What is Instructional Design?

This is week 5 of 9x9x25 and this is only the third post here, so I am actively thinking about how to make up the gap. Today’s post will have something to do with planning and gaps, because the topic for today is instructional design, which is work that requires a lot of organizing.

A conversation that I often have with colleagues, not only in higher education institutions but also working on contract in industry, centres around the definition of instructional design. Just like the conversations that we have about hybrid and blended learning, instructional design seems to sit in a nebulous space for some where many are unsure what instructional design is and what the limits or boundaries are around instructional design. The results of a survey released a few days ago here, suggests that most inside educational institutions are unaware of what instructional designers do, where the instructional designers are, and if they can help with the particular idea/concept/problem you may be having with your curriculum or teaching and learning. The article suggests that awareness of who instructional designers are is key- the IDs need to be visible. The Instructional Design Interest Group posted a blog recently (which I cannot access sadly) entitled “Is Everyone an Instructional Designer” and the title suggests that what instructional designers do or do not do is important and varies depending on where you are working.

So here are some responsibilities  I have had as an instructional design consultant in the past at various colleges and universities in Ontario:

  • Review curriculum content to make sure it aligns to course learning outcomes.
  • Map course learning outcomes to program learning outcomes to ensure there is no repetition in courses.
  • Chunk curriculum content in preparation for module creation in e-learning authoring software to ensure accessibility and instructional goals are being met.
  • Low-level module edits (typos etc.) in e-learning authoring software.
  • Suggest design elements of assignments and content that would work best within e-learning authoring software or face-to-face curriculum delivery such as photos, charts, graphs, or other learning objects.
  • Act as a liaison between subject matter or content experts and the design team or faculty.
  • Guide subject matter experts to resources that can help with curriculum development

There are more things to be sure but these are the few that come to mind as being the most important to the work I have done in the past, and some of the work I am doing now. My past work was almost solely within online environments. Now most of my work is about face-to-face delivery but with some elements of curriculum as presented on LMSs.

The one thing that I always made clear to people when I would say I work in instructional design is that I do not know how to code. This often shocked some, especially those in industry, because there was an expectation that an instructional designer would know how to code. But depending on where you work, the coding part is done by other super amazingly talented people who make objects look amazing. I am there for the pedagogical standards and alignment, information access and comprehension, those kinds of things. So the big question is- what does instructional design mean to you? Is it an all encompassing term or something very specific?

Next week you will probably be getting a blog post on the top 20 do’s and don’ts of conference attendance as I will be away at a conference and I have a feeling I will be inspired.


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