Using The Waterfall Model In Instructional Design: A Guide For eLearning Professionals

Using The Waterfall Model In Instructional Design: A Guide For eLearning Professionals
Summary: Are you looking for a Project Management approach that focuses on in depth analysis and detailed planning to facilitate your Instructional Design process? If so, then the Waterfall approach might be just what you need. In this article, I'll share 4 benefits of the Waterfall approach in Instructional Design, and I'll highlight each of the 6 steps involved.

How To Use The Waterfall Model In Instructional Design: 4 Benefits And The Steps Involved

The Waterfall Model has been used for more than 40 years. Thus, it is a time-tested approach that has been finely tuned over the decades. As its name suggests, this development model centers on a step-by-step design process. Each stage must be completed before moving onto the next, which makes it ideal for Instructional Designers who prefer a more linear and organized strategy. The Waterfall Model relies heavily on the planning and research aspects of eLearning course design, so that you are already aware of your learner's needs and the problems that must be addressed before you create your first prototype. This allows you to create a learner-centered eLearning course that offers the best ROI.

4 Benefits Of Using The Waterfall Model In Instructional Design

  1. Cost effective.
    One of the most notable benefits of using the Waterfall Model to create your eLearning course is that it can reduce development costs. You must devote a significant amount of time to researching needs, planning activities, and assessing knowledge gaps. As such, by the time you actually start the design process you have a great deal of data at your disposal. This means that you won't have to endure a lengthy and costly revision process. eLearning professionals are able to detect any problems early on and remedy them right away.
  2. Streamlines the work process.
    All members of your eLearning team are on the same page from the very beginning of the development process. This is due to the fact that you must assess training needs and determine goals within the very first phase. You can meet with clients early in the process to identify their expectations, instead of designing the entire eLearning course only to discover that they are looking for something completely different.
  3. Improves collaboration.
    The Waterfall Model allows all collaborators in your eLearning team to work on their aspect of the eLearning project autonomously. Once you've clarified what the eLearning program needs to accomplish, everyone can dive into their respective tasks in order to speed up the process. For example, your graphic designers can already begin creating the presentations and template, while the SME can gather all of the necessary information and identify the key takeaways.
  4. Ensures cohesiveness.
    This approach is linear, which gives you the chance to work on every aspect of the eLearning project in order of importance. Rather than piecing all of the elements together at the end, you can figure out how all of the components are going to fit into the overall puzzle from day one. Thus, your eLearning program will be more cohesiveness and organized. Employees will be able to see how each of the ideas or concepts connect with one another, instead of having to sit through a disjointed eLearning experience.

The Waterfall In Instructional Design

This Instructional Design process involves six key stages that takes a linear approach. Here are the 6 phases that you should consider when creating your next eLearning course:

  1. Needs Analysis
    Assess the needs of your learners and identify the primary goals and objectives of the eLearning course. This may involve surveys, online tests, focus groups, interviews, and on-the-job observations. The training needs analysis should focus on your learner's strengths and areas for improvement.
  2. Knowledge Analysis
    After determining the needs of your learners you must identify how you are going to fill the performance and knowledge gaps. In other words, how are you going to get from point A to point B so that your eLearning program is truly effective? Conduct tasks and skills assessments to figure out how you can improve their productivity and give them the tools and resources they need.
  3. Identify Limitations
    Every eLearning program has its limitations. This may come in the form of a tight eLearning budget, technology constraints, or busy schedules. Once you identify these limitations you can decide whether they have a viable solution, or if you need to factor them into your eLearning course design. For example, if you dealing with learners who may have limited tech know-how, you can remedy this by offering tutorials that teach them how to use the LMS and use devices they are most familiar with.
  4. Content Development
    Identify the ideal eLearning activities and online resources that align with your goals and objectives. Branching scenarios, virtual presentations, eLearning simulations, serious games, and eLearning videos are just some of the multimedia elements you can incorporate into your eLearning strategy. You should also decide which Instructional Design models and theories are ideally suited for your learners' needs.
  5. Prototyping
    Create a rough draft of your eLearning course to serve as a prototype, then conduct thorough testing in order to determine its effectiveness. This is also the time to work out any issues that may hinder your goals and revise the aspects of your eLearning course that aren't living up to expectations. Focus groups can be an invaluable tool at this stage, as it gives you the opportunity to gather feedback from your target audience.
  6. Deployment
    Launch your eLearning course and measure the results. This may also require revisions and eLearning course modifications. Fortunately, the Waterfall method involves a great deal of research and planning, which means that revisions should be minimal at this point.

The Waterfall model may not be for everyone, but it is a viable approach that yields a wide range of benefits for new and experienced eLearning professionals, alike. Use this article as a guide to keep your eLearning course design on track and maximize the results of your eLearning program.

At the other end of the Instructional Design spectrum is the Iterative Design approach. Read the article 5 Benefits Of Iterative Design In eLearning to discover an Instructional Design approach that allows you to focus on one eLearning course component or design phase at a time, rather than trying to develop the complete package from start to finish.