Article: Interview: Demystifying Instructional Design

Learning & Development

Interview: Demystifying Instructional Design

Greg Chapman in an interview with People Matters, demystifies instructional design by providing a straightforward and easy to understand explanation of the concept.
Interview: Demystifying Instructional Design

Greg Chapman is a management consultant with more than 16 years of experience. He’s currently an associate partner at Vyaktitva where he specializes in facilitating senior leadership team workouts. He is zealous about designing and executing various behavioral interventions for audiences ranging from the CEO & their top team to mid-level managers. He began his career with GE and then went on to set up the successfully training function at Interglobe Technologies.

Q. What is Instructional Design?

The roots of Instructional Design go back to World War II, when people needed to be taught specific skills in a very limited amount of time. And so complex tasks or skills were broken down into smaller units so that the average solider could understand them. This method is what formed the basis of Instructional design.

Over the years, Instructional design (ID) has been recognized as a scientific and systematic process for transferring of knowledge and instructions. The science of ID marries cognition, educational psychology, computer science, sociology and even processes from manufacturing to create instruction.

Businesses are no longer looking at training as a “good-to-do” initiative. The question that’s getting asked a lot these days is: What’s the business impact? And what’s the ROI? This science as we know it is now moving towards strategic ID. 

Q. What is the role of Instructional Designer?

Apart from creating instructions for a particular learning program, two fundamental aspects of an Instructional Designers’ role are:

1. Diagnosis: A good instructional designer understands the client’s needs and is open to playing the role of a chemist, i.e. when clients come with predefined ideas or that of a doctor to diagnose issues at hand. Diagnosis plays a crucial role, if you get it wrong, the effects are multiplied many folds by the time the instruction reaches the class. 

2. The front-facing role: An instructional designer is required to Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement and Evaluate. (ADDIE) the learning intervention. But adding a ‘C’ makes it even more relevant to the role of the instructional designer today. The C.A.D.D.I.E model as it were.  ‘C’ as in contracting. By contracting I don’t only mean money, clients can be demanding and designers need to  go back and forth with the client for many reasons – scoping, telling the client what will and what won’t work in light of what emerges as the opportunity areas / gaps, walking the client through the design and doing regular status updates, building consensus with the client on how the solution needs to be co-created and that the s/he as a designer is not just an extra pairs of hands. 

 3. Instructional Designer as a project manager

If you’re lucky depending on how you view it, your organization may hire a Project Manager, however, there may be times when they won’t and expect the instructional designer to take that role. Here are some of the skills that you could be called upon to perform

  • Resourcing for the project
  • Up-skilling those resources
  • Convincing the client that these are the best resources
  • Keeping an eye on the performance of the facilitators
  • Leading course corrections and getting back to the client. 


Q. What is the role of ID in e-learning and m-learning?

Organizations are moving away from looking at ILT (Instructor lead training) or e-Learning as either or options. Blended learning is the name of the game. For example, I remember an organization that wanted their managers to learn how to give constructive feedback. We designed a short e-learning module that explained the concept to them in about 30 min. 

When they came into the class, the facilitator did a quick recap and had their direct reports come for an actual feedback session using the principles they had already been through. This is the kind of experience that organizations are asking for and are moving towards. 

Growth, productivity, and progress, all are being paid for in the currency of attention; after paying up as much, people have precious little left. How does this impact e-learning? 1) Capture the learner’s attention in the first several minutes or not at all b) Make it relevant to a particular need the learner can fill. c) Finally, short doses of concentrated value add is what motivates learners especially when it comes to millennials - in other words micro-learning.

 Q. How can Instructional Design solve current challenges in L&D?

 Challenge 1: Business is always asking for shorter periods of learning – ID either provides a concentrated short course or lays out a rock solid rational of how time spent attending the course/ workshop will impact the business, thus justifying the time frame

Challenge 2: Several L&D teams outsource their learning programs to vendors or partners. A strong grounding in ID enables the L&D professional to ask the right questions, look for relevant outcomes and basically get the most out of the vendor or partner.

Challenge 3: Gone are the days when training was a good to do. L&D today is constantly being asked the question of how will what they’re doing impact the business. ID maps the business need to what’s happening in the learning intervention.

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Topics: Learning & Development

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