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Creating Cohesive Learning Experiences

This was originally published on on February 7, 2017.

3 Modern Instruction Design Skills You Need

Instructional Designers are trained in the latest cutting edge technologies and are adept at using creative techniques to build custom training solutions. They are known for their passion for learning, along with their writing, researching, and communication skills. They must also be effective project managers and flexible problem solvers. These instructional designer skills are necessary but will be insufficient unless they are applied with a “learner first” philosophy, which places the needs of the learner ahead of the presentation of the content in the eLearning course. Here are 3 modern Instructional Designer skills the experts use to focus on the needs of their learner:

1. Learner-Oriented Thinking

Learning from evaluations and mistakes is key to improving the design process and the overall experience for the learner.

This process requires the Instructional Designer to design with the learner in mind throughout the design process. Focusing on the learner’s needs, problems, expectations, and performance are more effective than focusing on the content of the course. Instructional designers who use learner-oriented thinking help learners solve performance issues and develop critical thinking skills and become problem solvers in their own environment.

Cammy Bean defines this type of thinking as “A process for problem-solving, which is the purpose of any design project…It’s about seeing the problem through a lens of empathy – the designer ultimately cares about the end-user and wants to create something useful and helpful and that really will solve that problem.”.

Learner-oriented thinking places emphasis on the needs of the learner and requires the designer to fully research the problem, collaborate with others about ideas and solutions, and then ask for feedback from real users after developing a prototype. Learning from evaluations and mistakes is key to improving the design process and the overall experience for the learner.

2.  Focus On Expected Outcomes

Designing with the expected outcomes in mind helps to meet the needs of the learner.

When designers focus on the expected outcomes of a given course, they design elearning courses to help learners achieve performance goal objectives. Too much emphasis on content in an eLearning course may overwhelm the learner and result in failure to achieve performance objectives.

Performance mapping or action mapping is a strategy that designers can use to focus on the needs of their learner and provide a targeted approach to the desired outcome of the eLearning experience. Nikos Andriotis explains that “action mapping is a visual approach to eLearning, which focuses on performance, not information. It’s all about what your learners need to do, not what they need to know”. This approach requires designers to provide a personalized learning experience that employs a variety of methodologies to help the learner change behavior, which is the end goal of the training experience.

Andriotis further explains that “the action mapping strategy uses activities that directly mimic what learners need to do to reach the organizational performance objectives”. By providing real-world scenarios, instructional designers require learners to make decisions and apply content knowledge which will transfer to their real-world environment.

Designing with the expected outcomes in mind helps to meet the needs of the learner. This is an essential skill for instructional designers, who recognize that clients will continue to invest in eLearning when it results in the desired learner performance outcome.

3. Holistic Approach

The highly skilled instructional designer uses a holistic approach when designing an elearning experience. From pre-training to assess the learner’s needs and prior background knowledge to helping the learner achieve mastery of performance objectives, good instructional designers are prepared to guide the learner through the entire learning experience.

Good designers use techniques like scaffolding, formative assessments, and summative assessmentsto guide the learner through a given course, providing them with ongoing feedback and helping to identify target areas that need additional training.

Bob Little describes the holistic approach as something that “emphasizes problem solving and understanding through authentic tasks, experiences, settings, and assessments.” Ultimately, the goal of elearning is to help learners gain the skills that will make them successful in their professional lives. Before they do that, however, they must invest time and effort in the learning process—the most valuable knowledge in the world is nothing if it is not accessible.

Successful instructional designers draw upon a wide skill set to do their jobs effectively. By highlighting the skills that make designers focus on learners, expected outcomes, and the course from beginning to end, they can ensure that their other skills flourish in the process.