Time-Saving Shortcuts for Instructional Designers

As the saying goes, time is money. To design quality training in the shortest amount of time, the methods used need to be both efficient and effective. Also, knowing a few shortcuts couldn’t hurt.

Begin at the End

Most people will recognize the statement, “Begin with the end in mind” as part of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Turns out, it works for instructional design as well. Starting any instructional design process with the end firmly in mind will keep the development focused on what matters most. Write the learning objectives first, and let them guide the rest of the design process. For example, what behaviors should learners be able to demonstrate at the end of training? What key piece of knowledge should they be able to recall from memory?

Break Training into Pieces

Don’t think of the design process from the perspective of the entire training program. Instead, focus on manageable, focused, small units of learning that are directly tied to just one learning objective. It’s far easier to maintain concentration on one element, rather than trying to design and develop the entire course all at once. Also, when designed in this manner, learners can ultimately choose to manage their training time by taking only one or two units at a time.

Let Learner Analysis Drive Delivery Method Selection

Learner analysis is the key to determining what instructional methods will be most effective. Find out the preferences, working styles, and current capabilities of the learners before choosing a delivery method. Training content and delivery need to be guided by learning objectives in conjunction with a deep knowledge of the target audience, and what will work for them.

Don’t Let Perfect be the Enemy of the Good

Striving for perfection is certainly admirable, but it can also waste a lot of valuable time. Instead of trying to design the perfect program, go for a good program that can be ready and available in half the time. Look at training design as an iterative process, where evaluation by the learners becomes part of the instructional design cycle. Expect improvements with each design iteration.

Stay in Constant Contact with Stakeholders

Nothing is worse than having a course completely designed, and then promptly rejected by the stakeholders. Avoid rejection and rework by keeping stakeholders and key decision-makers involved throughout the instructional design process, from learner analysis to delivery. Not only will this reduce the likelihood of revision requests, it will also ensure the ultimate satisfaction of everyone involved.

Learning Styles

Some Instructional Designers will tell you that there are only three learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. That’s not a bad beginning, but there are actually many more distinctions that can be useful when designing training and professional development courses. Since one of the goals of instructional design is to improve the learner’s experience, what better way is there than using a solid understand of the learner’s potential style?

Of course you can’t select in advance which learners are going to take a course. You can, however, make allowances for the various styles by providing alternatives and options in your course design. Here are some things to consider for the various learning styles.

Team Player
A Team Player is a learner who will follow all the rules, read instructions, and even help out other learners if they have the time during a course. For them to be successful, you need to design your course in a way that spells out the objectives, and outlines a way for them to be successful. Also, make the application to real life as direct and accessible as possible.

Technicians are left-brain learners. They like taking the “direct” approach to learning, and enjoy any activities that allow them to experiment or experience the course in a physical way. Design some activities and games, and you will be sure to satisfy this learning style.

Supporters are “people-pleasers.” They are empathetic to the needs of others, and enjoy opportunities to interact with other learners. They are also very idealistic when it comes to learning, and may take on too much. You will need to establish boundaries for them, and calibrate their expectations. And be sure to give them ways to express their creativity and find meaning in the course material.

The fourth and final learning style is the thinker. True to the name, these learners are highly analytical, intellectual, and want to explore topics in depth. Since this may not be a fit for all the other learners, it is useful to have additional resources available for them so that they can explore all the theoretical angles in depth. And most importantly, don’t make any factual errors or omissions, or you will lose your thinkers.

Only a Taste
This has been only a taste of the many ways to satisfy the various learning styles. Start now and do some additional research (especially if you are a Thinker) and you will find much more.