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Webucator's Free Instructional Design Tutorial

Lesson: What Is ID?

Welcome to our free Instructional Design tutorial. This tutorial is based on Webucator's Instructional Design Training course.

No matter what your job role, you may have come across the term instructional design. This course will guide you through the basics of the instructional design process.

Lesson Goals

  • Learn about the foundations of instructional design.
  • Learn about the various models of instructional design.
  • Learn about the instructional design process.
  • Learn about the role of the instructional designer.
  • Learn how to work with clients.
  • Learn how to work with subject-matter experts.
  • Learn how to work with additional resources.

Introduction to Instructional Design

Instructional design is the term for taking the principles of instruction and translating them into a learner experience that is appealing and efficient; in other words, instructional design is the process of increasing the learner's knowledge in a way that is pleasing to that learner.

Instructional design is under of the broader umbrella of education. On a simple level, the goal of the instructional designer is to educate the learner.

The Foundations of Instructional Design

While instructional design has its roots in education, there are a number of foundational theories that have affected its development:

  • CIP
  • Situational Learning
  • Connectivism
  • Constructionism


CIP stands for cognitive information processing, and it is a theory about how people learn based on memory. It is made up of three fundamental components:

  • Sensory memory: Information must first register with a learner and learners are selective in what they retain. Sensory memory relies on the learner's senses.
  • Short-term memory: After the information has registered in the sensory memory, it passes to what is known as short-term or working memory, which is limited. Learners can hold about seven pieces or "chunks" of information at one time.
  • Long-term memory: After short-term memory, the information moves to long-term memory. The information is remembered and applied over time.

An analogy often used to describe CIP is that of a computer; the mind acts as the computer storing the information that is obtained.

CIP not only relies on the different forms of memory, but how the information is moved through each memory stage.

Say a student is listening to an instructor present a fact in a class on motivating employees. The fact is that most employees are motivated by the ability to use their skills and abilities first and foremost, above pay. The information first enters sensory memory through hearing; that is, the learner hears the information as it enters sensory memory.

Then, attention is applied to the fact. The learner begins to process this information, and it moves to short-term memory.

Here, something called rehearsal takes place. Rehearsal is the repetition of the information in the short-term memory.

As the fact moves to long-term memory, something called encoding takes place. The learner may use imagery here. So the student in our example may imagine a scale with skills and abilities on one side, weighing higher than a stack of money.

Now the information has moved to long-term memory, where the student will use retrieval to remember and apply this fact to his or her job in the future.

Situational Learning

Situational learning is also sometimes referred to as social learning. This theory is based on learning as participation: participation with a community. The learner is a part of a larger community, which is part of an organization.

Examples of situational learning in practice include:

  • A classroom of students role playing a situation.
  • Workshops, where learners participate in small-group sessions.
  • A mentoring relationship in the workplace.

Imagine it's the first day of your new job. Your manager gives you some printed training materials, and then sets you up with a mentor, who works in your job role and has been at the company for many years. This would be an example of a situational learning experience.


Connectivism is a learning theory that says that the process of learning is connected to emotion, that both thinking and emotion influence each other. Furthermore, the learner's personal knowledge is connected to organizational learning.

Connectivism is based on the end goal of the learning process as the learner being able to do something, e.g., perform an action.

Connectivism also says that learning is a continuous process. We are always acquiring new information. New technology also facilitates new learning.

The connections that a learner forms when learning, the person's network, contribute to the process of acquiring knowledge.

An example of connectivism would be an activity in a classroom where learners present their knowledge or experiences on the topic. For example, if learners were in a class on how to increase sales, each participant could share personal experiences with how sales were increased. This might trigger some ideas for the other students.


Constructivism is a learning theory made popular by Jean Piaget that puts the learner at the center of the knowledge. Learner construct the information, from their own experiences, rather than just absorbing it passively.

Constructivism is another learning theory, like connectivism, that relies on learners to contribute to knowledge. This learning theory is seen as an interactive experience, with the instructor acting more as a guide and less as a lecturer.

A constructivist class on graphic design might have learners working in small groups to create a graphic scene versus an instructor lecturing at the front of the classroom. Learners would work together on their designs, drawing from each other's experiences as they work.

Reviewing Instructional Design Foundations

Duration: 10 to 15 minutes.

In this exercise, you will use your knowledge of the foundations of instructional design to answer the following questions.

  1. Students are in small groups in a classroom sharing their best practices for using a particular computer program. What type of learning theory does this involve?
  2. What does CIP stand for, and what are its three fundamental components?
  3. What learning theory puts the learner at the center of knowledge?
  4. A group of employees is taking a class on dealing with difficult colleagues. The class is working through the difficult scenario of dealing with a difficult employee. The group must role play possible conversations with the employee and work on developing best practices for dealing with the situation. The instructor acts as a guide, but the learners must take responsibility for developing their own conclusions. What type of learning theory or theories does this involve? Why?


  1. Situational learning, which involves learning as participation.
  2. CIP stands for cognitive information processing. The three forms of memory in the CIP theory are sensory, short-term, and long-term.
  3. Constructivism, developed by Jean Piaget, puts the learner at the center of the knowledge, constructing information from his or her own experiences.
  4. This is most likely the constructivist approach, since learners are working to construct their own knowledge.

Models of Instructional Design

There are numerous models of instructional design; elements of many of these have made their way into how instructional design is conducted today.


Jerrold Kemp, an American professor, devised a design model based on nine components:

  • Identify the problem and goals.
  • Identify characteristics of the learner.
  • Identify the subject content and perform task analysis.
  • List the learner's objectives.
  • Sequence the content logically.
  • Design the learning so learners are able to master objectives.
  • Plan the delivery of the content.
  • Design an evaluation format.
  • Support instruction through selection of resources.

The Kemp model dictates that an instructional designer can begin with any one of these components when designing learning, that is, it is flexible. Some of the other design methods are more rigid, such as ADDIE.

This model is most often used in higher education, usually classroom learning.


In the 1980s, Robert Gagne, an American psychologist, developed a learning method based on three categories, known as Gagne's hierarchy:

  • Declarative knowledge: involving verbal information.
  • Procedural knowledge: involving motor, intellectual, and cognitive skills.
  • Affective knowledge: involving attitudes.

Based on these, there are five categories of learning:

  • Intellectual skills: The ability to respond to stimuli.
  • Cognitive strategies: The ability to learn and remember.
  • Verbal information: The memorization of such things as names, dates, and faces.
  • Motor skills: The ability to learn how to walk, drive a car, and so on.
  • Attitudes: The bias ingrained in learners toward different situations, ideas, etc.

Further, based on these, there are eight different ways to learn:

  • Signal learning: The simplest form of learning, which involves conditioning.
  • Stimulus-response learning: More advanced learning involving operant conditioning, which rewards and punishes the learner based on classical conditioning.
  • Chaining: More advanced learning that involves connecting more than one stimulus-response bonds that are linked.
  • Verbal association: Chaining in which the links are verbal.
  • Discrimination learning: Advanced learning in which the learner is able to determine what is different between a number of similar stimuli.
  • Concept learning: Learning that involves being able to respond to different stimuli that form a class or category.
  • Rule learning: A chain of concepts.
  • Problem solving: Gagne's highest level of cognition; it involves being able to create a rule or procedure to solve a problem and then use the same method repeatedly.

Gagne's hierarchy is at least in part the basis for much modern instructional design.

As it relates to instructional design, Gagne's theory translates into the following nine design steps:

  1. Gain the learner's attention: Show the learner a problem or situation; let the learner know why it is important. For example, the ID might use a short video to introduce the topic.
  2. Set up the objective for the learner: Communicate to learners what they should be able to do when the learning is completed.
  3. Stimulate recall of prior knowledge: Remind learners of what they have previously learned.
  4. Present the learning: Use text, graphics, sound, and so on to present the learning concepts to students.
  5. Provide guidance: Use alternative approaches to presenting the information. For example, a case study might be presented.
  6. Elicit learner performance: Have learners demonstrate the knowledge. This could be done in the form of a quiz or even a role-playing exercise in a classroom setting.
  7. Provide feedback: Let learners know if they have adequately demonstrated the knowledge. If a quiz was given, answers with explanations could be shown. If a role-playing exercise was completed, the instructor might provide some feedback in the form of tips on what could be improved.
  8. Assess the performance: Learners should demonstrate that they have achieved the learning objective. For example, they might take an assessment test to demonstrate all that they have learned.
  9. Enhance learner retention: Learning continues after instruction with practicing the knowledge that was obtained. For example, there may be a follow-up learning session to review and refresh the learned skills.

Bloom's Taxonomy

Bloom's taxonomy is a group of learning objectives, developed by Benjamin Bloom and a group of colleagues in the 1950s.

The taxonomy is made up of three domains, each containing a hierarchy of objectives.

Bloom's Cognitive Domain

The skills within Bloom's cognitive domain involve knowledge and understanding. The following table illustrates the order of processes in the cognitive domain, from lowest order to highest:

Knowledge Remembering previously learned material.
Comprehension The understanding of material.
Application The ability to apply learned material to solve problems.
Analysis Breaking down material into its parts.
Synthesis Using the parts of something to create something new.
Evaluation Making judgments about material.

Bloom's Affective Domain

The skills within Bloom's affective domain involve emotional responses. The following table illustrates the order of processes, from lowest order to highest:

Receiving Active participation in learning.
Valuing Adding value to learned material.
Organizing Adding different values into a set of values.
Characterizing The ability to internalize and act upon a new value.
Synthesis Using the parts of something to create something new.

Bloom's Psychomotor Domain

The skills within Bloom's psychomotor domain involve physical skills and abilities. The following table illustrates the order of processes, from lowest order to highest:

Perception The ability to use sensory skills to guide motor activity.
Set The willingness to act on new knowledge or a skill.
Guided response The early stage of learning a complex skill.
Mechanism The intermediate stage of performing a complex skill.
Complex overt response The ability to perform a complex skill well.
Adaptation Modifying patterns or skills for use in a new context.
Origination Creating a new pattern of movement.

In instructional design, Bloom's cognitive domain is the domain referenced most often. The most common use of the taxonomy is in developing objectives, which will be covered in a future lesson.

Each cognitive domain process is associated with a number of verbs that IDs can use to write learning objectives, including:

  • Knowledge: Define, describe, identify
  • Comprehension: Classify, defend, discuss
  • Application: Apply, demonstrate, manipulate
  • Analysis: Analyze, criticize, illustrate
  • Synthesis: Arrange, develop, prepare
  • Evaluation: Appraise, explain, justify

For example, if an instructional designer was creating an course on using Photoshop to edit photos, the ID might want learners to be able to apply the knowledge learned, and select a verb from the Application level to write the objective, which could be:

Students will manipulate a photograph by improving the contrast and sharpness of the image by selecting and applying the appropriate filter.


The ADDIE model of instructional designer was originally developed by Florida State University in the 1970s. ADDIE is a framework for developing design. Most modern instructional design utilizes ADDIE or a version of ADDIE. This course is based mainly on the ADDIE model, as well.

It is an acronym that stands for the following:

  • Analysis: In the analysis phase, the instructional designer identifies the instructional needs (that is, the problem that needs to be addressed), analyzes goals, objectives, and tasks that need to be completed by the learner, and analyzes the learners themselves.
  • Design: In the design phase, the ID takes the information gleaned in the analysis phase and designs the course. This includes organizing the content, deciding on which sequencing models and strategies will be used, as well as what learning format, and constructs a design plan.
  • Development: In the development phase, the instructional designer creates the course and any other learning materials, and may test the materials.
  • Implementation: In the implementation phase, the instructional designer may participate in selecting and helping to train instructors, if the training is to be delivered in person to learners, and the learning is delivered to students.
  • Evaluation: In the evaluation phase, the ID uses summative and formative evaluations to determine the effectiveness of the learning.

These phases will be discussed more in detail in the rest of the course.

Reviewing the Models of Instructional Design

Duration: 20 to 25 minutes.

In this exercise, you will use your knowledge of the models of instructional design to answer the following questions.

  1. What are the three domains that make up Bloom's taxonomy and what do they involve?
  2. If a learner reads about how to create a bar chart in a certain software and uses that knowledge to instead make a pie chart, this would be what process in the cognitive domain, and why?
  3. In Gagne's hierarchy, what is meant by the term chaining?
  4. What does the acronym ADDIE stand for?
  5. You are working as an instructional designer, using the ADDIE model to create a beginner's course on using Microsoft Word for a department in your company. You have a meeting with the department's manager to go over what sort of background, if any, learners have in using Word. In which phase of ADDIE does this occur?
  6. Now you are conducting a training for the instructor that you have selected to deliver the beginning Word training course. In which phase of ADDIE does this occur?


  1. The cognitive domain deals in knowledge and understanding. The affective domain deals with emotions. The psychomotor domain deals with physical skills and abilities.
  2. This is an example of the synthesis process, because the learner is taking some knowledge and creating something new with it.
  3. According to Gagne, chaining is a more advanced form of learning that involves connecting two things together that are linked, thus creating a chain.
  4. ADDIE stands for Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, Evaluation. It is a popular instructional design model.
  5. This is the Analysis phase of ADDIE, in which the ID analyzes learners.
  6. This is the Implementation phase, in which the instructional designer may participate in training the instructor who will deliver the training.

The Instructional Design Process

Most traditional forms of the instructional design process involve some form of ADDIE; that is, they begin with analysis, move to design and development, then on to implementation, and finally evaluation.

The course will delve into each of these areas in more detail in the coming lessons.

The Role of the Instructional Designer

The instructional designer, often called the ID, oversees the creation of the instruction, through the entire process. Some IDs:

  • Work as part of training organizations within companies.
  • Work for firms that deal solely with producing training for other companies.
  • Work independently as consultants.

What Does an ID Do?

Depending on the working environment of an ID, his or her work will generally involve:

  • Working with subject-matter experts.
  • Performing needs analyses to determine training needs.
  • Creating objectives to address learning needs.
  • Develop content in the model that is being used.
  • Create assessments to assess learner knowledge post-learning.

This is not an all-encompassing list; IDs may perform different tasks based on the needs of the client, as well as the environment in which they work.

Furthermore, instructional designers may work in-house, for example, within a company's training department. Not all companies have in-house training departments, however, so some IDs work on a contract or consulting basis. They may be brought in on a temporary basis to create training.

Working with Clients

Within the instructional design process, the word "client" generally refers to the person or group for whom the instruction is being created.

Essentially, the client is closely tied to the need as well as the group for whom the training is being developed and has ownership of the need and/or group.

For example, the client could be:

  • A business unit in an organization (e.g., a human resources department).
  • A faculty member (in a school environment).
  • Management (e.g., a CEO).

It is important to understand what the client wants, as the client's satisfaction is an important goal of the instructional design process.

Fostering a Good Client Relationship

When working as an ID, it is important to have a good working relationship with the client. One of the first and most important steps in the instructional design process is often meeting with the client to discuss training needs.

The following questions are a good jumping-off point when first meeting with a client:

  • What are the organization's overall goals?
  • What is the problem to be solved with this training?
  • What obstacles to solving the problem has the organization faced previously?
  • What will learner attitudes toward the training likely be?

Managing the client relationship and finding middle ground will help the project run more smoothly.

Working with Subject-Matter Experts

For many instructional designers, working with subject-matter experts, known as SMEs, is an integral part of the process.

The SME, an expert in a certain field or area, supplies the content that the ID, in turn, uses to create the training.

The method for obtaining the content from the SME varies. Some design practices involve interviewing the SME, while in other cases the SME writes the course's narrative.

Working with SMEs can be somewhat challenging for instructional designers, as their goals may differ. SMEs are usually not as familiar with instructional design principles as instructional designers are, and this can cause conflicts.

A general process for working with SMEs might look something like this:

  1. Initial meeting with SME to go over the training's objectives and goals, as well as familiarize the SME with learner characteristics.
  2. Interview the SME on what is important for the learner to be able to do when the training is complete.
  3. The SME will review content. In some cases, the SME creates the content, while in other cases the ID creates the content, which is then reviewed by the subject-matter expert.
  4. Work with the SME to gather best practices, tips and tricks, and case studies that can enhance the training.

Sometimes, working with subject-matter experts can be difficult for instructional designers. While SMEs are usually experts in their field, they may have no background in instructional design. The ID must work to find common ground, and to take the SME's valuable content and transform it into something that is instructionally sound.

The following tips can help make it easier to work with SMEs:

  • Communication is key: keeping an open line of communication can help make the ID and SME feel like more of a team, working together.
  • Flexibility: The SME often has a "day job," so it's important for the ID to be mindful of his or her schedule.
  • Familiarize the SME on effective learning that you or your organization have created, to help him or her get a perspective on how the information will be delivered.

Working with Additional Resources

We have gone over some resources that the instructional designer will work with in the design process, the client and possibly a subject-matter expert. Depending on the working situation, the ID may work with a number of other resources, including:

  • Project manager: Responsible for overseeing all aspects of the project and its timelines.
  • Editor/quality assurance analyst: Edits the content that is created and verifies that any course functionality is correct.
  • Graphic designer: If the course contains graphic elements, they may be created, formatted, and edited by a graphic designer.
  • Video director: If the training contains video, the video director will create and oversee video collection.
  • IT department personnel: If the training is to be delivered online or partially online, IT professionals will need to be involved to help facilitate the learning and resolve learner technology issues.
  • The human resources department: Often, organizational training originates with and/or is distributed by the human resources department, making their involvement integral.

Imagine you are working as an instructional designer, designing an online training course for your organization on new time-tracking software that all employees will need to use to log their time. In this case, the human resources department is your client, in that they have identified the need for the training and initiated the process. You work with a subject-matter expert from XYZ Software, the software company. Your training is going to involve some interactive screens with graphics, so you will work with a graphic designer within your department. A project manager is overseeing the project and keeping the project schedule. Your IT department is going to be responsible for uploading the course, as well as for tracking user activity and completion. As you can see, you will work with quite a few other people in creating and delivering your course.

Reviewing the Role of an ID

Duration: 20 to 25 minutes.

In this exercise, you will use your knowledge of the foundations of instructional design to answer the following questions.

  1. What is the role of the SME in designing training?
  2. You are working as an ID in your organization. The head of human resources has come to your group with a specific need to develop some training on working with difficult coworkers. What is the role of the head of HR in this case?
  3. As you start working on designing the training for HR, you meet with a representative from HR, as a preliminary step. What are some questions you might ask her?
  4. As you work to develop the training on working with difficult coworkers, you will be working with a subject-matter expert, a business psychology professor who teaches at a local university. What are some things you should keep in mind as you prepare for your first meeting?
  5. What are some of the other roles that an ID may work with? If you have worked in an instructional design environment, what roles have you personally dealt with?


  1. The subject-matter expert brings specific knowledge of the topic to the instructional design process.
  2. The head of HR is acting as the client.
  3. Answers will vary, but you would most likely want to ask: What are the goals of the organization? Has there been an issue with morale or employee turnover because of issues among coworkers? What is the overall goal of the course, in the head of HR's mind? Will it be to resolve issues, increase employee satisfaction, or slow turnover? Who will be required to take the training, and what will their likely attitude be toward it? These types of questions can help get the ball rolling for both you and the client as you begin to think about what the training will involve.
  4. Answers will vary, but may include that it's important to remember that you will need to clearly communicate with the professor while you work on the course. Because the professor's main obligations are to teaching classes, you may need to work around the timing of his classes. It might be a good idea to gather some examples of training you've created previously to present in your first meeting. This way the professor can become familiar with your design model, what you will expect, and what the finished product will eventually look like.
  5. Answers will vary, but may include project managers, editors, graphic designers, and so on.