What is instructional design?

Margaret Schulte and I explain instructional design in our new e-book “How to Design for Action.” We define the term in the introduction, which I share here. Since publishing the book, I turned those dress shirts into an awesome tote bag. Maybe time to re-sort the bins!

My university-age daughter needed bins to transport her stuff back to college. We discovered four such bins under my sewing counter and emptied them onto the floor. The result was a pile of textiles ranging from fleece to cottons and silks to white sequin left over from a sweet mermaid costume. There was some fake fur, faux alligator, and a hot pink flamingo costume. And let’s not forget the men’s dress shirts with ink-stained pockets, great for oven mitts!

What a mess. As soon as I got my bins back, I organized the fabrics by type: plain cottons, patterned fabric, fleece, and old dress shirts. I knew what I intended to sew in the next year, and I made sure these bins gave me easy access to what I would need. What about the flamingo, sequins, and alligator? Those were put away in a drawer for now. 

You have a lot of material too, or at least the experts you work with do. You can do the equivalent of dumping it all onto the floor in front of your people and see if they can make sense of it. You can make them find the useful nuggets among cool but impractical material. Or you can carefully chunk knowledge and skills into useful categories and give your people the tools they’ll need to turn it into something relevant to them. You can do the work, so they don’t have to.

Instructional design is the process of creating experiences and tools that allow people to learn the knowledge and skills they need to do something differently.

There are many models for instructional design. We don’t pretend to be an authority on them. What we are sharing is our action-focused model for instructional design. It is based on careers teaching and delivering learning programs, designing information, and the creation of a whole range of nonprofit learning tools and experiences over the past seven years (see www.wanonprofitinstitute.org for examples).

It works for us. We hope it will work for you too.

Nancy Bacon and Margaret Schulte work together to information into learning experiences that lead people to take action. To learn more about the Aim for Action model, visit aim4action.com. Ask us how we can help you with your next project.

Published by Nancy

I work at the intersection of learning, nonprofits, and leadership. I am a teacher, instructional designer, and nonprofit person who has worn every hat possible. I regular write, speak, and consult on learning strategy, design, and leadership.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: