Contextual Constraints In Instructional Design

Instructional Design Constraints To Take Into Account
Summary: Are you an Instructional Designer? Have you ever played chess? Maybe you hate the game? Many say it is a difficult game so why even try to learn, right? Is it possible to view the challenge as a possibility to learn something new, to advance your skills? What in the world am I talking about? How is the game of chess related to the field of Instructional Design? Take a moment to think about it? Come up with any connections?

Contextual Constraints IDs May Encounter

Chess is a very strategic, thought-out game that takes time to build skills and formulate strategies. Extremely difficult at times. Conquering the game of chess can improve:

  • Problem-solving
  • Patience
  • Creative thinking
  • Strategic thinking

Ok great, so I will take up the game of chess in my spare time. What does this have to do with Instructional Design you ask? Playing chess is similar to Instructional Design in different contexts. The game may be difficult, but a positive perspective can definitely be a game-changer.

Instructional Designers are change agents (Reiser & Dempsey, 2012, p. 154). They are challenged with creating change that not only affects the performance of the organization but the knowledge and skills of those who are within it. This can seem like an impossible task, especially when constraints arise. However, viewing constraints as possibilities to improve the given task, can spark an innovative approach leading to creative quality design.

1. The Business And Industry Setting

Let’s take a look at the possible constraints that may arise in the business and industry setting. Businesses and industries often expand, and growth typically comes from cross-cultural development. Globalization leads designers to consider cultural factors affecting the learner (Reiser & Dempsey, 2012, p. 155). Factors to take into consideration could include (Reiser & Dempsey, 2012, p. 156):

  • Generational and social heritage (traditions)
  • Ideas surrounding learning
  • Problem-solving methods
  • Pattern, symbol, and color meanings

Designers tasked with creating a cross-cultural workplace must keep the culture of focus in mind. It is essential to take into consideration how cultural aspects used in design will influence the learner. Now that we have had a glimpse into the constraints of the business industry, let’s examine the military environment.

2. The Military Environment

The military forces of any nation are comprised of men and women willing to risk their lives to protect others. Although the military has its own culture, each individual is diverse. As an Instructional Designer, there are constraints when designing for the military. Constraints can include (Reiser & Dempsey, 2012, p. 159):

  • Consequences of ineffective design can be disastrous
  • Designing for the military itself as well as the individual
  • Rapidly changing environment
  • Ever developing technology
  • Individual projects
  • Funding issues
  • Large systems design

Designing for a military environment can seem daunting, however rewarding as well. It is vital for the designer to keep in mind the culture of the military, and this may take time to learn. Thus far, we have examined constraints affecting the military and the corporate world. Another context in which constraints arise is in the field of healthcare.

3. The Healthcare Field

The field of healthcare is vast and includes research as well as providing health services (Reiser & Dempsey, 2012, p. 168). Design for the healthcare field has its own constraints such as (Reiser & Dempsey, 2012, p. 172):

  • Knowledge and research (rapid development)
  • Cost and managed care (funds available)
  • Regulations, standards, and licensure (content is dictated by regulations)

As a designer in the healthcare field, it is necessary to understand that the medical field has led to the development of performance and instructional methods due to the associated risks with poor education, especially physicians (Reiser & Dempsey, 2012, p. 173). The trend in designing for this field has seen a shift from traditional instruction to a problem-based learning approach.

4. The Field Of Education

The last field we will focus on is education, specifically the integration of technology in K-12. As mentioned above, every area has its own set of constraints. Constraints in the field of education may include (Reiser & Dempsey, 2012, p. 181):

  • Resources
  • Knowledge and skills or lack thereof
  • Leadership
  • Attitudes and beliefs
  • Assessment
  • Subject culture

The most prominent factor contributing to constraints is knowledge and beliefs about technology (Reiser & Dempsey, 2012, p. 181). Technology is continuously changing and rapidly developing, leading designers and teachers to continue professional development in order to keep up with the progress.

We have discussed some constraining factors affecting several fields that you may encounter as an Instructional Designer. Overall, as a designer, it is essential to keep a positive mindset and remember constraints aren’t roadblocks, just opportunities to build bridges.


  • Reiser, R. A., & Dempsey, J. V. (Eds.). (2012). Trends and issues in instructional design and technology. Boston: Pearson.