What is instructional design? Why is it so important for online education?

Concept is practically mandatory for those who want to offer a quality distance learning course.

Do you know what instructional design is ? The term may sound like a novelty, but it should be indispensable for all institutions that wish to offer Distance Learning (DE), from Early Childhood Education to Higher Education.

Generally, it tends to be a great challenge to know how to offer education over the internet, since there are great differences in what is done in person, in the way of transmitting the contents to the interaction with the students, and that is precisely where instructional design comes in .

Instructional designers are even professionals whose demand is only growing, as they can help overcome the difficulties that institutions encounter in this digitalization process.

According to a study by Global Market Insights , the e-Learning market exceeded US $ 200 billion in 2019 and is expected to have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 8% between 2020 and 2026, reaching the amount US $ 375 million in the last year mentioned.

If the area is expected to handle US $ 1.027 billion per day, US $ 42.8 million per hour and US $ 713.47 thousand per minute in 2026, certainly the instructional designers have a large participation in this, and without them, such expressive numbers would could be achieved.

Far beyond the numbers, however, its influence on the teaching-learning processes is the most valuable, since it can change the lives of everyone involved for the better, something that there is no material value to pay.

Continue with us to better understand how this concept works and what your institution has to gain from its application.

What is instructional design?

Index Hide ]

  • 1What is instructional design?
  • 2How does instructional design relate to online education?
  • 3How is instructional design applied in practice in an educational institution?
    • 1Interactive activities to increase engagement
    • 2Use of technological tools
    • 3Synchronous and asynchronous interaction with students
  • 4There is still time to apply instructional design for online education at your educational institution!

Technically, it is the practice of planning, developing and delivering instructional products and experiences, both digital and physical, in a consistent and reliable way, so that the result is efficient, effective, engaging and inspiring for the acquisition of knowledge.

In less elaborate terms, this is an area that aims to deliver learning experiences that are really efficient and help people who will learn to get the best out of what is offered.

Although instructional designers are professionals who can work in different contexts, they are always in the field of education, where their services are in high demand.

If we were to summarize instructional design in practice , designers would have to understand what the apprentice’s stage and needs are, define the ultimate goal of instruction, and then create solutions that can help with this transition.

The result of this instruction can be clearly observed and even scientifically measured, but it can also be something “hidden”, that is, a work behind the scenes. The approach is variable, but the goal is always to optimize the learning processes.

The field of instructional design is historically and traditionally rooted in cognitive and behavioral psychology, although constructivism has also recently influenced thinking in the field.

The American psychologist Burrhus Frederic Skinner, better known as BF Skinner, brought a very interesting concept on the subject in his 1954 article “ The Science of Learning and the Art of Teaching ”.

He suggested that effective instructional materials, called programmed instructional materials, should include small steps, frequently asked questions and immediate feedback, as well as allowing everyone to follow their own pace.

Another American psychologist, Robert F. Mager, popularized the use of learning objectives in his book ” Preparing Instructional Objectives “, where he describes how to write goals including desired behavior, learning conditions and assessments.

The theme has already been addressed several times, but we see that instructional design , even as current today, has existed for decades and has been applied in order to improve learning processes.

How does instructional design relate to online education?

Through the application of a complete and meticulous planning for the application of the online teaching project, so that everyone involved, especially students, but also teachers, coordinators, principals and other professionals, can obtain the maximum possible benefit from this strategy.

The instructional design , in his theory, it is also important to classroom learning as the professional responsible for the planning and execution of this plan is able to propose the best applications and practices to optimize learning by the students.

However, a point that we cannot ignore is that, however great the evolution and development of education, face-to-face education has existed for centuries, that is, it is a process well known and disseminated among professionals in the area.

In fact, there is a whole plan before starting school periods, in order to better prepare all those involved, but the path of the stones has already been well trodden.

However, when we talk about online education, the situation is different. He is still a baby compared to the age of face-to-face education and brings challenges that have never been faced by some and that other professionals have encountered only a few times.

This lack of contact with online teaching can lead to the definition of techniques and practices that are not appropriate for digital media and, therefore, significantly impair the quality of teaching-learning processes.

We commented on this in our article on online and remote education , when we talked about the difference between the two terms.

The conclusion was that, in the current scenario, in which the classes had (and are still having) to be taught over the internet, what actually happens is remote teaching, which consists of an adaptation of what was done in the classroom for the digital, not in something planned for that.

We have to consider that the pandemic did not bring us so many options or time for efficient planning in most cases, but if the instructional design had already been applied before, the adaptation would be much simpler.

Institutions that already knew what instructional design is and were prepared for the application of an effective teaching project over the internet were able to maintain excellence even in times of pandemic, since the modus operandi was already in force in that environment.

On the other hand, in institutions where this has not been applied, the adaptation was probably quite complicated, which made teaching on the Internet, so versatile and rich in resources, limited and thus able to develop only a small portion of its enormous potential.

How is instructional design applied in practice in an educational institution?

The digital transformation in educational institutions is a challenge , as it really comes to change something that was already consolidated and established for a long time, but this is a path that needs to be followed by those who want to remain relevant in the educational segment.

Some of the applications of instructional design in educational institutions are as follows:

Interactive activities to increase engagement

Within the context of remote education, typing an activity that would be written on the classroom blackboard and sending it to students by e-mail is a valid idea. However, when we analyze the issue from the point of view of online education, it is possible to go much deeper.

Student engagement is one of the main challenges for teachers. After all, far beyond getting the right answers, it is important to keep them interested in the subject, in order to enhance learning.

To obtain more satisfactory results, it is possible to choose online assessment tools that take activities to another level, which tends to motivate students and increase their interest in learning.

We have a guide with great suggestions for tools that could be used in this regard. Click on the banner below to download your material for free!

Use of technological tools

If teaching is taught online, it is no longer necessary to stick to the limitations brought by face-to-face classes, and the use of technological tools is a great measure in instructional design .

Online courses, videotaped classes and applications focused on specific subjects and subjects are some of the possible solutions to make the whole teaching process more modern, something so important in a society in which technology and connectivity only grow every day.

To get some good ideas on the topic, check out our article with 10 technological tools for education .

Synchronous and asynchronous interaction with students

The instructional design has the intention to optimize learning, and this also involves communication with students and among them, which is super important for knowledge sharing and so there is a closeness between everyone involved, even if this occurs at a distance .

Synchronous interaction, at the same time, occurs through live video classes, for example, in which everyone can give their opinion, leave comments and interact with each other and with the teacher who is teaching the class.

Asynchronous interaction, in turn, can consist of a study group created on some platform, even if it is on social media, for example. There, students can ask their questions, help others in carrying out exercises and even organize synchronous interactions for everyone to collaborate at the same time.

Being physically distant does not mean that relationships between students and between them and teachers should be cut or even diminished. Nowadays, there is no lack of tools to make this a reality.

There is still time to apply instructional design for online education at your educational institution!

The pandemic has accelerated the digital migration process . It ended up forcing educational institutions (and several other sectors of society, in fact) to adopt connected and modern solutions to minimize the financial and organizational losses caused by the crisis.

It is true that this happened in a somewhat “flustered” way, so to speak, since the situation was an emergency. Without much time to plan, what was possible was put into practice, as possible.

Even so, there has already been an important introduction to digital media on the part of some and a deepening of this environment by others, which should help make the digital transformation an even more latent need.

The Easy Test solutions are ideal for this process, as they facilitate all stages of the assessment process, generate relevant insights about students and classes and help teachers to optimize their time while reducing the possibility of human failures.
It is up to educational institutions to do what is possible to offer excellent online education to their students, and now that you already know what instructional design is , you understand that this is an indispensable element in order to achieve the desired goal.


by Abdullah Sam
I’m a teacher, researcher and writer. I write about study subjects to improve the learning of college and university students. I write top Quality study notes Mostly, Tech, Games, Education, And Solutions/Tips and Tricks. I am a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue.

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