What is Instructional Design Software?

ins design software

If we can build slideshows in PowerPoint and record videos on YouTube, why do we need separate software to create training?

Clearly, such programs like Captivate and Articulate when used in conjunction with your LMS offer more than simply the opportunity to generate attractive, engaging lessons. You can also create quizzes and keep track of learners’ progress.

But what about before the training is even built? Shouldn’t an authoring tool help you in the process before you write Lesson 1? Clearly, learning and development teams need to ask why long before the content is produced. 

This maps well to an emerging trend: Learning Design Systems. Using an LDS, anyone can learn how to design quality training content – rapidly and at scale – that satisfies your learners, SMEs, the instructional design team, and the organization as a whole. 

Indeed, instructional design software should do just that:  focus on design.

Enter design thinking

But a focus on design should be more than creating a branding or style guide for the team. While it is important to develop strict guidelines so that all courses maintain the same look and feel, the strength of unifying aspects of learning initiatives should go beyond simply the user interface.

Instead, principles related to design thinking are increasingly finding their way into the L&D department. 

Design thinking is a process in which we focus on the user, challenge assumptions, and redefine problems. It’s a process used to identify alternative strategies and solutions that might not be instantly apparent through an initial level of understanding.

Design thinking is a way of thinking and working as well as a collection of hands-on methods. It is empathetic and iterative — two key traits needed in learning and development. It should not replace instructional design; rather, it can enhance traditional instructional design techniques, like ADDIE.


The approach consists of five phases or steps:

1. Empathize

2. Define

3. Ideate

4. Prototype

5. Test

The Empathize and Define stages are key to understanding the learner and defining the problem. Without this in-depth analysis, any prototypes or initial versions of a course will not make sense.

L&D teams should have a platform in place to capture this critical, initial information, gleaned from interviews, discussions, brainstorming sessions, and the like. This analysis is key to quality training development and needs to drive the later stages of the process.

The problem is that your authoring tools and LMS systems alone cannot accommodate these early stages of the learning design process.

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