Proven Instructional Design Strategies Every Course Builder Should Know

Proven Instructional Design Strategies Every Course Builder Should Know
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Summary: Instructional design strategies provide a clear framework that you can use to plan your course logically and give your students the best possible learning experience.

Top Instructional Design Theories To Follow

If you’re building an online course for the first time, instructional design strategies will be your most trusted allies. Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about using instructional design strategies and the top 3 instructional design theories for online course creators.

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What Is An Instructional Design Strategy?

The best teaching methods follow a clear, step-by-step approach to any topic. Instructional design strategies are tried and tested models that provide frameworks to help you structure your teaching.

Rather than dumping information on your students and hoping they understand and remember it, instructional design strategies offer a step-by-step approach to teaching that will help you achieve your learning objectives. They can also make your lessons easier to follow and even more fun!

Instructional design is different from learning experience design which focuses on the students and how they learn. Learning experience design considers how students acquire knowledge—instructional design considers how teachers convey that knowledge to their students.

Why Use Instructional Design Strategies?

It’s important to design your course in a structured way to maximize knowledge transfer and provide a positive learning experience for your students.

Instructional design models give your online course a solid framework that you can then expand on with your own content.

Instructional design strategies help to:

  • Simplify and speed up the learning process
  • Improve student engagement
  • Enhance knowledge retention

They also help to make the process of designing your online course easier by giving you a clear path for structuring your lessons. Don’t try and plan your lessons from scratch—borrow from the experts!

3 Top Instructional Design Theories

Curious to try using instructional design strategies in your course planning? Here are 3 top instructional design theories you can use immediately.

ADDIE: The Five-Step Approach

ADDIE is an acronym for an instructional design theory based on a five-step development process.

1. Analysis
2. Design
3. Development
4. Implementation
5. Evaluation

Here’s how to follow the five steps in your course design.

1. Analysis: First things first, you need to analyze your students’ current knowledge and past training or education. Find out what worked for them in the past, what hasn’t worked, and what they need moving forward. This is an important first step to give you the lay of the land before you start designing your course.

2. Design: After you’ve completed your analysis, you can take action and begin to design your course. Choose the method you want to use for delivering your content. Consider what interactive elements you’ll include, how you will provide feedback to your students, and more.

3. Development: The development stage is where you execute your plan from the design phase and build your course. This is where you can gather and adapt existing content as well as creating any new content that you need. In this step, it’s important to assess how your course flows and progresses.

4. Implementation: In the implementation phase, it’s time to upload your course to a Learning Management System like Thinkific. Add your content, including assessments, extra resources, and downloadable components. If you have added in-person or live elements to your course design, you can schedule these now. You can also assign learners, track their progress and monitor completion rates.

5. Evaluation: The fifth step of the ADDIE approach is to evaluate your course. It is important to gather feedback from your students to see how your content and course design can be improved.

The process of refining your course is continual—the aim is to create the best possible resource and the only way to do that is through regular evaluation and editing.

Use the ADDIE approach to help you get started with building your online course. Follow each step in turn to give your course creation process more focus.

Bloom’s Taxonomy: The Six Stages Of Learning

A well-known and much-loved instructional design theory is Bloom’s taxonomy, named after its original creator Benjamin Bloom. This instructional design strategy encourages you to imagine learning like scaffolding—each stage builds on the knowledge from before.

When learning something new, students move from remembering and understanding to more complicated skills like evaluating and analyzing. Imagine the six stages of learning like a pyramid with the sixth and final stage at the topic. With Bloom’s taxonomy, your students climb through the stages to get to the top.

Here are the six steps:

1. Remember: Students can recognize, identify or list a series of facts.

2. Understand: Students demonstrate their understanding by summarizing, explaining, or comparing.

3. Apply: Students apply the knowledge to actual situations through teaching, implementing, and/or solving problems.

4. Analyze: Students break down ideas into simpler parts to understand how it fits together by comparing, categorizing, and investigating the topic.

5. Evaluate: Students use their knowledge to propose solutions to a problem by hypothesizing, experimenting, and testing.

6. Create: Students are able to design and produce new products or services using skills like designing, writing, and inventing.

This framework is extremely useful for giving your course design a clear structure. As your students progress through your course, you’re aiming to move them up through the pyramid.

Your early lessons will mostly involve remembering and understanding but as your students’ knowledge progresses, you can give them the opportunity to apply, analyze and evaluate before eventually creating. When you’re planning your course content, refer back to Bloom’s taxonomy to check that each lesson is building on the skills learned in the previous lessons.

Gagné’s Nine Events Of Instruction

One of the most widely used instructional design theories comes from educational researcher Robert M. Gagné who devised a series of steps to help educators deliver their lessons.

Gagné’s “Nine Events of Instruction” are primarily designed to boost knowledge retention for students. Here’s how it works.

  • Event 1: Gain your students’ attention
    The first step to getting your students to tune into your online course and actually focus on your teaching is to grab their attention. To do this, try to tap into your students’ curiosity with a fact, statistic, question, or ice-breaker activity.
  • Event 2: Tell them the learning objectives
    In step 2, you need to tell your students the goal for the lesson. Provide concrete information on what they can expect to learn in this section and what they will be able to do by the end of the lesson. This helps your students understand what they will achieve and helps to increase their attention by making them engaged in the content.
  • Event 3: Help students recall prior learning
    When it comes to learning something new, it’s essential to be able to draw on prior knowledge to help you understand it. For your students, that means going over what they’ve learned already or what they already know before you launch into your new lesson. Try asking questions about previous concepts or their existing experience with the topic.
  • Event 4: Present the lesson content
    Now comes the main event: presenting your instruction. This is the point where you will provide your students with the new knowledge they will need in order to meet the learning objectives for the lesson. The most effective way to do this is with a variety of media such as video, podcasts, and activities to keep them entertained.
  • Event 5: Offer learning guidance
    As the course instructor, it’s your job to provide your students with strategies to help them learn your course content. You’re not just presenting the information—you’re guiding their learning. You can do this by providing step-by-step instruction through a combination of both video tutorials and worksheets, case studies, and examples. The best methods will depend on your topic or niche.
  • Event 6: Encourage independent performance
    After you’ve demonstrated what your students are learning and they’ve tried performing it themselves with guidance, you need to give them the opportunity to try performing the skill on their own. You might want to encourage them to pause the video or podcast to try the skill out or offer a downloadable worksheet. This is important for your students so they have a chance to apply what they’ve learned and get a sense of achievement and independence.
  • Event 7: Provide feedback to students
    When your students have tried performing their newly learned skills, you will need to find a way for them to get feedback. This might be self-reflective feedback, feedback from peers, or automated feedback. You can also offer personal feedback as the course instructor, depending on the type of skill your students have learned.
  • Event 8: Assess their performance
    The assessment portion of your lesson looks back at your learning objectives and evaluates whether or not your students have achieved the goals you set out at the start. Essentially, did they get to where you said they would? This step offers your students a small win and an all-important confidence boost.
  • Event 9: Boost knowledge retention
    Now comes the main event: presenting your instruction. This is the point where you will provide your students with the new knowledge they will need in order to meet the learning objectives for the lesson. The most effective way to do this is with a variety of media such as video, podcasts, and activities to keep them entertained.

Use Instructional Design Strategies To Create Your Online Course

Instructional design strategies are key for helping you to structure and plan your online course. These models will help to give your lesson planning focus, making it easier for you to teach your course content and for your students to follow along. In the next article, we’ll take a look at learning experience design and how you can give your students even more help.

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