What is Instructional Design?

The foundation for instructional design was laid during World War II when hundreds of thousands needed to be taught very specific tasks in a short amount of time. Individual aspects of these complex tasks were broken down, so soldiers could better understand and comprehend each step of the process. This approach was later taken and built upon leading to the development of instructional design, a field of study that marries education, psychology and communications to create the most effective teaching plans for specific groups of students. This is vital because it ensures that students receive instructions in a form that is effective and meaningful to them, helping them better understand the topics and concepts being taught.

Simply put, instructional design is the creation of instructional materials. Though, this field goes beyond simply creating teaching materials, it carefully considers how students learn and what materials and methods will most effectively help individuals achieve their academic goals. The principles of instructional design consider how educational tools should be designed, created and delivered to any learning group, from grade school students to adult employees across all industry sectors.

A Master of Science in Education (MSEd) in Learning Design and Technology is one of the best qualifications for educators and administrators looking to specialize in instructional design. This degree program helps students design, implement and evaluate effective instructional materials for any type of learner, making the program appropriate for academics hoping to work in a range of settings. Students are encouraged to utilize their own work experience to create a relevant framework for the MSEd program.

Instructional Design in the Real World

Instructional designers create and deliver educational and training materials to learners from all walks of life in a variety of ways. They work with traditional paper materials, such as handouts and manuals, as well as eLearning technologies and multimedia. Their work can be seen in elementary and secondary schools to universities and adult training facilities. They're also found outside the academic sector in a range of industries including health care, retail and the military. Justin Ferriman, eLearning consultant, even goes as far as stating that, "Every company needs an instructional designer on their staff."

For the corporate sector, instructional design plays an integral role that many don’t often see. When new training programs are introduced within companies, instructional designers are the ones that systematically collect, process and analysis data, determining if employees were properly educated on the new topics introduced. If an area of the training doesn’t meet the previously set standards, then it’s an instructional designer’s duty to revamp the course to help make sure that learners are able to understand the topics down the road. This process helps ensure that companies are working efficiently and using their resources wisely.

Instructional designers often work as part of a team, but their importance can't be overestimated. Consider an eLearning course for example. An instructional designer will play a part in developing this course, along with a multimedia designer, eLearning developer and a quality assurance employee. Despite being one of many involved, studies suggest the instructional designer will be responsible for 30 to 40 percent of the project's success.

The usefulness of instructional designers across a range of industries ensures they are in high demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 20 percent job growth within the field by 2020.

The Benefits of Instructional Design

Instructional design is cost effective, given that it ensures students learn efficiently by creating high quality learning materials that take into account the strengths and weaknesses of students. These materials are also focused and customized to address the specific needs of educators. These experts also safeguard against training materials being created for business problems, which are better served with non-training solutions.

Above all, instructional design yields results. Those in this field create lesson plans intended to engage students, so they're more likely to achieve their goals. Evaluation is a key final phase of instructional design implementation, so instructors can ensure that the learning sessions have been effective in meeting preset objectives.

Take the next step and better your career and the learning experiences of others with an online Master of Science in Education in Learning Design and Technology from Purdue University. Purdue is acclaimed around the world for its scholarly excellence, and its online programs offer flexibility to help meet the demands of the working professional.