What is Instructional Design?



What is Instructional Design?

My business is two-fold: I am an Instructional/Learning Designer and a Human Performance Improvement specialist. They are related but, in this post, I am going to talk about instructional design.


So, what IS instructional design? Long story short – we design and develop learning experiences (so training, job aides, mentoring programs, etc.) There is a lot that goes into that simple statement though!


An instructional designer will start from the very beginning by analyzing the root causes of the problem(s) the business is facing, who the learners are that will be using the learning experience, any current training surrounding the problem, determining the actionable skills or knowledge needed to address the root problem(s), and meeting with stakeholders to determine what success looks like. This is all before the idea of the program is even designed. After gathering this information, the next step is to design and iterate the design with feedback. Then comes development and more iteration and then finally deployment and tracking (which should be used for more design iterations).


Instructional design is known by many different names: instructional design, instructional system design, learning design, and learning experience design are a few of them. They are essentially all the same, though some practitioners will say there is a difference in what each label does. It just comes down to personal connotations with the word choice. My personal preference is learning design – my connotation being that instruction focuses more on an instructor-led experience and learning focuses more on the overall experience for the learner and meeting the goal of the experience.


Instructional designers leverage current learning research to make their designs as effective as possible. There are many models and learning theories available to use. If you are familiar with instructional design, you may have heard of [iv][v]ADDIE, SAM, Bloom’s Taxonomy, Constructivism, Schema, and Gagne’s 9 Events. These are only a drop in the bucket when it comes to research-backed instructional design models and learning theories. They all guide the designer when determining the best course of action to achieve the goal of the learning experience.


Now what about the delivery of learning? Instructional designers can develop synchronous and asynchronous eLearning, instructor led training, virtual instructor led training (like over Zoom), blended learning (so a blend of any delivery method), job aids, microlearning, hybrid, and so on. The stakeholder, learner, and content needs will drive the choice of learning delivery.


Here are some real-world examples of what instructional designers do:

A business is looking to expand with another location. Currently their training was done in a small-scale by the owner or old excel files but when expanding, they will need a scalable training program to meet the needs of the new business and any new businesses in the future. The owner hired an instructional designer to design and develop scalable eLearning training for their business.


A business hired an instructional designer full-time to evaluate and improve current programs with the training department, analyze performance and pain points to develop new programs, and facilitate train-the-trainer events.


A business had a pain point surrounding customer retention and use of products. They tasked their instructional design team with developing a customer education program for onboarding new customers and assisting current customers with the use of the product. This program helped lower the number of requests for assistance and improved customer retention.


A school hired an instructional designer consultant to develop a new class offering.

About Us

Jack Pine Learning LLC is an instructional design and human performance improvement consultancy. We specialize in eLearning for employee performance improvement and retention of customers. We have nearly 10 years of experience working in the learning design field and have worked in nearly every business sector. 

Mikkel Haas

Owner/Learning Designer

Charlotte Haas

Office Manager


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