3 Secrets to Successful Instructional Design

With so many variables in a learning project, can there truly be a secret to success?

Today’s beleaguered instructional designer should have a single goal in mind: success. Whenever a project seems derailed, or stale, or too complex, focusing on what matters and creating a sense of clarity among the team go a long way.

Always be focusing on outcomes.

The outcome of the learning project is not simply a beautiful course you just built and delivered. Your focus should instead be on the measurable results that the course provides.  As you are building the course, you should constantly be asking yourself if the content fits the context — will it help the learners learn and be able to do their jobs more effectively as a result of taking this course? All decisions related to content, graphics, timing, delivery methods, and assessment types should focus on the learning outcomes. This can drive project clarity and justify difficult or confusing decisions so everybody can win.

Communicate, communicate, communicate.

As we’ve referenced several times in this blog before, strong communication skills are paramount for a successful learning project. The instructional designer, in the role of project manager, must keep the entire team apprised of the project status. Solely relying on automated messages from the authoring tool or learning management system does not work. Conversely, the instructional designer must also know when to hold back from sending out messages in order to let subject matter experts and others do their best work.

Empathize.

When faced with learning design or even project management decisions, put yourself in the learner’s shoes. Ask yourself, ‘Would I want to be sitting here learning this?’ or ‘Is this even interesting? Since the learning project will be evaluated based not only on feedback but also on outcomes (i.e. did the employee actually do their job better because of what he or she learned from the course you built), the ability for the instructional designer to empathize with the learner is key. The blog for Australian learning consultancy The E-Learning Company advises, “By identifying these personal consequences, you will create a meaningful context for your e-learning and for every interaction within it.”

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