What is Instructional Design?

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The design of a course or group of related courses consists of a curricular design and a supportive instructional design.

To instruct is to facilitate learning. An instructional design is created by experts in learning research and theory who decide how to make the knowledge and skills of a curriculum accessible to a given set of learners. Instructional designers are experts in education, using empirical data gained from research of how people learn to design efficient and effective learning environments. Instructional designers make data-driven decisions as to the best way to deliver information, and the best way to afford learners opportunities to practice skills, and create their own knowledge. In other words, the instructional design explicates how the curriculum will be taught.

For example, an instructional designer at a community college may be asked to design a course that would help learners promote themselves better when seeking employment. Knowing that the majority of this set of learners is a group of nontraditional students (NCHEA, 2013), she might design a blended course where the majority of the work is done online, but students come in to practice interviews face-to-face (Baxter, 2012). She may also incorporate elements of the Self-Determination Theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985) to motivate learners to stay engaged while working from home, and to partner with each other while working online. She may also create learning environments for mobile devices, knowing that 71% of all adults aged 18 to 25 own smart phones (Smith, 2012).

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