Instructional Design FAQ For Beginners
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5 Instructional Design Questions Answered

  1. What is the difference between an Instructional Design model and an instructional strategy?
  2. Should you choose one over the other?
  3. Which Instructional Design model should you select for your project?
  4. Are we limited to selecting a single Instructional Design model for a project?
  5. Do learning theories have a place in the world of Instructional Design?

Do you wrestle with these questions? The best way to get going is to ask yourself the vital question; what are my options? If you think about ADDIE, Successive Approximation Model (SAM), rapid prototyping, Merrill’s first principles of instruction, or Gagne’s nine events of instructions, or Bloom’s taxonomy, then you know the preferred choices of Instructional Designers. However, it still doesn’t assist to answer the above questions.

A Simple Way To Distinguish Between Instructional Model And Strategies

The way to delineate the difference is to think what the purpose is, and when you apply a model versus a strategy.

What do I mean by that? For example, instructional models such as ADDIE or SAM list a step-by-step process to produce instructional products. There are 5 steps in the traditional ADDIE model; Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate. You follow these steps from start to finish, and you have a learning solution, an instructional product using a scientifically derived method.

To expedite the instructional development process, Instructional Designers should select the SAM model. This model assures eliminating the long steps to begin with, the prototype from the get-go. With SAM, you have a learning solution in much lesser time and sometimes even at a lower cost. However, what these models do not do for you is to organize the instructional content in a way which is learner-centered. So, which is the missing piece of the puzzle here?

You got that right; it is the instructional strategy.

What Are The Instructional Strategies?

The instructional strategy leads you into adopting techniques such as modeling, visualization, collaboration, peer feedback, or scaffolding. These techniques allow learners to comprehend the content at the advanced levels of Bloom's taxonomy. Inherent in a technique to nurture qualities such as being independent thinkers, problem solvers, and analytical intellectuals.

During the content outline and instructional activities preparation stage, an Instructional Designer employs instructional strategies. The strategy selection stage is the development stage in the ADDIE model and prototype stage in the SAM model. For example, Merrill’s first principle of instruction uses a problem-solving strategy. It provides 4 steps: (1) prior experience activation, (2) skills demonstration, (3) skills application, and (4) skills integration into real-world activities. If the objective of your learning product is to develop problem-solving skills, then integrating Merril’s first principles of instruction technique can help achieve this goal.

To sum this discussion, instructional strategies are technique oriented when as instructional models are process oriented.

Why Is Electing Instructional Strategies Equally Essential?

Should you select instructional model over instructional strategy? The answer is "no", because they both serve different purposes. The Instructional Design model guides you to follow specific steps. The instructional strategy leads you to align the instructional activities with the learning objectives. To go back to Merril’s first principle of instruction examples, if your aim is for your students to practice problem-solving skills, then activities should create opportunities to apply problem-solving rules. In the absence of problem-solving exercises, chances to achieve instructional success are negligible.

How Can You Select An Instructional Design Model For Your Next eLearning Project?

The selection of the model depends on several factors, such as:

  1. The goal of the project
  2. The scope of the project
  3. Time limitation
  4. Management or organizational philosophy

If the project involves a complete overhauling of an existing instructional program or launching of a new one, such as a graduate or an undergraduate degree program, then it will be most sensible to use the ADDIE model. On the other hand, if it's short training for a newly launched software which requires a quicker turnaround time, then SAM or rapid prototyping Instructional Design models are more suitable.

However, does that mean that an Instructional Designer cannot combine the ADDIE model with SAM when working on a large-scale, elaborate project? The answer is "yes" they can. An Instructional Designer can switch between ID models as and when deemed appropriate to benefit from using a model. For example, an Instructional Designer may be inclined to use the ADDIE or ISD model to design the curriculum of a significant instructional program, but to have a jump start they may use the savvy stairstep from SAM to present the needs analysis portion to the stakeholders and later traverse back and follow the ADDIE model. Instructional models and strategies are a planning tool rather than a compliance checklist.

Finally, if the management decides to embrace a particular model, you may not have much choice to experiment but go with the adopted model. However, with evidence of success in using an alternate model, the current thinking can be reset.

Instructional Designers Rarely Discuss Learning Theories

Learning theories are the conceptual framework of how learners perceive, absorb, process, and assimilate new information. In the context of Instructional Design, the learning objective should guide the selection of the theory (or theories). The choice of the learning theory should precede the selection of instructional strategies.

Delineating the difference and purpose of the 3 critical components of an Instructional Design model, instructional strategies, and learning theories are imperative. All 3 elements play a pivotal role and must not be selected one over the other. Where, Instructional Design models are a recipe or cookbook for designing an instructional intervention, instructional strategies and learning theories are the actual ingredients and their proportion in a recipe.

Stay tuned for the next part of this article where I discuss the critical Instructional Design toolkit items. Leave your comments if you would like for me to answer any of your questions through my upcoming articles.

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