Learning & Development

What is Instructional Design? A Complete Guide

Rapid advances in technology over the last few decades have provided employers with an amazing new set of eLearning authoring tools for helping their workforce acquire and apply new knowledge effectively.

How do you successfully instruct your employees, develop new skills, and further the goals of your organization?

One way is through instructional design.

This method of creating effective learning experiences taps into the whole of human learning regarding the way we learn, think, and communicate.

To help you get a better understanding of exactly what instructional design is and how you can take advantage of it, take a look at this comprehensive guide.

What is instructional design?

Instructional design, also known as instructional systems design, is a process through which effective instructional materials and learning experiences can be created. These materials combine learning theories, effective workplace communication strategies, and various forms of learning technology. 

An important aspect of this discipline is assessing which type of learning material is best suited to meet the needs of those it’s intended to instruct.

Some examples of the sort of instructional materials that can be created using instructional design and technology are training videos, online courses, and educational manuals.

But, who is responsible for an organization's instructional design?

What are instructional designers?

An instructional designer is a person who facilitates the creation, improvement, and implementation of corporate training programs, curriculum design, and instructional materials.

Instructional designers create the entire process of employee education and training programs within the organization.

Responsibilities of an instructional designer

To produce instructional materials and courses that deliver their learning outcomes, instructional designers need to have a broad range of knowledge and skills.

These individuals should be experts in both learning design and technology since they:

  • Interact with educational technology and eLearning authoring tools
  • Review new training materials
  • Write learning objectives for employee development
  • Provide instructional content such as podcasts and video tutorials
  • Create and update both new and current learning models
  • Implement improvements based on program evaluations
  • Train individuals on how to distribute learning materials
  • Investigate new trends in both learning design and instruction

Benefits of instructional design

There are plenty of reasons you should consider implementing instructional design and technology into your corporate training programs.

But, here are a few of the main reasons why instructional design is beneficial to both employees and the organization.

Custom-Fit learning

Learning is not "one-size-fits-all". What works for one organization may not work for yours. Instructional design allows you to create the exact kind of instructional materials that best fit your workforce.

Greater efficiency of materials

Creating a well-honed set of instructional materials that are tailored for your specific workforce can cut a ton of fat from the instructional design process

Whether your current method involves peer-to-peer learning, self-learning, or any other learning style, chances are that learning resources created through instructional design are going to be more effective and therefore more efficient.

Proven learning methods

You’re not starting from scratch in your instructional design project. You get to implement models that have a proven track record. These models have already been honed over many years of trial and error that you yourself will not have to endure. 


Once you’ve created successful instructional materials, the cost of training will be greatly reduced. You will save both time and resources that would have otherwise been used — and not necessarily efficiently.

The main components of instructional design

While the definition of the term may inspire more questions than answers, instructional design is fairly easy to understand when you break it down into its three basic components:

  1. Analysis
  2. Design and development
  3. Evaluation

1. Analysis

Before you can create a learning system that successfully imparts knowledge to your employees and empowers them to apply it effectively, you’ll need to perform a training needs analysis to set the specific goals your learning system will help you meet. 

This is the part of instructional design that takes the idea of learning from the world of the abstract and begins to move it into the realm of the real.

2. Design and development

Designing and developing is the action aspect of instructional design. Once you’ve analyzed your needs and set SMART goals, you can begin the systematic development of a blueprint for your learning materials and then use that blueprint to create them.

3. Evaluation

It’s unlikely that your initial attempt at creating instructional materials will be perfect. That’s fine, but you need to conduct an instructional design evaluation and use that data and feedback to continue to improve on your instructional materials. 

To ensure that you’re evaluating your instructional materials effectively, consider using any of the following learning evaluation models: 

There are several other learning evaluation models that can prove useful in honing your learning materials. The important thing is that you look objectively at the information your chosen model provides so you can apply it successfully.

Instructional Design Evaluation Template

Download Free Instructional Design Checklist

Types of instructional design models

If you’re already feeling overwhelmed by all of this new information, you’ll be happy to know that there many instructional design models that you can use to begin your process.

But, here are two of the most popular instructional design models along with a detailed description of how each works:

The ADDIE Model

The ADDIE model of designing instruction was originally developed for rapid prototyping of training programs that create a consistent and reliable fashion for learning experiences.

Each letter in the ADDIE acronym represents a different phase of the model:

  • Analysis
  • Design
  • Development
  • Implementation
  • Evaluation

Design Thinking Model

This particular model of instructional design takes an approach that emphasizes empathy in order to gain a better understanding of how to help your employees acquire and apply new information as effectively as possible. 

The Design Thinking Model can help you overcome certain biases that might make your learning experiences less successful. It employs the following phases:

  • Empathize - knowing what motivates your employees, as well as what’s important to them, can give you a lot of insight into how they learn most effectively.
  • Define - organize that information in order to determine the exact problem you need to solve. When you’ve found your problem, you can determine the goal of your learning process.
  • Ideate - the phase in which you can determine what type of instructional manuals are best for your workforce.
  • Prototype - start small with a simple prototype version of the eLearning courses you’re looking to create.
  • Test - implement and evaluate your eLearning projects. Take the information you gain here to begin working toward the finished product.

A learning management system built for instructional design

Continu is a modern learning platform that can streamline your employee training and onboarding efforts and make them more effective than ever before.

Instructional designers will have the ability to:

  • Develop entire training courses with powerful eLearning authoring tools
  • Deliver instructional materials to anyone, anywhere, at any time
  • Create interactive learning experiences that engage learners
  • Track and measure employee training progress
  • Automate tasks with workflows
  • Integrate with popular business tools like Zoom, Slack, and Google
  • Provide assessments and quizzes

Plus much more...

Schedule a Demo Today

See Continu in action and how it can help your organization build a culture of learning.

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