Instructional Design refers to the process of creating the most effective, efficient, and engaging instructional experiences possible. Instructional designers apply a systematic methodology to analyze learning needs and goals, in order to create the proper learning system to meet those goals.
One particularly popular model of instructional design is known as the ADDIE model, which has five steps:
This series of videos written, animated, and narrated by jclarkgardiner uses instructional design to explain how to effectively use ADDIE.
It’s important to clarify that instructional designers are not Subject Matter Experts. It is not the designer’s job to know all of the material that goes into an instructional experience. Rather, the designer is given the information and then must bring a unique, innovative perspective to the learning experience.
It’s easy to underestimate the amount of time and effort that it takes to design a truly effective instructional experience, which has brought about a controversy among instructional designers: is instructional design, as it exists currently, still relevant? If used properly, of course it is. But it’s easy for designers to skip some steps here and there, not out of sheer negligence, but because of time and content restrictions placed on them by employers. When designers are given the freedom to create an instructional experience, as opposed to just a set of instructions, the results can be astounding.
For more information on instructional design, check out these books:
Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology (2nd Edition) by Robert Reiser and John V. Dempsey
Design For How People Learn (Voices That Matter) by Julie Dirksen