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What Is Instructional Design and How Does It Benefit Corporate Learning?

You’re not alone if you don’t know what instructional design is. I’m an instructional designer, and there was a time when I didn’t even know what it was. It’s not like a teacher, police officer, or firefighter, which everyone knows, and kids want to be. Well, maybe everything but a teacher.

Could you imagine if I went into my kid’s classroom and said I was an instructional designer? I bet there’d be a lot of puzzled faces.

That’s understandable, which is why you’re here, so don’t feel alone. I found out what it was around 2007 when my college web design instructor mentioned that his degree was in instructional design.

Cool! You learn something new every day. I didn’t know it was going to become my career someday.

Instructional design is the process of designing instruction. Of course, that’s a simplified definition because, at its root, instructional design is very complex and based on science.

So, let’s take a deeper look at what instructional design is.

What is Instructional Design?

Instructional design is so broad that it’s impossible to sum it up simply by saying it’s the process of designing instruction. In this section, I’ll focus on some broad ways instructional design influences learning. The rest of this article will focus on instructional design in corporate learning.

Instructional design is the process of creating effective learning experiences.

Instructional design is the formal process behind creating content that helps people learn. Those people could be any one of the following or more.

  • Kids at school using books, guides, courses, learning aids, etc.
  • Students in college using courses, doing activities, etc.
  • Adults learning a trade who might take a course or go through in-person training.
  • Adults, once they’re in the workplace, learn things in lots of different ways, including coaching, courses, training sessions, etc.
  • Adults learning to navigate something complex in their life, such as retirement, choosing healthcare, etc.

From a creation to delivery point of view, here’s how it breaks down in the educational world compared to the workplace.

Instructional designers create the content that teachers use to teach in schools. In the workplace, instructional designers create the content trainers use to train employees.

In both places, instructional design also means creating content that students or employees consume directly without a teacher or trainer delivering that content. That could be job aids, eLearning courses, quick reference guides, books, etc.

There’s a big difference between creating instructional material for children, college adults, and workplace adults. There are generalists and specialists in instructional design, too, since it can cover many industries and types of instruction.

But everyone creates instruction, right? Isn’t YouTube and TikTok full of it?

Yes. Someone who knows a lot about a subject can technically design instruction, and often they do. That’s perfectly fine, but instructional designers are trained in a way that makes it more effective and valuable to their audience than simply throwing together information on a topic you know.

Everyone can create instruction but not everyone can create good instruction. It takes mad skills.

That’s why an instructional designer needs to use a proven process. If they don’t, it essentially becomes a subject matter expert (SME) throwing together what they know, except the instructional designer does the throwing together part.

The focus on instructional design is effective and valuable. If the instruction isn’t effective, it’s useless. Also, it’s futile if it doesn’t have value to students or employees.

Instructional designers can also create a comprehensive curriculum combining information from multiple SMEs to onboard employees or teach a complex topic beyond the scope of any single person.

Every role in an organization is unique, and creating learning paths is another job that instructional designers excel at.

You shouldn’t find an instructional designer who compiles something from the SME. The job involves analyzing the audience’s learning needs, creating performance objectives, selecting and/or creating appropriate materials, and evaluating the training’s efficacy.

When implemented correctly, instructional design helps organizations optimize their training programs, empower employees to perform their jobs better and advance their careers.

Benefits of Instructional Design for Corporate Learning

Instructional design has many advantages in corporate learning, especially when organizations face tight budgets and limited training time. With scale, instructional designers can save an organization thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

By having a cohesive instructional path for new hires, instructional design reduces employee turnover and helps employees develop in their roles. Great things happen when employees feel invested in, cared for, and like they matter in an organization, and the company makes more money.

We told a story about an employee with little to no training and what happens in their journey. With good training and instructional design behind that training, organizations save money, employees’ time, and more.

Instructional designers can raise everyone’s performance level closer to the top performer.

Subject matter experts know how to do their job, but they know it too well. Instructional designers benefit organizations because they can take the expertise of an SME on a topic and create learning content that effectively helps all employees achieve performance closer to that top-performing subject matter expert.

Now, instead of one person having the knowledge and performing top-notch, everyone can effectively share that expertise, and the organization will perform better.

Instructional designers help analyze the needs of employees and create objectives tailored to these needs. That means employees receive instruction tailored to their needs, helping them reach their full potential.

Ultimately, instructional design saves an organization money by helping create cost-effective, efficient, and effective instructional materials. That’s why you see large companies with entire departments dedicated to training, which likely contain many instructional designers. They have reached the point where they can invest in things that help them make more money and perform better.

It’s kind of a critical mass for training.

One of our primary purposes and goals is to bring quality instructional designer consultants and instructional material to companies that don’t have the resources to hire instructional designers. Or they may need to scale their resources faster.

We want to bring the power of instructional design to organizations that don’t have the resources or need to scale faster.

We know the benefits of instructional design and want to make them available to all organizations, regardless of size.

By creating instructional and training materials that are effective and efficient, organizations save on training costs and ensure employees are engaged and motivated not only to learn but to perform better in their jobs.

One last benefit that instructional designers bring to corporate learning. They ensure training is of high quality and is aligned with the organization’s goals. If training doesn’t align with the organization, it becomes a burden, not a benefit.

How Instructional Design Makes Corporate Learning More Effective

Business is all about making an effective plan and executing it successfully. It does, however, require planning and a good strategy.

Instructional design is the same way.

By using all the knowledge, techniques, and skills in their toolbox, instructional designers create a strategy that contributes to the organization’s overall strategy.

There needs to be business alignment from the people who do the work up to the CEO. Instructional designers know this and work towards that alignment on every project. That means they connect what employees need to do in training to the business goals.

The techstructional training goal flow from business goal to training goal.

In this diagram, the flow goes downward from the business goals to the department goals (IT in this example) to the project goals, which instructional design connects to the training goals.

When instructional design is done right, training goes from an ineffective time suck to an effective and efficient use of time. That means with the right plan, training can be more cost-effective and efficient.

Imagine all of this, AND it aligns with the organization’s goals to move them forward!

Instructional designers always look for ways to make training more relevant to employees. That could be through scenario-based learning, interactions, or just gold ol’ storytellin’.

Here are some methods instructional design has to make corporate learning more effective.

  • Needs Analysis: training can’t be effective without knowing your audience.
  • Goal Alignment: If training isn’t 100% aligned with the department and organization’s goals, it may as well not exist.
  • Scenarios: a realistic scenario that employees can connect with is extremely valuable for learning a job.
  • Evaluation: Delivering training and expecting it to work the first time is impossible. It’s more helpful to regularly evaluate and iterate to improve. That means combining instructional design with an agile process could be beneficial.

All the strategies instructional designers have help employees perform better at their jobs, and performance is what it’s all about, after all.

Common Tools and Techniques Used in Instructional Design

Beyond the strategies, skills, and so on, instructional designers have many tools to improve training. Of course, the success is never in the tools, but they’re still essential for making training come to life.

Just like tools can’t make a project successful, they also can’t hurt a project. Only the instructional designer can do that.

And nope, PowerPoint isn’t going to get nailed for being a horrible tool. It’s a tool like anything else and can be used as effectively or poorly as any other tool.

Here are some tools that instructional designers and eLearning developers commonly use when designing instruction.

  • Microsoft Word
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Articulate Rise
  • Articulate Storyline
  • Adobe Captivate
  • TechSmith Camtasia
  • TechSmith Snagit
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Canva
  • Adobe Character Animator
  • Adobe After Effects
  • Adobe Premier Pro
  • Adobe Audition
  • 7taps
  • iSpring Suite
  • DominKnow
  • Lectora

The list could go on into eternity. For every instructional designer and every project, there’s a unique set of tools that can be used. It all comes down to creating video, audio, images, simulations, animations, and more.

I must reemphasize that successful projects don’t result from the tool. They result from various skills and knowledge, such as problem-solving, cognitive load theory, successful scaffolding, spaced learning, etc.

When designing training, one must be aware of and account for endless learning theories. These could include Richard Mayer’s Multimedia Learning, Gagné’s Nine Events of Instruction, or any of the various ways of evaluating training, including the LTEM model (learning-transfer evaluation model).

All the endless techniques and research help instructional designers create instructional materials that are effective, efficient, relevant, and engaging.

The Role of Technology in Instructional Design

Technology plays a vital role in instructional design, especially with more employees working remotely or being geographically distributed. To create and deliver instructional materials, instructional designers use authoring tools, virtual classrooms, learning management systems, and mobile learning platforms.

These technologies help instructional designers create training that can be delivered in a way that best suits each project. Part of instructional design is ensuring that the right technology is used for the training needed so that it is engaging, effective, and efficient.

Then there’s also the technology that enables data analysis and artificial intelligence that can be used to analyze training effectiveness. Technology plays an essential role in the success of instructional design.

Wrap Up

Now you know instructional design in depth. I also covered its benefits for corporate learning, how it makes the magic happen, common tools and techniques, and the role of technology.

That’s a lot of information about something you previously knew nothing (or little) about.

Instructional design is essential for organizations to work more efficiently and be more successful. It provides endless advantages. Instructional design is vital to connecting what employees learn and do to business goals.

With all the complexities of instructional design, it still always boils down to creating instruction and training materials that are cost-effective, efficient, and effective. Oh, and it should all tie back to business needs and goals.

It’s all about improving the work environment, helping employees do their jobs better, and, ultimately, helping organizations perform better.

If you want to help your employees perform better at their jobs, we’re here to help. Schedule a free consultation, and we can discuss how professional instruction designers can help your next project succeed with better-trained employees.

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