Instructional Design Models – What Are They and Why Use Them?


The phrase ‘Instructional Design Models’ sounds complex but it’s really just a way to refer to the tools that course authors will use to develop an e-Learning course. It’s not a new concept either: Classical Conditioning, by Ivan Pavlov, was developed in 1903. Since that time, there have been new iterations of instructional design models developed in conjunction with changing perceptions in psycho-social studies and with the advent of modern technologies.

A Quick History of Instructional Design Models

The 1950s saw a growth in computer based instruction and training, as computers became more readily available. The area was pioneered, not surprisingly, by researchers at IBM. One of the reasons it was seen as not necessarily competitive to more traditional platforms for teaching and training was the cost of both the hardware and the development of the software. Today, these are no longer major considerations, particularly in the field of e-Learning.

There are many other models that have been developed throughout the last decades: Discovery Learning Model, Action Learning Model and more. Essentially, what they all have in common is a basis in the classic instructional design model: ADDIE.

The ADDIE model is the foundation of many e-Learning courses. Developed in the early 70s at Florida State University and adopted early on by the US Military, as a basis for all of their training, the ADDIE model provides a systematic process based on five phases for developing training of all types. It is effective in its simplicity and adaptability and has formed the basis for many current instructional design models.

What is an Instructional Design Model?

It is a process. A starting point. A method for ensuring that the course provided will address needs and meet expectations. “…a tool that guides the structure of a course, that leads the learner to a topic, that removes distractions, provides focus, but still allows a learner to take control. Effective instructional design also helps an instructor to teach, to guide and support learners, and to promote meaningful and active learning.” Source. As for any relatively complex task, having a process ensures that essential components are not missed.

For the development of e-Learning courses, the need for a solid Instructional Design Model is critical for one simple reason: technology. The platform, or technology, that is used to deliver the course cannot become a barrier to the learning. If the student is unclear where to begin, where to find additional resources, where to post a question or where to get feedback because of the technology itself, the course should be considered to have failed.

For any course, it is essential to the designer to understand their audience (the e-Learners), their needs and how best to reach them. In this day and age of rapid development and time sensitive training, a model cannot also become an encumbrance to adapting and authoring new and different courses to meet differing needs, particularly within an organization. The process cannot, in other words, become a barrier to the learning.

Do you employ an instructional design model in your e-Learning? Share your experience in the comments below!

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