Instructional Design: What Is It?

What is instructional design? Simply put, instructional design involves the development of instructional materials. Instructional design had its origin during WWII when soldiers had to be trained on specific information quickly. Success was found in breaking complex material down into specific bite-sized components or parts that were easily absorbed by the soldiers. This success was built upon and led to modern-day instructional design.

Today, eLearning is vast. There are a myriad of options available for training individuals. Those individuals can be in a corporate job, the military, a university – really, any organization where information must be shared and absorbed. So, why the need for instructional design today? Because instructional design ensures that knowledge is transferred successfully, and the retention of that knowledge can be measured.

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What Is Instructional Design?

What is instructional design, more specifically? It is the process by which instructional materials are created for specific audiences that takes into account how they learn and how they will best absorb knowledge. The science behind how the brain works is taken into account to ensure a successful learning experience.

There are many instructional design models to choose from based on your preference and instructional need. We will take a look at the more popular models and why they are preferred in practice today.

Instructional Design Models

The world of eLearning is huge, so when it comes to instructional design models, there are many out there. You’re probably asking, “Why is a model necessary?” An instructional design model helps you to articulate what you are creating, why you are creating it, and the steps necessary to complete the training. It also ensures all key learning components are included in the training course being developed.

Choosing an instructional design model comes down to what works best for you, your organization, and who you are training. Each model has its pros and cons. The following are 4 tried and true instructional design models used by many eLearning designers for planning and creating their training:


Addie stands for Analysis, Design, Develop, Implement and Evaluate. The Addie Model is very process-driven which allows for changes to your training course throughout the process.

In this model, analysis is conducted up front to determine why training is needed. Data is collected from learners and those requesting training. Training is then designed and developed based on the needs identified during analysis.

Once implemented, the training is evaluated to ensure it was well received and the information was retained by the learners (e.g., via survey or client feedback). This model has stood the test of time and is still one of the most popular instructional design models in practice.

Merrill’s Principles of Instruction (MPI)

MPI is based on the use of the key principles of learning including task-centered, integration, activation, application, and demonstration.

This model focuses on the fact that learning begins with real-world problems that the learners should be familiar with and can handle. MPI draws on learner’s existing knowledge (integration) as a platform to help them absorb and relate to new information.

The training course must demonstrate the new knowledge in a way that the learner can make it their own and apply it. Lastly, Merrill’s Principles of Instruction has to show how the new information can be used going forward.

Gagne’s Nine Events of Instructions.

Gagne’s Nine Events model is a favorite among instructional designers and is used often as it provides very specific steps to aid in the creation of many kinds of courses and learning situations.

    1. Gain attention of the audience. Engage the learners early through new ideas or questions that really get them thinking.
    2. Inform Ensure the audience knows what is expected as a result of the training and how achievement will be measured.
    3. Stimulate recall of existing knowledge so that new information can be built upon it.
    4. Present content in a way that is consistent and bite sized.
    5. Provide guidance to the learner by offering supplement information such as case studies and examples.
    6. Elicit performance in such a way that tests what is retained either by survey or quiz.
    7. Provide feedback immediately to ensure knowledge is reinforced.
    8. Assess performance by testing knowledge.
    9. Enhance retention and ensure application via a myriad of retention strategies (e.g., job aids and summarizing).

Bloom’s Taxonomy

Bloom’s Taxonomy model (see below) is designed to move learners from the bottom of the pyramid to the top. The learner should go from receiving information or knowledge to being able to make it their own, expanding it, and using it to create.

Bloom’s Taxonomy

Instructional Design Jobs

For instructional design jobs opportunities, you can visit LinkedIn or Indeed and do a keyword search for “instructional design jobs.” You will find a list of jobs at a myriad of companies, including credit card companies and universities.

Many organizations offer remote instructional design jobs, as much of your work is done on your own time at your computer anyway. Many people move into instructional design jobs as a part of a career change. Instructional design jobs require you to have excellent communication skills to work with internal and/or external clients to identify the need for training and ensure the end-result fulfills expectations.

Instructional design jobs also require excellent project management skills that are often obtained over time through other career experience. Moving from design to deployment of any kind of training is a project in and of itself, and strong project management skills are necessary for success.

Instructional Design – A new skill or a new career?

Instructional design is a skill that can be learned and is valuable to any organization that relies on getting information to employees, students, or any learner. Being able to understand what information to convey, how to best convey it, and how to ensure retention of the information is key to instructional design.

Understanding instructional design and how to create eLearning tools via a replicable model will serve you well in your career. Being able to convey new information that must be disseminated to a broad audience is a valuable skill set. Instructional design is also a good career option if you love the process of identifying how to best share information that will be retained and used by others. We trust this was helpful in creating an understanding of instructional design for you.


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Filed Under: Consulting skills, Corporate Training, Leadership & Management