Page Updated on July 13, 2023

Instructional design tips

What Is Instructional Design?

Instructional design is the systematic process of developing effective and engaging courseware.

It involves:

  • analyzing learner needs
  • developing content and activities to meet those needs
  • and evaluating the effectiveness of the training.

Instructional designers are tasked with designing learning programs that address specific learning objectives in order to achieve desired outcomes. Overall, the purpose is to create a structured approach for delivering instruction that meets all stakeholders’ needs, these stakeholders including:

  • learners
  • instructors
  • administrators
  • and employers.

After the process of determining what should be taught, instructional designers then use their expertise in pedagogy (the science of teaching), technology, media development, analysis, evaluation, and assessment strategies, among other skill sets, to develop effective instructional materials and activities.

Why Is Instructional Design Important?

Instructional design is important because it helps to ensure that educational content is both engaging and accurate.

The goal of instructional design is not only to create a learning experience that meets the needs of learners but also to create an environment where learners can be successful in achieving their desired outcomes.

By utilizing proven instructional design principles, educators are better equipped to create a learning environment that will foster learners’ success and ensure that the educational content they provide is both accurate and effective.

10 Tips and Examples for Good Instructional Design

Using the PowerPoint teaching notes pane
>> Example from the Body Language teaching materials

1. Ensure that the Aims and Objectives Are Clear

Aims and objectives are important in instructional design because they provide the basis for all subsequent decisions about the design of the materials.

In other words, the aims and objectives set forth what is to be taught, how it will be taught, and how learning outcomes will be measured.

Well-defined aims and objectives also help to ensure that training activities are aligned with organizational goals, thus making them more meaningful to learners.

Furthermore, as an instructional designer, these aims and objectives provide a clear structure and focus, i.e. a framework.

2. Consider the Format of Learning Materials

Will the materials be in video or audio form, written documents, PowerPoint slides, physical materials, or a combination?

Think through the type of materials that will make the most impact and be the most engaging for your learners, for the specific audience that the training is aimed at.

When we design materials for employee training, we include:

  • PowerPoint Slidedeck
  • Teaching and student notes in MS Word and PDF format
  • We produce them in digital format but you can print them for the participants
  • Information on how to teach the training online

Also, keep in mind that different people learn from different media.

In other words, some people learn best by:

  • seeing things visually (hence why PowerPoint can work well)
  • verbally being taught (the PowerPoint teacher notes on the bottom of the PowerPoint slides come in handy here as the trainer)
  • collaboration and involvement, hence for some learners training activities are great
Training materials formats

3. Design Activities that Encourage Collaboration Among Learners

Building on from the previous point regards how we all learn differently, it is worth including activities that encourage collaboration between the participants.

Learning is more effective when it occurs in a social context and if learners are able to share ideas with each other and work together on projects.

Incorporate discussion forums or group activities that will encourage collaboration between learners.

Interacting with their peers in a group learning environment can also be a great way for many participants to be active and find the training enjoyable.

4. Try and Make Content Evergreen

If the content is out of date, participants can begin to wonder how relevant the rest of what you are teaching is. In other words, out-of-date content can start to lose you credibility.

One of the best ways to overcome this issue is to try and design evergreen content, meaning content that is never out of date.

A way to achieve this is to use generic examples, i.e., do not refer to an event that will happen in 2 months’ time and have this printed on the training materials.

If you often re-use the materials, keep your course materials current and ensure that they reflect any changes in the industry you are teaching about.

This will help keep learners engaged and make sure they’re getting the most relevant information possible.

5. Make Sure Your Learning Materials Are Visually Appealing

Color match ideas
Color mix ideas from Color Hunt

Choose colors and fonts that are easy to read and use high-quality images and videos that enhance the learning experience.

Also, choose colors that complement each other, i.e. use a color palette for color ideas.

6. Incorporate Multimedia Elements Whenever Possible

Visuals in particular can help capture attention and make learning more interesting for students.

Integrate multimedia elements whenever possible. Multimedia elements such as audio clips, animations, simulations, and videos can help learners better understand materials by using different formats of communication.

You can also make use of smartphones and give participants the chance to be more involved by creating a classroom response system, meaning that the students can be involved in interactive lessons such as via voting in live polls.

You can, for example, use smartphones to aid learning to make it more fun for learners. Making use of different interactive activities throughout the course such as by including simulations, games, or case studies that allow learners to interact with the material and apply what they’ve learned, is often well received.

7. Standardize Your Design

If you are designing a range of materials, make sure to establish a set of standards and guidelines for the course materials.

This includes everything from how to structure activities to writing style and formatting rules.

Having standards in place will help ensure that all the materials you create are consistent with each other.

8. Use Storytelling Techniques in Your Instruction Design

A well-crafted story can effectively communicate complex ideas and make learning fun and engaging for students.

Try incorporating stories into your courses, such as case studies or role-playing scenarios, to encourage learning through real-world examples.

One thing to note though. Do think about who your audience is and tailor the stories such that the audience will be able to relate to the stories.

Adults often bring different experiences and knowledge levels into the classroom, so keep this in mind when designing instruction.

9. Include Practice Activities

Learners learn best when they are able to practice a skill and receive feedback on their performance.

Try incorporating activities such as quizzes, simulations, or case studies that allow learners to interact with the material and apply what they’ve learned.

10. Consider the Needs of All Learners

Instructional materials should be designed as best as possible in a way that is accessible to people with disabilities, such as fonts that are possible to read and color schemes that make it easier to view.

Furthermore, keep cultural sensitivity in mind and create materials that avoid stereotypes and that respect diversity

>> See example downloadable course materials
Dr Valeria (Lo Iacono) Symonds
Latest posts by Dr Valeria (Lo Iacono) Symonds (see all)