How Are Instructional Design and Technology Connected?

14 March

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How Are Instructional Design and Technology Connected?

Digital learning, eLearning, instructional design and learning technology are all buzzwords that are often heard swirling around higher education and corporate learning and development spaces. But what exactly is the connection between instructional design, digital learning and learning technology? 

In this article, you’ll discover what instructional design is and how leveraging learning technology and developing your own technical skills can help you become a better instructional designer.

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Instructional design and learning technology

Instructional design is the systematic approach to the creation of learning experiences. It encompasses the ideation, development, implementation and evaluation of learning experiences in a wide range of learning environments. These include primary and secondary schools, higher education, public sector and corporate learning and development. 

Although instructional course design refers to the creation of both digital and physical learning experiences, over the past few decades, it has increasingly relied more on technical systems. Largely due to technological advancements and innovation, learning technologies have become widely available, and can provide myriad benefits for learners, organisations and course instructors alike. 

Because of the intersection between instructional design and learning technology, it is vital that both aspiring and experienced instructional designers have technical acumen and a willingness to continuously develop their skills. These technical skills will ensure that they can perform the day-to-day responsibilities of their role and create high-impact learning experiences.

Since technology plays a role in nearly every aspect of instructional course design – from analysis to evaluation, technical skills are a must for instructional designers. For example, when instructional designers are analysing the learning needs prior to course development, they may use teleconferencing software to hold virtual meetings with various stakeholders.

During the design, development and implementation stages, they will use a range of software to create the course and make it available to learners. As evaluating course performance is also a vital component of instructional course design, technology is instrumental in helping instructional designers collect valuable qualitative and quantitative data.

What are instructional designers?

Now that you can answer the question of what is instructional design and have developed an understanding of how the field intersects with technology, we’ll dive into the role of an instructional designer. This way, you’ll be able to better determine if a career as an instructional designer is right for you.

In the previous section, we answered the question of what is instructional design. And just to recap, instructional design is the systematic approach to the creation of learning experiences. And an instructional designer applies this systematic approach through use of instructional design theories, frameworks and methodologies. Although instructional designers do work in a range of environments and with varying types of tools, the role typically involves a similar set of responsibilities and tasks.

As instructional designers create end-to-end learning experiences, they often use development models, such as ADDIE to work in a methodological and efficient manner. The ADDIE model involves analysing training needs, designing and developing the learning experience, implementing the experience and finally, evaluating the effectiveness. 

In addition to ADDIE, instructional designers also draw on design frameworks and behavioural and learning theories. A commonly used design framework is shortened as CRAP, which is an acronym that stands for contrast, repetition, alignment and proximity, and is a method to ensure courses are visually appealing.

Some examples of learning theories that instructional designers rely on in their day-to-day work are Bloom’s Taxonomy Of Learning Objectives, Merrill’s Principles Of Instruction and Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction. When integrating instructional design and technology, it’s vital to have an understanding of how the brain learns in order to design courses that achieve the desired learning outcomes.

How instructional design integrates with technology

Although technology enhanced learning is far from a novice concept, the use of learning technologies skyrocketed during the pandemic. And because of the benefits that come along with distance learning, (also known as eLearning, digital learning or online learning), the widespread use didn’t dissipate once the social distancing measures were lifted.

Whether applied to learning in schools, higher education or corporate learning and development, learning technologies, or education technologies, can be highly advantageous. Rather than simply an ersatz for traditional instruction, technology enhanced learning and digital learning comes with various benefits for engagement, accessibility and retention. 

However, it’s important to be mindful about the intended purpose of incorporating technology into your educational design and make sure to align their use with the desired learning outcomes. For example, if you are seeking to benefit from social learning, an online discussion board or virtual classroom breakout rooms could support this aim. 

Levering learning technology in your educational design can also help increase the level of engagement and stimulation in your training. Basic tools, such as digital quizzes or games can be enjoyable – and effective – activities for learners. However, many instructional designers avail of more advanced immersive technologies as well, such as augmented reality and virtual reality.

What is the best technology and tools for instructional design course development?

When it comes to choosing the best technology and tools for course development, there are various factors that must be considered. Learner types, subject matter, budget and sector are all aspects that influence which tools are best suited for a particular course. However, there are some standard types of learning and education technology that many instructional designers will keep in their toolkit.

One key type of education technology for instructional designers is a course authoring tool, which can be thought of as the equivalent of a canvas for an artist. However, within a course authoring tool, instructional designers are not working with a blank slate. These tools typically include a range of built-in functionalities and templates to help guide the creation of a course or training from the ground up. Some examples of common course authoring tools include Articulate, Elucidat, Adobe Captivate and iSpring Suite. 

After developing a course, instructional designers need a digital space to house the course, which enables learners to have access. And this is where a learning platform tool comes in. A learning platform, such as a learning management system (LMS), course management system (CMS) or learning experience platform (LXP), is a further type of tool that is instrumental for instructional designers. Examples of learning platforms include 360Learning, Learn Amp and Udemy Business.

In addition to a course authoring tool and learning platform, instructional designers typically have a plethora of other tool types in their arsenal. These include graphic design tools, video editing tools, and document sharing or storage tools. As instructional designers gain more experience, they often naturally discover which types of tools are most effective for themselves and their learners.

Implementing instructional design and learning technology

The workplace is in the midst of a digital transformation that is leaving no role, team, field or sector untouched. And since this shift towards digital ways of working includes employee learning and development teams, instructional designers must stay abreast of the latest technology to keep their skills relevant.

Let’s take the role of a learning and development specialist as an example to elucidate the vital connection between instructional design and learning technology. As learning and development specialists are frequently responsible for designing, developing and implementing digital courses and training, they require skills and experience in both instructional design and learning technology to perform their role.

There are various reasons why corporate learning and development teams are increasingly levering the power of learning technology. However, some of the main reasons are around cost and scaling. When learning and development specialists create digital courses, they are often able to reach more employees than a standard in-person training would have the capability to accommodate.

Therefore by acquiring skills and knowledge in both instructional design and learning technology, you’ll be able to add more value to your current or future role. And you’ll also be able to create more effective, engaging, accessible and cost-effective learning experiences.

Find some of the best instructional design software tools and resources: Here

How do you become an instructional designer?

Now that you’ve learned all about the importance of learning technology in instructional design, you may be wondering how to become an instructional designer. And while there isn’t one singular entryway to this career, a good place to start is by acquiring instructional design skills. 

Since instructional design is an interdisciplinary field, the skill set of an instructional designer is typically multifaceted. You’ll be required to have some design skills, tool proficiencies, interpersonal skills and also knowledge of learning theories.

To land your first job as an instructional designer, you don’t need to be an expert in the field. Most employers will look for a basic foundation of instructional design skills and an attitude that demonstrates you’re a lifelong learner and committed to continuous professional development.  

One of the most effective ways to demonstrate to employers that you have acquired a foundation of instructional design skills is through completing a course, such as the Professional Diploma in Digital Learning Design. Since the course is accredited, prospective employers are able to instantly recognise the quality of the course and value of your skill set.

Instructional design is a dynamic and in-demand career path that is befitting for career starters and career changers alike. If you’re ready to accelerate your career in a field that involves working with innovative technologies and helping others learn, we can help you get there. Reach out to discover how a Professional Diploma in Digital Learning Design can give you the technical skills you need to boost your career in instructional design.

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