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7 point checklist for Instructional Designers

Learning Pool's Deborah Limb highlights seven adult learning principles that Instructional Designers use in e-learning creation.

Judith Christian-Carter’s Mastering Instructional Design in Technology Based Training is a really practical starting point for any instructional designer.  The book includes a list of ‘adult learning principles’ that makes a great checklist for reviewing quality for instructional designers.

1.  Make the learning problem-centred

Most adults are motivated to learn when the training content is designed to address a problem, such as something they need to do better in the workplace, or when something new is going to be introduced that they have to get to grips with. If people can see the relevance of what they are doing they are more likely to learn effectively.

2.  Ensure the learning has immediate application

It is important that the content can be seen to have immediate application. Some learning, such as gaining a qualification can be regarded as having a high degree of deferred gratification attached to it, however work-based training needs to be far more ‘right here, right now’. If the content does not appear to have any immediate application, people can become bored, frustrated or disillusioned.

3.  Build on previous experience

One of the main differences between children and adults is that the latter bring with them a considerable amount of experience. Even when something completely new needs to be learned it is short sighted to treat the recipients as ‘empty vessels’.  By building on what people know and can already do, you as an instructional designer will help them feel valued and able to internalise their learning more easily.

4.  Follow whole-part-whole learning protocol

This is to do with how people build up important concepts and an overall picture or schema of a particular subject or area of content. Although not all people are the same, most people benefit from being presented with a complete picture, then moving to some detail in relation to a part of it, back to the whole picture again, and so on. The extent to which the subject itself should be broken down into component parts and the number of parts required depends on the nature of the content, its conceptual structure and its level of complexity.

5.  Provide clear instructions

Design learning with clear instructions are very important so that every learner knows what they are expected to do and when.

6.  Give feedback

Imagine for one moment what it would feel like to complete a training programme where you received no feedback.  Wouldn’t you hate it? Most of us want, indeed demand, some form of feedback to know how well we are doing, and to know in what ways we need to improve.  Build feedback into your learning design.

7.  Provide different learning paths

This is not about learning styles. It is about instructional designers providing people with some choice and, where appropriate, different opportunities by means of which they can undertake their learning. This can start with letting people choose their own route through the programme to providing different forms of additional support where needed. This isn’t the complete list, just my favourite bits.

A sound starting point for instructional design

Christian-Carter’s learning design principles is not exhaustive but it covers the fundamentals of instructional design.  It’s a useful guide for any would-be learning designer.  What instructional design checklists do you use?  Please share!

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