Digital Learning Design vs Instructional Design: The difference and meaning

07 March

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Digital Learning Design vs Instructional Design: The difference and meaning

As the world continues to embrace digital transformation and the use of technology in educational design, the terms ‘Digital Learning Design’ and ‘Instructional Design’ have become increasingly important and are often used interchangeably. However, it is important to understand the differences between the two.

Digital Learning Design is an approach to learning and development that focuses on creating an engaging online learning experience for learners. It incorporates an understanding of the fundamental principles of instructional design, but uses these in conjunction with modern technologies to create a more user-centred, interactive and immersive learning experience.

Instructional Design, on the other hand, pre-dates the digital era and has its foundation in the 1950s post-war environment where educationists and psychologists started to re-evaluate the way in which people learn. It is often viewed as a more traditional approach to learning and development with a focus on creating structured and well-designed learning materials and content. 

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What is Digital Learning Design?

As discussed Digital Learning Design has a focus on online learning experiences, but it is not restrictive and should also be seen as a broader approach to learning design that looks at the entirety of the learning experience from planning to delivery and assessment, and this learning may go outside of digital learning to include face-to-face training and blended learning.

With the growth of the hybrid workforce, learning has to adapt to serve multiple users in multiple locations. Accessibility also requires that learning be delivered in different ways to allow each user to learn in the way that suits them best. The challenge is to create an accessible user-centered learning experience that is a shared and consistent experience for users regardless of their location or learning preference, and this is why Digital Learning Design is so important.

Once a desired learning outcome is identified and defined the learning has to be developed and then delivered. The shared experience of the learners might combine live instructions with asynchronous preparation that can be done before a class, which could be in the form of video, microlearning or animation. This may be all online or blended with classroom training or mentorship.

The purpose of Digital Learning Design is to move from the identification of an initial learning need and develop a solution that delivers a consistent experience and outcome to all its users. 

Digital Learning Design is a comprehensive approach to creating digital learning experiences that starts from the initial concept and carries through to the assessment and evaluation of the learning experience. Digital Learning Design is also an iterative process, driven by data and feedback, which enables the learning experience to be constantly evolving.

How does Digital Learning Design differ from Instructional Design?

At its core, Digital Learning Design focuses on the design of digital learning environments, from the creative and aesthetic to the technical and functional. It also looks at the development of digital experiences that are engaging and meaningful for learners, including the use of multimedia, interactive elements, and other digital and web-based technologies.

In contrast, Instructional Design is a more traditional framework, which focuses on the development of learning content and instruction. It is concerned with the development of instructional materials and assessment tools that measure the effectiveness of instruction. Additionally, ID looks at how instruction can be optimised to meet individual learners’ needs, as well as how instructions can be presented and taught in a manner that is easy to understand.

Read more about Instructional Design – Here

As educational design becomes increasingly reliant on digital technologies, the two fields of Digital Learning Design and Instructional Design often intersect and overlap. While there are many similarities between the two, there are also key differences.

For example, Digital Learning Design often requires a greater degree of creativity and innovation, as well as knowledge of web technologies and emerging trends in digital media. 

In addition, Digital Learning Design also requires a greater understanding of user experience design and the principles of human-computer interaction. User Experience Design (UXD) is also an important part of  Digital Learning Design, this is the study of how people interact with digital systems. It looks at how people interact with a system, as well as how the system’s design influences those interactions. This knowledge is necessary for the successful design of digital learning experiences.

How Digital Learning Design impacts the digital learning and learning and development sector

In a digital-first world, companies need to ensure that they are developing their digital capabilities and keeping up with the latest trends in technology and educational design in order to remain competitive. This requires that companies train the people within their L&D department to be able to deliver engaging, interactive, and customised learning experiences for employees that will help employees acquire the necessary skills and knowledge to meet the company’s needs.

At the Digital Learning Institute, we understand the importance of digital learning design and its ability to help organisations create an effective learning experience for their employees. 

Digital Learning Design is a process of assessing the current state of the organisation’s digital capabilities and designing learning content. Learning Designers also understand the importance of creating content that is customised to meet the specific needs of the organisation, as well as the needs of the individual learner. This type of tailored learning experience helps to ensure that the course materials are effective and that the learners are engaging with the content in a meaningful way.

By training employees in Digital Learning Design companies can upskill their Learning and development departments and optimise their digital learning and development programs to ensure their employees are well-equipped to perform in the digital/remote space.

Instructional Design and the Digital Learning Institute

Instructional Design and Digital Learning Design are two distinct paths that students can pursue when it comes to exploring the world of learning. Both approaches are important when it comes to helping students reach their full potential.

Instructional design is a traditional approach to learning design that focuses on the core elements of a course. This approach is often used when creating content for a single topic or a series of topics. ID focuses on the structure and content of a course, as well as how the content is presented to learners.

Meanwhile, Digital Learning Design (DLD) is a more holistic approach to learning design. It takes into account the big picture of how a course or program is created and how it is experienced by the learner. It looks at how the content, media, and activities will create a unique learning experience. It also considers the user experience and how the learner will interact with the technology.

When it comes to deciding which approach to take, it’s important to remember that both have their benefits. People who want to focus solely on instruction/storyline can take the Instructional Design route, while those who want a more comprehensive learning experience can explore the Digital Learning Design route.

At the Digital Learning Institute, we offer both an Instructional Design Certificate and a Digital Learning Design Diploma. Our Instructional Design Certificate program focuses on the core elements of instructional design, as well as the principles of learning and instruction. It covers topics such as instructional design theory, writing for learners, and how to create engaging and effective courses.

At the Digital Learning Institute, we understand the importance of both approaches, and we strive to encompass both to provide our learners with the most up-to-date and comprehensive courses in educational design that are built on solid foundations of design theory.  Our courses are designed to equip learners with the knowledge and skills needed to design, develop, and evaluate digital learning experiences that are engaging, effective, and accessible.

Visit the DLI website to learn more about our Instructional Design Certificate and Digital Learning Design Diploma programs and find out which path is right for you. With the Digital Learning Institute, you can unlock your potential and become a leader in the world of learning design.

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