Instructional Design Principles for E-Learning Creators

Instructional design principles can improve your e-learning courses
Corporate training materials need to have a good instructional design to be effective

Online learning is as effective as its planning. You strategize the process of the creation of e-learning content and courses in an efficient manner, and the result will be an effective online learning experience. For the content to be engaging and informative, you might require the help of a subject matter expert, or you need to be one yourself. However, just good content is not enough for the whole package to be good. There is also a need for instructional design principles to be incorporated in the process to ensure that your e-learning courses deliver in an efficient manner.

Instructional design principles play a vital role in the overall online learning experience. The e-learning platform has extensive potential to fill its courses with engaging means and resources, and yet, the drop-out rate of e-learning courses is 40% to 80%. A major reason for that is that creators and developers do not offer instructional design principles the significance they deserve. A poorly designed course has low engagement and leads the learners to an unsatisfactory experience, regardless of the quality of the content.

Let us look at eight instructional design principles that can make your e-learning courses highly effective in regards to pleasing your audience and keeping them engaged. These principles are especially useful for online learning courses designed for corporate training.

What is Instructional Design?

Whether it is educational products or corporate training e-learning courses, it is the process of instructional design that guides its development. It not only covers the design front but the distribution sphere as well. The Addie Model of the instructional design process describes it in eight important steps. They are:

  • Analysis
  • Design
  • Development
  • Implementation
  • Evaluation

The course creation process follows this framework, starting with analysis. The first stage of the process involves analyzing and evaluating the primary needs of the learners you are targeting. The design stage is where you create an outline for the course as per its objectives and goals. The development stage involves creating content, while the implementation stage is finalizing all the components of the course, including the delivery platform. Evaluation is testing and revisiting everything to assure quality and ensure that all the set objectives are met.

Instructional Design Principles 

Instructional design principles enable the online learning courses to be goal-oriented
E-learning is one of the best means of corporate training

The principles not only help elevate the quality of the course but enhance the interest levels of the learners. Following these instructional design principles will ensure that your e-learning corporate training courses are top-notch and highly effective.

Start by Keeping the End in Mind

The first thing you need to do, even before you start structuring your design, is to know what you want or need it to achieve. It has to target a specific goal. An aimless design is seldom an effective one and is much more difficult to create as it lacks direction. Other than understanding what you intend to extract out of it, you also need to think about it from your learners’ point of view. What learning outcomes will they achieve from it? What learning would prove as utility and benefit them at work? Will the material and content inspire them to strive for success?

When you have the goals you want to get to through instructional design in mind, you are able to develop courses much more quickly and with ease. You do not encounter and have to seek missing pieces, and the process becomes smoother and more efficient for you.

Set the Pace

While designing online learning courses, a major thing to keep in mind is structuring it at a pace that adheres to the learners. There is no one right answer to what the pace should be. You have to evaluate your learners’ capabilities during the analysis stage to determine the pace you need to set that would be ideal for them. The key is to design courses that walk at the pace that your learners walk at.

If the content is moving up levels quickly, the learners might lag behind and give up trying to catch up. If the content is paced too slow, the learners might think the course is too easy or that it is below the level they are currently at. You need to consider the background of the learners, along with their learning capabilities and speed. Microlearning courses are effective in this regard, as learners can skip or review small portions pertaining to their needs and take on the course at their own pace.

Some other features that, if incorporated in the course, help fuel the purpose include:

  • Including supplementary content and material.
  • Including remedial content and material.
  • Using a simple and clear format that is well-organized and efficiently formatted.
  • Structuring the content by relating it to previous as well as future material.

Refine it Through Continuous Assessment and Improvement

One of the most crucial instructional design principles to understand is that the design is not an end result. It is and always will be a continual process. It needs to be subjected to constant assessments and modifications for the better. It is much like the process of software development. You have a set of requirements that the software needs to meet. You design and develop the software and run it through quality assurance tests. But even after you release it, it is not immune to the discovery of flaws and bugs. You have to keep maintaining and upgrading it.

There might come instances when your product seems perfect to you when you are not able to find anything lagging in it. However, an instructional design, just like software, can never be perfect, and there will always be room for improvement. This makes instructional design a never-ending process.

You also need to take into consideration the feedback, performance, retention, engagement, and effectiveness that your learners attained from your e-learning course. Obtaining the relevant data pertaining to these elements require you to have a detailed evaluation system in place with the following features:

  • Your assessments and evaluation processes should not be very demanding of your trainees. Whatever you assign your learners for this purpose should not be lengthy or complex.
  • Incorporate the system with a two-way feedback loop. You will be able to identify more areas of concern and in a better manner if your learners are able to understand them as well.

Such a system will not only allow you to improve your instructional design but will also enable your trainees to discover and work on their weaknesses. You need to always keep looking for areas that you can improve and improve before evaluating it again.


Provide Context to Learners

E-learning content creators should follow instructional design principles while designing their courses
Instructional design is an important component to keep in mind while creating online learning material

The instructors that students love the most are usually the ones who explain theories with real-life examples. When you support a piece of learning material by linking it with relatable context, the learners tend to understand it better and quicker. Not only that, but it also enhances the retention rate of the content. Equip your e-learning material with relevant details and examples, and your trainees will find even the most complex and difficult of concepts easy.

Here is how you can easily do that:

  • Even if you know the preferences, interests, and backgrounds of your learners, offer multiple examples for each piece of content that you feel needs to be explained.
  • Online learning offers much more value if its theoretical content is partnered with the practical one. Do not restrict theory to just theory and provide material that, even if just on paper, applies it to different real-life situations. You can also incorporate practical projects and assignments into your courses to achieve the purpose.

Keep the Big Picture in Mind 

Attention to the smallest of details is important while crafting an online learning course. However, an instructional design is much more effective when it does that without hindering the big picture. The wide or holistic picture of your design is not just the sum of all of its components. It is much more than that. This is because the small components of a design might seem separate from one another, but they function in an interconnected manner.

The interrelation between the parts operates efficiently if the creator of the course stitches the parts consciously and strategically. That remediates the commonly arising issues, such as the transfer paradox, fragmentation, and compartmentalization, etc.

Make Learners Produce Original Content

When the leadership of an organization allows its employees freedom, they become more capable of thinking out of the box and expressing their creativity. Similarly, your trainees are more likely to produce innovation when they are offered the chance to do so. Your online learning material should provide learners with the opportunity to explore various scenarios. Here is how you can achieve that:

  • Incorporate assignments that prompt the learners to search and discover themselves. Design projects in a way that they look to extract the opinions of trainees out of them. Avoid offering multiple choices for answers to questions and present them with case studies to ponder over and offer their solutions to. You can assign preparation of reports and presentations to them and look for means that aim at promoting constructive argument among trainees.
  • The best thing you can do is to provide your learners with opportunities to apply their e-learning knowledge in the practical world. It is an easy and productive step to apply in corporate training online learning courses as the content is usually related to the operations of the organization and business.

Follow a System That is Well-Defined

We established that you need to have the end goal in mind before initiating the instructional design process. You need to know the functionality and the purpose that each and every element and feature of your design will serve. The process being never-ending does not make it unsystematic. Without consciously planning and structuring your instructional design, you cannot expect it to be of high quality.

There are several frameworks and theoretical models in the e-learning industry that feature different sets of principles. However, the most effective of them are those that are systematic and define the purpose of all the steps involved in the process. You need to have and follow a robust and solid methodology that has its functions and targets pre-determined.

Make Sure the Instructional Design is Active in Nature

The world of corporate training has been revolutionized with the introduction of e-learning
Online learning allows learners to take on courses at their own pace

One of the most important instructional design principles is designing your instruction in a way that prompts trainees to explore more than you tell. A passive design is one where you spoon-feed your learners with the knowledge you want them to attain. When the design is learner-centered or active, the trainees have to participate in the online learning course in order to benefit from it in an optimal manner.

Be more a facilitator or guider than a teacher. When learners take an active part in the e-learning process, they tend to feel more involved in it. This enables them to utilize their maximum potential and make them credit themselves for their achievements more. This boosts their confidence, as well as self-admiration, making their interest levels peak, which consequently makes their retention levels soar as well.

The above-mentioned instructional design principles are a great way to elevate your online learning courses to new heights. E-learning has been established as one of the best and most effective ways of corporate training, but the medium itself cannot be efficient on a whim unless you design and develop it to be so. There is no doubt that your content needs to be powerful and engaging, but that alone is unlikely to do the trick if it is not supported by a quality instructional design. To ensure the high engagement of learners, equip your e-learning material with these instructional design principles and watch them go to work.

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