assumed.

History of system approach to Instructional Design

The 1940s – The Origins of Instructional Design, World War II

The birth of Instructional design is strongly related on one hand to the emergence of empirical research in psychologically and education and on the hand to specific needs of the system.

The 1940s saw the origin of Instruction Design started during world war 1. The foundation for the instructional design was laid during World War II when hundreds of thousands needed to be taught very specific tasks in a short amount of time. Individual aspects of these upon leading to the development of instructional design, a field of study that marries education, psychology, and communications to create the most effective complex tasks were broken down, so soldiers could better understand and comprehend each step of the process.

After the success of the military training, psychologists began to view training as a system and developed various, design, and evaluation procedures. This approach was later taken and built teaching plans for specific groups of students.

1946s— Edgar Dale’s  Cone of Experience

In 1946, Dale outlined a hierarchy of instructional methods and their effectiveness.

Instructional design in 1946— Edgar Dale’s  Cone of Experience -

The mid-1950s through mid-1960s – The Programmed Instruction Movement

B.F.Skinner in his  1954 article “ The Science of Learning and Art of Teaching “, stated that effective instructional materials, called programmed instructional analyses, should include small steps, frequent questions, immediate feedback, and allow self-pacing.

In 1956, a committee led by Benjamin Bloom published an influential Taxonomy of what he termed as Three Domain of learning known as Bloom’s Taxonomy.

  1. Cognitive—What one knows and thinks
  2. Psycho meter – What one does physically
  3. Affective—what one feels or what attitude one has.

 Instructional design -The role of Bloom's Taxonomy

The early 1960s – The Criterion-Referenced Testing  Movement

Robert Glaser first used the term “ The criterion- Referenced Testing Movement in 1962. A  criterion-referenced test is designed to test an individual’s behavior in relation to an objective standard. It can be used to assess the learners’ entry-level behavior, and to what extent learners have developed mastery through an instructional program.

1965 – Domains of Learning, Events of Instruction, and Hierarchical Analysis

In 1965, Robert Gagne described five domains of learning outcomes and nine events of instruction in “The conditions of Learning”, which remain foundations of instructional design practices.

Gagné’s work in learning hierarchies and hierarchical analysis led to an important notion in instruction – to ensure that learners acquire prerequisite skills before attempting superordinate ones.

1967 – Formative Evaluation

In 1967, after analyzing the failure of training material, Michael Scriven suggested the need for formative assessment – e.g., to try out instructional materials with learners (and revise accordingly) before declaring them finalized.

The 1970s – Growing of Interest in the Systems Approach

During the 1970s, the number of instructional design models greatly increased and prospered in different sectors in the military, academia, and industry. Many instructional design theorists began to adopt an information-processing-based approach to the design of instruction

The 1980s – Introduction of Personal Computers into the Design Process

This was the era where educators and researchers began to consider how the personal computer could be used in an educational environment and efforts began to design instruction that utilized this new tool.

PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operation) is one example . of how computers began to be integrated into instruction. Many of the first uses of computers in the classroom were for “drill and kill” exercises. Computer-based educational games and simulations also became popular.

The 1990s – A Growing Interest in Constructivist Theory and the Importance of Performance 

As constructivist theory began to gain traction, its influence on instructional design became more prominent as a counterpoint to the more traditional cognitive learning theory. Constructivists believe that learning experiences should be “authentic” and produce real-world learning environments that allow the learner to construct their own knowledge. This emphasis on the learner was a significant departure away from traditional forms of instructional design.

Another trend that surfaced during this period was the recognition of performance improvement as being an important outcome of learning that needed to be considered during the design process.

The World Wide Web is developed and begins to surface as a potential online learning tool with hypertext and hypermedia being recognized as good tools for e-learning.

As technology advanced and constructivist theory gained popularity, technology’s use in the classroom began to evolve from mostly drill and skill exercises to more interactive activities that required more complex thinking on the part of the learner.

Rapid prototyping was first seen during the 1990s. In this process, an instructional design project is prototyped quickly and then vetted through a series of tries and revises cycles. This is a big departure from traditional methods of instructional design that took far longer to complete.

The 2000’s  – Rise of the Learning  Internet and Online 

The Internet, with its social media tools and multitudes of information resources, became a very popular tool for online learning, and instructional designers recognized the need to integrate e-learning into the creation of learning objects and curricula.

There is a great increase in the number of online courses offered by higher education institutions.

Technology advanced to the point that sophisticated simulations were now readily available to learners, thus providing more authentic and realistic learning experiences.

2010 and forward

The influence of e-tools continues to grow and has seemingly encouraged the growth of informal learning throughout a person’s lifetime. The challenge for instructional designers is how to create learning opportunities that now may occur anywhere and anytime.


What is Instructional Design Theory?

According to Reigeluth Instruction Design Theory is

(a) Design-oriented (focusing on means to attain given goals for learning or development) and identifies methods of instruction (ways to support and facilitate learning) and the situation in which these methods should and should not be used.

(b) Methods of instruction can be broken down into more detailed component methods.

(c) Methods are probabilistic, rather than deterministic.


Cognitive Load Theory and Design of Instruction

Cognitive load theory developed out of several empirical studies of learners, as they interacted with instructional materials. Sweller and his associates began to measure the effects of working memory load and found that the format of Instructional materials has an effect on the performance of the learners using those materials. 

By the mid-1990s, Sweller and his associates had discovered several effects related to cognitive load and the design of instruction (e.g. the split attention effect, redundant effect, and the worked-example effect). Later, other researchers like Richard Meyer began to attribute learning effects load. Mayer and associates soon developed a Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning.

Instructional Designers use various instructional strategies to reduce cognitive load. For example, they think that the onscreen should not be more than 150 words, or the text should be presented in small meaningful chunks. The designer also uses auditory and visual methods to communicate information to the learner.

Gagne’s Theory of  Instruction

Gagne’s Theory of Instruction is widely used in the design of instructional designers in many settings and has continuous influence in the field of educational technology. Synthesizing ideas from behaviorism and cognitivism, he provides a clear template that is easy to follow for designing instruction events. Instructional designers who follow Gagne’s theory will likely have totally focused, efficient instruction.

The role of Gagne's Theory of Instruction in instructional design


  1. Taxonomy of Learning Outcome

Robert Gagne classified three types of learning outcomes:

a) Cognitive Domain
  • Verbal Information – is stated
  • Intellectual Skills – to apply the rules and principles. Problem-solving allows for generating solutions or procedures.
  • Cognitive Strategies— used for learning.
  1. b) Affective Domain
  • Attitudes – are demonstrated by preferring options.
  • Psychomotor Domain
  • Motor Skills – enable physical Performance
  1. Types of Learning Outcomes.
  2. Verbal Information—State, Recite, tell, declare.
  3. Intellectual Skills
  • Discrimination—discriminate, distinguish, differentiate.
  • Concrete concept—identify, name, specify, label
  • Defined concept—classify, categorize, type, sort(by definition)
  • Rule—demonstrate, show, solve.
  • Higher-order rule—generate, develop, solve.
  1. Cognitive Strategy—adapt, create, originate.
  2. Attitude—choose, prefer, elect, favor.
  3. Motor Skill—execute, perform, carry out.


  1. Nine Events of Instruction

According to Gagne, learning occurs in a series of learning events. Each learning event must be accomplished before the next in order for learning to take place. Similarly, instructional events should mirror the learning events.

  • Gaining attention: Before the learners can start the process of imparting any new information, the instructor must gain the attention of the learners.
  • Informing Learning of Objectives: The teacher tells the learners what they will be able to do because of the instruction.
  • Stimulating recall of prior learning: The teacher asks for the recall of existing relevant knowledge.
  • Presenting the stimulus: The teacher gives emphasis to distinctive features.
  • Providing Learning Guidance: The teacher helps the students in understanding(semantic encoding) by providing organizational and relevance.
  • Eliciting Performance: The teacher asks the learners to respond, demonstrating learning.
  • Providing feedback: The teacher gives informative feedback on the learners’ performance.
  • Assessing Performance: The teacher requires more learner performance and gives feedback, to reinforce learning.
  • Enhancing retention and transfer: The teacher provides varied practice to generalize the capability.

Gagné’s Influence on Education Today

Prior to Robert Gagne, learning was often thought of as a single, uniform process. There was little to no distinction between “learning to load a rifle and learning to solve a complex mathematical problem”. Gagné offered an alternative view that developed the ideas of different learners required different learning strategies. Understanding and designing instruction based on a learning style defined by the individual brought about new theories and approaches to teaching. Gagné ‘s understanding and theories of human learning added significantly to understanding the stages in cognitive processing and instructions.

Gagne’s work has had a significant influence on American education, military, and industrial training. Gagne was one of the early developers of the concept of instructional systems design which suggests the components of a lesson can be analyzed and should be designed to operate together as an integrated plan for instruction.

In “Educational Technology and the Learning Process” (Educational Researcher, 1974), Gagne defined instruction as “the set of planned external events which influence the process of learning and thus promote learning.”

Instructional Design Models

ADDIE  Process

The  ADDIE model was initially developed by Florida state university to explain

“ The process in the formulation of an instructional systems development (ISD) program for military inter-service training that will adequately train individuals to do a particular job and which can also be applied to any inter-service curriculum development activity”.

The most popular version appeared in the 1980s as we understand it today.

Instructional design --The Five phases of ADDIE’S Model

The Five phases of ADDIE’S Model are listed and explained below.

  • Analyze – Analyses refer to the gathering of information about one’s audience, the tasks to be completed, and the project’s overall goals. The instructional design then classifies the information to the content making it more useful and successful.
  • Design; In this phase, instructional designers begin to create their projects. Information gathered from the project, in conjunction with the theories and the models of instructional design, is meant to explain how the learning will be acquired.
  • Develop: Development relates to the creation of the activities being implemented. This stage is where the blueprints in the design phase are assembled.
  • Implement: This stage allows the instructional designer to test all materials to identify if they are functional and appropriate for the intended audience.
  • Evaluate: Evaluate ensures that the materials achieve the desired goals. The evaluation phase consists of two parts a)formative assessment b) summative assessment.

More models of instruction design like  Rapid Prototyping, Dick, and  Carey systems approach model and Instructional Development Learning System (IDLS) were developed.

Learning theories also play an important role in the design of instructional materials. Theories such as behaviorism constructivism, social learning, and cognitivism help shape and define the outcome of instructional materials.

Instructional Design in the Real World

Instructional designers create and deliver educational and training materials to learners from all walks of life in a variety of ways. They work with traditional paper materials, such as handouts and manuals, as well as e-Learning technologies and multimedia. Their work can be seen in elementary and secondary schools to universities and adult training facilities. They’re also found outside the academic sector in a range of industries including health care, retail, and the military. Justin Ferriman, an e-Learning consultant, even goes as far as resources wisely.

Instructional designers often work as part of a team, but their importance can’t be overestimated. Consider an eLearning course for example. An instructional designer will play a part in developing this course, along with a multimedia designer, eLearning developer, and a quality assurance employee.

For the corporate sector, instructional design plays an integral role that many don’t often see. When new training programs are introduced within companies, instructional designers are the ones that systematically collect, process, and analyze data, determining if employees were properly educated on the new topics introduced. If an area of the training doesn’t meet the previously set standards, then it’s an instructional designer’s duty to revamp the course to help make sure that learners are able to understand the topics down the road. This process helps ensure that companies are working efficiently and using their resources wisely.

The usefulness of instructional designers across a range of industries ensures they are in high demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 20 percent job growth within the field by 2020.

The Benefits of Instructional Design

The Benefits of Instructional design are cost-effective, given that it ensures students learn the strengths and weaknesses of students. These materials are also focused and customize efficiently by creating high-quality learning materials that take into account the d to address the specific needs of educators. These experts also safeguard against training materials being created for business problems, which are better served with non-training solutions.

Above all, instructional design yields results. Those in this field create lesson plans intended to engage students, so they’re more likely to achieve their goals. Evaluation is a key final phase of instructional design implementation, so instructors can ensure that the learning sessions have been effective in meeting preset objectives.

The ultimate aim of the design process is to develop a reliable training program. It must improve the learner’s possibility of learning and be a unique attention-capturing experience for them. So if the instructional design engages the learner by making the information more efficient and appealing it is a success.


1 thought on “Instructional Design –Digital Interactive Learning

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