What all corporates need to know about Instructional Design

What all corporates need to know about Instructional Design

It’s no news that modern businesses are choosing e-learning over traditional training and, in the process, may be losing touch with the learning models traditionally guided by a training professional. Enter the Instructional Designer (ID). An Instructional Designer ensures that online learning is seamless for employees, and that knowledge is acquired in digital ways, without an instructor.

The basics of Instructional Design

eLearning has come a long way since uploading lengthy PDFs and boring talking head videos, and it’s now up to Instructional Designers to develop online courses that not only facilitate effective knowledge transfer, but are fun and engaging, and can be rolled out at the speed the business requires.

Michael Gullan, CEO of G&G Advocacy, a specialist e-learning solutions provider that designs and implements bespoke e-learning solutions for South African and international corporates, suggests that increased learner engagement and reduced dropout rates should be every experienced Instructional Designer’s mantra. To achieve this, he suggests that e-learning courses are grounded in excellent Instructional Design that achieves the organisation’s learning objectives and meets the needs of adult learners.

Gullan distils the basic best practices, dos and don’ts, and technical standards to ensure your e-learning transforms your workforce into a force for good.

Why do corporates want their employees to learn?

Putting aside the competitive benefits of a highly trained, skilled, and synchronised team, employees want their people to learn for the following reasons.

  1. To acquire knowledge so they can work better, together.
  2. To develop new and enhanced skills, expertise, and the ability to enhance their performance.
  3. To improve attitude and to nurture better ways of behaving and responding to situations in the workplace.
  4. To keep your star performers engaged, while nurturing others that show great potential.

Five elements of successful e-learning

Gullan suggests that all effective e-learning should contain the following elements to be successful and to achieve your organisational goals.

  1. Drive. A strong drive that motives employees to want to learn and improve.
  2. Stimulus and cues. All employees will do as the e-learning content suggests. Good, well-considered and structured content is key.
  3. Response. This is required of the employees in the presence of an effective stimulus.
  4. Reinforcement. Will make the employee want to learn more and continue with the learning material.
  5. Rewards. Increase motivation and ensure learning beyond the learning programme.

Adults learn differently

The science and art of helping adults learn is unique and all effective Instructional Design should include the following insights.

  1. Adults need to know why they should learn something – provide learning objectives that tell them why they “need to know”. Inform them of the benefits of learning.
  2. Adults have a deep need to be self-directing – give them the freedom to navigate freely through the course without any restrictions and involve them in the learning process.
  3. Adults become ready to learn when they experience a need to be able to do something more effectively – inform them how the course will help them do their jobs better and enhance their career.
  4. Adults enter a learning experience with a problem-centered orientation – design courses that’ll help them solve tasks and problems or improve skills.
  5. Adults are motivated to learn by both extrinsic and intrinsic motivators ­– motivate them through scores, points, badges, or certificates.
  6. Adults are time-sliced and learn better using microlearning such as those delivered in Content CapsulesTM.
  7. Adults have different learning styles or preferences. Some are visual, auditory, or kinaesthetic, which should be considered when designing an e-learning course. Here are some guidelines:

Auditory Visual Kinaesthetic



Graphs and infographics

Engaging images



Hands-on activities




Play to the learning cycle

Learning always happens in phases and should be the foundation of your Instructional Design:

  1. Review (Why)

Tell your employees why they need to learn and set the context to help the learner bridge prior and new knowledge.

  1. Learn (What)

Present the learning content, concepts, procedures, processes, principles in engaging and interactive ways.

  1. Adaptation (How)

Provide opportunities to apply the newly acquired knowledge and skills so they learn.

  1. Application (Now what?)

Explain how to apply their new knowledge in the workplace.

  1. Integration (What next?)

Finally, application is not the end of the road. After the adaptation of newly acquired skills, more reasons for further development will emerge and the circle of learning starts again.

Use your Instructional Design to increase learner engagement and reduce dropout rates using the essential tools of e-learning, overlay with the way adults learn and with an understanding of the learning cycle. Gullan also suggests a robust e-learning platform designed specifically for your organisation and learning needs and that caters to different tiers of learners within your organisation is paramount. “No one-size-fits-all, off-the-shelf LMS software will achieve even the basics of effective Instructional Design. Your learning solution needs to deliver fun and engaging content, track user’s behaviour and completion rates, stoke their fires of excitement, keep them learning to the end, and assist them in taking their learnings out into the workplace and ultimately turns learning into your most valuable asset.”

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