Understanding Instructional Design Basics

Understanding Instructional Design Basics
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Summary: In modern business models, the latest trend is to go for non-traditional training approaches. Virtual learning is therefore favored. Businesses are making way for eLearning, forgetting the traditional learning model guided by a qualified professional. Instructional Designers ensure that this is a bump-free process for online learners and that knowledge is acquired without an instructor.

The Basics Of Instructional Design

Earlier, the only methods used to impart training were the traditional classroom sessions led by a qualified instructor. Similarly, eLearning has come a long way in supplementing conventional training sessions. As a result, Instructional Designers are now tasked with developing eLearning courses that facilitate effective knowledge in the absence of an instructor. Therefore, modern business demands have compounded the task as online courses have to roll out at the speed of business. In this article, we are going to cover the basics of Instructional Design.

eBook Release: Instructional Design 101
eBook Release
Instructional Design 101
Find out about the fundamentals of Instructional Design.

"To achieve learner engagement and arrest dropout rates" is the main motto of Instructional Designers; and, blingy Las Vegas-style courses are not always the answer. In other words, courses grounded in the principles of Instructional Design and adult learning will meet these goals—even without the frills.

In conclusion, whether you are an experienced ID, a new entrant, or making your way into the world of L&D from a functional field, we invite you to go through the basics of ID covered in this article. It distills the basics, best practices, dos & don’ts, technical standards, and more.

Basics Of Learning

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines learning as the activity or process of gaining knowledge or skills by studying, practicing, being taught, or experiencing something. In addition, learning can also be defined as a relatively permanent change in an individual’s behavior arising from experience. In other words, it is the act of acquiring new or modifying existing knowledge, behavior, skills, values, or preferences, which may involve synthesizing different types of information.

What Do We Learn?

We learn things that fall within these 3 categories:

  • Knowledge: information needed to perform a task, and the capacity to apply it
  • Skills: expertise and ability to do something
  • Attitude: the way to behave or respond to a situation

5 Basics Of Learning In Instructional Design

There are 5 elements of learning.

  1. Drive
    This is a strong drive that makes the learner want to learn. Motivation is the key to learning.
  2. Stimulus and cues
    They act as actual learning content that makes the learner learn. Together they both facilitate learning.
  3. Response
    This is what is required of the learner in the presence of an effective stimulus.
  4. Reinforcement
    This is what is required of the learner in the presence of an effective stimulus.
  5. Rewards
    This increases motivation and ensures learning beyond the learning event.

Basics Of Adult Learning In Instructional Design

The science and art of helping adults learn is termed andragogy. However, this can be analyzed even further. There are 6 adult learning principles that, if applied, help adults learn effectively.

S. No. Adult Learning Principles How To Apply
1 Adults need to know why they should learn something.
  • Provide learning objectives that tell them why they “need to know”
  • Inform them of the benefits of learning
2 Adults have a deep need to be self-directing.
  • Give them the freedom to navigate freely through the course without any restrictions
  • Involve them in the learning process
3 Adults hIn conclusion, these are the essentials needed to design learner-centric eLearning courses. It is very important to follow a well-defined Instructional Design process and eLearning standards to enhance the quality of the digital course. Download our eBook Instructional Design 101 to discover more amazing Instructional Design insights.ave a greater volume and quality of experience than youth.
  • Help them apply their experience and knowledge to new learning
4 Adults become ready to learn when they experience a need to be able to do something more effectively.
  • Inform them how the course will help them perform more effectively
5 Adults enter a learning experience with a problem-centered orientation.
  • Design courses that’ll help them solve tasks/problems or improve skills
6 Adults are motivated to learn by both extrinsic and intrinsic motivators.
  • Motivate them through scores, points, badges, or certificates

Learning Needs

Adults have different learning styles or preferences—visual, auditory or kinesthetic—that should be considered when designing an eLearning course. In addition, each style has different subcategories that can be assigned to it:


  • One-on-one
  • Conversations
  • Podcasts
  • Group discussions
  • Videos
  • Oral presentations


  • Graphs
  • Illustrations
  • PowerPoints
  • Pictures
  • Videos
  • Articles


  • Hands-on activity
  • Walking meetings
  • Role-playing
  • Notetaking


Learning Cycle

Similarly, learning should include these 4 phases: review, learning, application, and adaptation.

      • Review (Why?)
        First, we need to set the context and help the learner bridge prior and new knowledge.
      • Learning (What?)
        Secondly, we proceed to actual learning content: concepts, procedures, processes, principles.
      • Adaptation (How?)
        Thirdly, we need to provide opportunities to apply the newly acquired knowledge and skills.
      • Application (Now What?)
        Finally, we should explain how to apply this new knowledge to the workplace.

However, "Application" is not the end. Through the adaptation of newly acquired skills in the workplace, more reasons for further development will arise. In other words, the circle begins anew.

Instructional Design Process Basics For Effective Courses

The Successive Approximation Model (SAM) helps overcome the challenges in eLearning development. It is iterative, collaborative, and effective.

SAM has 3 phases: preparation, iterative design, and iterative development.

  1. Preparation Phase
    First, we gather all the relevant information.
  2. Iterative Design Phase
    Then we proceed with project planning and prototype development and go to the development phase after the client signs-off.
  3. Iterative Development Phase
    Finally, we develop the course and release the alpha, beta, and gold versions of the course.

Phase 1: Finalize LOS, Strategy, And Outline

  • For starters, begin with an internal kick-off.
  • Then, follow with a kick-off with the client.
  • After that, finalize the learning objects you will be focusing on.
  • Next, clarify whatever queries may exist.
  • Once clarified, you should finalize your strategy.
  • Next, educate your client about this 3-step process.
  • Then, establish the guidelines concerning branding.
  • Next, discuss the timeline of development and possible deadlines.
  • When that is complete, finalize the GUI.
  • And finally, sign-off on strategy, LOS, and GUI from the customer.

Phase 2: Finalize Prototype

  • First, develop a prototype on 5-6 screens in the course.
  • Next, evaluate it internally. The prototype should be:
    • A representation of the typical screens in the course
    • Fully functional with audio
  • Then get feedback/approval on the prototype.
  • Finally, sign-off on “project scope and schedule” from the customer.








Phase 3: Alpha–Gold Closure

  • To begin, develop SB with an audio script.
  • After that, finalize SB with the customer (if needed).
  • Then, develop the alpha version without audio.
  • After that, review alpha and get feedback from the customer.
  • Then, develop the course with audio.
  • After that, review the course and get feedback from the customer.
  • Next, develop the gold with LMS version.
  • And to conclude, sign off on the project by customer (along with the survey).








In conclusion, these are the essentials needed to design learner-centric eLearning courses. It is very important to follow a well-defined Instructional Design process and eLearning standards to enhance the quality of the digital course. Download our eBook Instructional Design 101 to discover more amazing Instructional Design insights.

eBook Release: CommLab India
CommLab India
Working with multiple outsourcing vendors can be stressful, and a waste of time & money. With CommLab India, all your online training needs are taken care of, rapidly and economically.