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The Right Instructional Design Tools Drive Retention

How important are instructional design tools in training? Most likely you’ve heard the statistics that knowledge retention decreases quickly over time. So what an employee learns in training, may not actually be put into action by the time they need to use it. And according to LinkedIn’s 2019 Workforce Learning Report, 94 percent of employees say that they would stay at their company longer if they were learning on the job. In fact, the same survey found around 25 percent of Gen Z and Millennials said learning is the number one thing they value on the job. So there is a real disconnect in corporate training today and instructional design tools can help.

Instructional design is the process to create, design and develop learning products and experiences. These could include online courses, instructional manuals, video tutorials, learning simulations, interactive quizzes and more. And these tools to affect change drive knowledge retention and keep employee turnover to a minimum. So what’s important in instructional design tools? What should you look for in investing in these products?

Why use instructional design tools?

Before we suggest a few key instructional design tools to consider, why use them in the first place? What value can they add? Here are a few questions to ask when narrowing down which tool is right for you.

  • What are your learning objectives? Does this software have capabilities to achieve your goals?
  • What is your budget? What can you afford? Some tools are free, open-source and some require an investment.
  • What and how many learning files and programs do you have?
  • What type of content do you have? Are you using videos, simulations, quizzes, gamification in training?
  • Who will be in charge of this tool at your company? What is their level of expertise? Will they need a strong customer support function
  • How will you measure your learning program's success? What will be the method for your instructional design evaluation?

Frameworks for instructional design

Another thing to consider before choosing instructional design tools is what framework you will be using. There are several frameworks to consider. Here are some of the more popular ones.

1. Bloom’s Taxonomy

Bloom's Taxonomy was created in 1956 by psychologist Dr Benjamin Bloom. His goal was to promote higher forms of thinking in education like analyzing and evaluating concepts rather than just remembering the facts. In the 90s this system was revised a bit by one of his former students, Lorin Anderson. She created six categories of learning creating, evaluating, analyzing, applying, understanding and remembering. In this framework, learning becomes active and leads to better knowledge retention.

2. The ARCS Model

The ARCS Model of Motivational Design Theories was created by John Kellar as a way to motivate learners. There are four steps to the process which include attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction. The goal is to evoke feelings and emotions about the training at hand. And the more invested the learner is, the more they will retain what’s being taught. It looks at the individual learner and what training is best to use to form new habits.

3. The ADDIE Model

The ADDIE Model may be the most popular when it comes to instructional design frameworks. It stands for analyze, design, develop, implement and evaluate. This is a linear model that helps you consider and work through each phase before moving onto the next. Each section consists of a series of questions that a team must work through before proceeding to the next step. He ADDIE Model may seem rigid to some, but it forces each step of the design process to be thoroughly studied before moving onto the next. As a result, every team member is clear what the overall objectives are and there are fewer hiccups along the way.

4. The Agile Method

While the ADDIE Model is effective, it has gained some criticism as well. Since the model moves along a projected path, some say it is too inflexible. As a result, there have been several spinoff instructional design frameworks created to compensate for this flaw. One of those is the Agile Methodology. This model was adopted by the software world and aims to develop training materials from the start of the process versus toward the end. It uses five stages consisting of align, get set, iterate, implement, leverage and evaluate. The Agile Method focuses more on how the learner interacts with the content and less on the content itself. Plus, this method is more flexible allowing for collaboration and revising throughout the process.

10 best instructional design tools

After you have a framework in place, it’s time to consider using instructional design tools to streamline the process. As we’ve discussed, there are several reasons to use these tools to make your job easier and to produce a more cohesive training program. There are several on the market today and what works for one company, may not work for the next. So we’ve compiled a list of 10 worth a look.

1. Adobe Captivate

Over 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies use Adobe Captivate. Their instructional design capabilities are great for mobile learning so if you employ contractors or a large employee sector that travels often, this may be the solution for you. This HTML authoring tool can create software demonstrations, simulations, randomized quizzes and branched scenarios.

Ideal for: Larger companies who rely heavily on mobile or e-learning.

2. iSpring Suite

iSpring Suite allows you to make PowerPoint slides and turn these into courses. So this platform is great for even non-tech savvy course developers. Some of the key features include quizzes, assessments, surveys and the ability to record lectures. There is live tech support, a screencasting tool, and character library.

Ideal for: Small or medium-sized operations who may not have the technical skills to create courses from scratch.

3. Articulate Storyline

This instructional design tool also uses PowerPoint to crease learning materials so it makes it easy for expert or beginner course creators. Some of the features are built-in course templates, screencasting, a character library, animation, and advanced editing. Articulate Storyline also lets you build up your program as you scale. You can also try the product free for 30 days.

Ideal for: Great for business sectors like financial, technology or healthcare where businesses are constantly changing and expanding.

4. Lectora Publisher

Lectora Publisher lets you divide courses based on location. Some of the other features include templates, characters, scenarios and stock images that can be used to enhance course design. With the latest updates, Lectora Publisher can easily run on mobile and desktop. Plus, there are both templates and graphics library so you don’t have to design from scratch. And since it can support a wide variety of media files, it’s great for gamification in training or use in a blended learning environment. Finally, there is a built-in review function which is great for instant course review and feedback.

Ideal for: This is great for smaller companies who may not have a seasoned instructional designer on site. You don’t need any coding experience because Lectora Publisher uses a point and click scripting system.

5. Robohelp

One of the instructional design tools worth a mention is Robohelp. This is another one from Adobe. Some of the features include creating content in HTML5, utilizing various HTML5 layouts, a library of themes and several integrations. Plus, you can customize content based on who needs to access it and there is robust customer service for immediate help. And you can publish content in EPUB 3, KF8, and MOBI formats.

Ideal for: Robohelp is ideal for the more technical writers who are in charge of product documentation.

6. SoftChalk Cloud

This instructional design tool is used mostly in the education sector, but it can translate to other industries as well. Key capabilities include content creation, content sharing, and different content delivery methods. If you already have pre-existing content whether it be in Word, Excel or PowerPoint, these can be easily migrated into SoftChalk Cloud. Plus, to make interactive web-based modules (link to new blog), you can also add elements like videos, web widgets, textbook media and more.

Ideal for: The education sector or those using learning systems that mimic this model.

7. Camtasia

In order to make your training program more interactive for the user, it’s great to add visual elements and sound effects. Camtasia is a screen recorder, editor and special effects software program. So if you have existing content that could use a fresh perspective, this is a great tool to use.

Ideal for: Those companies who already have training content in place and simply need to modify or freshen it up. Since it’s video-based, it’s best for e-learning and those companies that use a blended learning environment.

8. Articulate Studio

If most of your training materials are in PowerPoint, Articulate Studio lets you take those slides and presentations and turn them into e-learning courses. Plus with key features like quizzes, interactive activities, videos, and voice-overs, you can really enhance your existing material.

Ideal for: Companies looking to improve existing training materials quickly and easily with little technical experience.

9. CloudApp

For training employees specifically on new software rollouts, CloudApp is a great option. Some of the key features include content creation, using GIFS, screen recording, editing and more to learn the new software in simple steps. It also offers some key integrations like Atlassian JIRA, Slack, Trello, and Zendesk. And since it’s an app, it works well to keep communication and training flowing even when you have distributed teams. Plus, CloudApp offers tips and tutorials to get started quickly if you don’t have prior experience using a tool like this.

Ideal for: It works well for a variety of software training and business sectors like marketing, sales and customer service.

10. Easygenerator

Whether you work for a smaller business or don’t have an e-learning point person, Easygenerator is one of the easier instructional design tools. It’s really built for beginners with features like course creation, quiz generation, see learner’s results and more. Plus you can store your training materials in their cloud or export them to your learning management system. And Easygenerator also offers a user-interface for intricate course design without scripting or programming.

Ideal for: Smaller businesses or start-ups who don’t have an e-learning employee. This system provides all the instructional design key elements needed to launch a training program.

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Learning management systems simplify the process

While the instructional design tools we mentioned are great, if you’re looking to streamline your learning program, a learning management system is the best option. Instead of adding bits and pieces of software to your training arsenal, it’s an all-encompassing system with everything you need. Here are some other benefits.

  • Training in one place

An LMS lets you store all your training materials in a centralized place. That way, every employee knows where to go and everyone is using the most recent version. Plus, if there is a cross-over between department training, there are not two versions of the same training rollout.

  • Access anytime

In this digital world where you have employees working from home, traveling or in different time zones, training is hard. But using an LMS, you can set certain training tracks for your employees and check to see once training is complete. This allows flexibility for employees while ensuring training is completed.

  • Performance tracking

When it comes to instructional design, you know it’s valuable but you don’t always know what will be effective. But when you use an LMS, you can evaluate which training is effective and which is not. When several employees are not grasping a training track, that may be a red flag to refresh this training.

  • Course authoring

An LMS offers easy course authoring with built-in templates and media to further enhance existing courses. So this cuts out the need to use separate software to create or edit existing learning materials.

Instructional design leads to focused learning

With all the job duties employees have, training still needs to be the main focus. Not only do employees want to learn, but it benefits the company overall. Just remember that instructional design can further enhance this training so that it’s more engaging for employees and it further drives new skills learned.

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