A Brief Introduction to Instructional Design

Submitted by Jessica Luzanilla on Mon, 05/10/2021
Instructional design is the process of identifying the specific needs, performance and/or skill gaps of a target audience and developing tailored learning that bridge this gap.

About Me

Hi! My name is Jessica Luzanilla, and I am the new instructional designer at RMADAC. I have been an instructional designer and e-learning developer for over 7 years. During that time, I have developed dozens of online courses for adult learners in the private and nonprofit sector, as well as maintaining learner records as a learning management systems administrator. Prior to working in the field, I was a substitute teacher for alternative education, paraprofessional for students with mild to moderate disabilities and a Spanish interpreter and translator. I received my bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Cal Poly Pomona and recently moved to Colorado Springs from Southern California.

As an instructional designer, it is important for me to create meaningful learning experiences that make a difference in the lives of my learners. It is also equally as important for others to know what my role means and why it is important.

What is instructional design?

Instructional design is the process of identifying the specific needs, performance and/or skill gaps of a target audience and developing tailored learning that bridges this gap. Instructional designers are tasked with incorporating learning principles and theories (more about that later) that produce greater outcomes for a particular group of people. Instructional designers create a wide range of educational and training materials (from informational pamphlets to highly interactive online course trainings).

What are their responsibilities?

Instructional designers are versatile individuals. Some of their job responsibilities may include:

  • Identifying performance gaps.
  • Applying research skills to their projects.
  • Creating educational elements, such as blogs, podcasts, videos and related content.
  • Designing and renovating existing learning materials.
  • Implementing feedback.
  • Training others on how to deliver learning assets.
  • Continuously researching new improvements in learning design and education.

What does the process for instructional design look like?

Every organization has its own process for how they develop course trainings. Regardless of the process, there are a few common practices that remain mandatory in the instructional design process. Some of them may include:

  1. Conducting a needs analysis to identify the needs of the target audience, in addition to training and organizational needs.
  2. Creating a learner profile based off the learner’s roles, responsibilities, skills, technical knowledge, etc.
  3. Identifying the learning objectives.
  4. Designing the course.
  5. Organizing content using storyboards.
  6. Creating a prototype of the course before the actual development of the course.
  7. Presenting it to stakeholders, subject matter experts, or other members of the training team for review.
  8. Developing course training with appropriate course authoring tools.
  9. Reviewing, testing and delivering course training.
  10. Evaluating its effectiveness.

What is adult learning theory?

What is this and how does this tie into instructional design? Adult learning theories are not just a collection of ideas about how adults learn. These varying theories are essential to how instructional designers plan a course from the beginning, during the development, and delivery of the course training process. Understanding adult learning theories also helps instructional designers create relevance, align strategies, choose the best technology for the target audience and changing learner types.

While there are several different adult learning theories, they all have the same concept: adults learn differently than children. While adults are more self-motivated and understand the value of their education, children typically need more engagement and are far less motivated.

When creating training programs, it is important to keep adults in mind for them to be effective. While there is no one-size fits all learning theory, there are several learning theories such as:

  • Andragogy
  • Transformative learning
  • Experiential learning
  • Self-directed learning
  • Project-based learning
  • Behaviorism
  • Cognitivism
  • Constructivism
  • Social learning theory

How will I fit my instructional design background into creating more accessible content?

As I become more familiar and train myself on web accessibility and learn more about accessibility standards, my goal is to ensure that my courses are accessible for everyone. Making course training more accessible might include:

  • Providing alternatives such as transcripts or including closed captioning whenever there is narration in course modules.
  • Being aware of course design choices, such as colors and fonts or font sizes for individuals that have visual difficulties.
  • Making navigation clear and avoiding the use of phrases such as “click here” that might make it difficult for learners with visual disabilities.
  • Design a course so that a learner may use it with a keyboard instead of a mouse.
  • Reduce complex animations and interactions for learners that may have poor motor skills and keep the course assets as simple as possible.

My goal is to develop courses that leave a lasting impression, inspire learners to change their mindsets and lead people to perform better at their jobs. If you would like to learn more about instructional design or have any questions about it, please do not hesitate to contact me and I would be more than happy to provide additional information.


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The Rocky Mountain ADA Center's blog, Access Granted, tackles ADA issues through unique and diverse perspectives. Articles are written by staff of RMADAC and a variety of special guest authors. Some may be educational, others might be personal or thought-provoking. Either way, Access Granted will bring you the ADA of today!

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