What is Instruction and Curriculum Design?

Training & Development  |  May 2, 2019

You want your employees to succeed and you are committed to talent development. A necessary component of any talent development program involves creating learning experiences for employees, whether you do that yourself or work with a training company that can help you meet the needs of your employees while also keeping in mind both the desired goals of the training and how meeting them helps to achieve larger organizational goals.

If you’ve done research about employee development, you’ve probably run across the phrase “instruction and curriculum design” or related variants. We’re going to take a look at what that is and how it relates to talent development. If you work with an outside partner in talent development, understanding instruction and curriculum design is an important part of ensuring that the venture is a success for everyone.

What is it?

As the phrase “instructional design” suggests, it is the process by which learning products and experiences are designed, developed, and delivered. Successful instructional design allows learners to acquire and apply knowledge and skills. Those learning products and experiences cover a wide range: online training courses, manuals, videos, interactive simulations, workshops, games…The list is as long as the imagination of the people who are creating these learning tools can make it!

It’s worth noting that the phrases “instructional design,” “instructional technology,” “learning experience (LX) design,” “curriculum design,” and “instructional systems design (ISD)” are used interchangeably by different people. Depending on which websites you visit or which articles you read, those phrases may be used to describe the same process.

How do you achieve great instructional design?

Whether you’re going to design development activities in-house or work with an outside training firm, knowing what you’arel aiming for is important. Instructional design is often judged by three factors: effectiveness, efficiency, and cost.

How effective is it? Are learners able to meet the stated objectives after completing the activity? How efficient is the activity? How much time and effort was necessary to devote to completing it? And, finally, how much did your organization spend for all aspects of the activity, including its design and delivery?

If you want instructional design that wows your employees and leadership, that is determined to be effective, efficient, and a great investment, here are five rules to follow. Knowing them is useful even if you are working with a training partner, as you’ll be able to understand a bit more about the process.

Rule #1: Make sure that you begin with the end in mind.

The phrase was popularized by Stephen Covey, businessman, educator, and author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. You should be able to clearly state what the purpose of the learning activity is.

What do you want employees to know, to gain, to be able to do as a result? How will you determine that they’ve been able to, as we noted above, successfully acquire and apply their knowledge? Knowing where you want to end up allows you to work backwards to make sure that you’re not forgetting or missing any crucial piece of the instructional design puzzle.

Rule #2: Make sure that your learners are the focus.

If an activity is designed for people to learn something, those employees must always be the focus. They should be doing most of the thinking, examining, and exploring–not the instructor. Good instructional design facilitates a learner’s experience. iscovery is what allows the learner  to retain and apply new information.

To create learner-centric programs, ask yourself these questions:

  • How will the students learn?
  • What will they learn?
  • How will you effectively determine whether students are learning and applying the information to their work?
  • Under what conditions are parsticipants learning? (i.e., are they taking the training  as part of their assigned roles at work?)

Rule #3: Know that you will have to assess and continue to improve your content.

Once you think you have the perfect content, you should prepare to assess it and make improvements. You may feel it’s ready to go, but after you deliver it, you’ll discover tweaks that you need to make for the next time.

Perhaps you’re rolling out instruction that is company-wide, and different departments are participating on different days. You’ll likely discover after the first department (or departments) have begun, or finished, the development activity that there are ways you can make it more user-friendly for the next group. Learning isn’t a static process, and neither is instructional design.

Rule #4: Create your content systematically.

If you want great content that is effective and efficient, you must create it by designing deliberately, not haphazardly. If you are working with a training company, those professionals will have processes they use to create the material they design for your group.

Whether the process they use is more systematic or open-ended, they will make use of a specific methodology for creating and organizing the learning content. If you design your own material, make sure you have a design framework in place that follows the sequence of analysis, design, development, application or implementation, and assessment.

Rule #5: You must never forget “The Big Picture.”

Great instructional design considers the trees and the forest (and all of the animals, too). While you need to always keep your end goal in mind, and how it connects to business goals, you can’t forget that realistic context and expectations are an essential element of any adult learning. So you programs should always include how what’s being learned is applicable to their work. Remember, the whole is more than the sum of the parts. Every aspect of your content and training materials  connects to, impacts, and is impacted by, all the others. You need to keep this in mind as you design training and developmental programs.

If you want to bring in outside help to design training programs that can help your employees be even better than they are today, KnowledgeForce can help. Our innovative, application-oriented solutions make learning fun and improve outcomes. Contact us today.

Read our comprehensive employer guide on talent development.

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