Teaching with Instructional Design

Last Updated 29 April 2015, 16:06 IST

Online education heralds exciting, creative times, especially if you have a penchant for teaching and technology and want to build a career using your talent in the two T’s. Teaching combined with technology is poised to take over the world of formal learning. At the helm of online content creation will be professionals armed with a proven ‘methodology’ that can replace classroom instruction; they are the Instructional

No stand-up teacher? But that would be so dull! Not when you learn the art and science of Instructional Design. So, what is Instructional Design? Let’s take the example of an architect whose goal is to construct a building. The architect first plans, then designs, and finally oversees the construction of the building until all the elements in the plan have been given concrete shape and a building has been erected, ready to occupy.

Similarly, an Instructional Designer whose goal is to create learning, first identifies who to teach,then lists what to teach, and following that, determines how to teach the material. Then, with the aid of technology, the teaching material is layered into rapid authoring tools to create learning that can be accessed electronically and virtually.

Just like the field of Architecture is broadly based on the study of aesthetics and mathematics, Instructional Design is based on human psychology and adult learning. An online course where sound learning principles and design theories have been applied can never get dull – students at any time know the purpose they are taking the course for, while they access the learning through a host of techniques such as videos, animations, graphics, audio, on-screen text, case studies, scenarios, demonstrations, games, live chats, and virtual classrooms. What’s more, they have opportunities to practise and test their learning too.

Traits required

So, what are the desired qualities of an Instructional Designer? To begin with, a logical and analytical mind is an asset. For example, you will need to analyse what type of content can be delivered using the best-suited style. Then, good communication skills is desired as you will be communicating across external and internal teams to discuss the optimal way to present the content. Lastly, a knack for teaching and technology will be like the cherry on the cake.

How important is Instructional Design in shaping e-learning course content? Learning as a process that takes place at two levels - reception and retention. Once we receive a piece of information, it is up to us to decide whether we want to retain the information. Also, we retain certain information for a long time while some information is retained for a short time.

The success in education, including certification-based training, is driven by the individual’s ability to store information in their long-term memory. This enables the individual to continue to apply the learning much after the training has been completed. It is also the process of designing and structuring content to maximise effectiveness and retention. Instructional design can be considered both an art and a science and therefore, comprises different sets of rules and guidelines based on the learning behaviour of adults.

What are the basic principles of Instructional Design? Goal orientation, learner motivation and application are the basic principles of Instructional Design.

Goal orientation as a basic principle of Instructional Design: Goal-orientation is central to the Instructional Design process. Learners need to feel confident that their learning will be meaningful such that the new facts and concepts learned, and the application skills gained can be used in their day-to-day work life for better outputs.

Learner motivation as a basic principle of Instructional Design: Those who are able to sustain attention learn; if they lose it, they don’t. The learning content should be able to stimulate the learner’s motivation to learn and continue learning. Motivation is required for optimal learning to take place; the learner needs to be internally driven to provide a direction to a desired behaviour.

Motivation can be of two types: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic predisposes a person to be internally-motivated, such as learning for fun or to gain knowledge while extrinsic motivation is usually a reward from outside, such as increase in salary or position, or a preferred job location.

The challenge of Instructional Design is to convert extrinsic motivation to intrinsic motivation where learning becomes effective and efficient.

Application as a basic principle of Instructional Design: According to David Merrill’s First Principles of Instruction, the most effective learning environments are problem-based and involve learners in four phases of learning: in solving real-world problems, activating relevant previous experience, demonstrating what is to be learned, and providing opportunities to learners to use their new knowledge to solve a problem.

Why should I learn Instructional Design? With the abundance of information available on the web, anyone can learn just about anything on their own terms and customise learning to their needs. In this situation, Instructional Design plays a crucial role and has all the more reason that structure is provided to guide the learner and frame the experience – even for learners seeking a self-directed learning program.
In traditional education settings, classroom walls act as boundaries for instruction and learning. But online education has no walls and uses a delivery method that shifts the course development process entirely. This shift suggests Instructional Design principles and models are critical, and are required to address the complexities inherent to the web as a delivery mode. Following Instructional Design principles for online courses ensures the focus is on student learning and not on the technology or platform.

(The author is founder & CEO, Simplilearn)

(Published 29 April 2015, 16:06 IST)

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