5 Reasons your business needs a more comprehensive instructional design strategy

Blended Learning Strategy

In the workplace, for instructional design to result in changed behaviors and improved performance, it must be deeply embedded not only in the way we learn, but also in the way we work. The question is, how do we do this systematically? It is an age-old question, and the answer is…one step at a time.


One of the most common and well researched instructional design approaches is the ADDIE Model. ADDIE is an acronym that highlights 5 essential actions required to develop an effective instructional strategy: Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate.

#1 – Analysis reduces the temptation to develop one-size-fits-all learning resources

During analysis, the goal is to identify concepts and skills target audience(s) need to know, as well as discover how and why it matters to the audience. To add greater value, the analysis should be ongoing, documented, collaboratively authored, and updated as relevant information is revealed. In the workplace, we have the advantage of maintaining long-term relationships with team members and business units, therefore the analysis should evolve over time, become more and more detailed, and be readily accessible to various learning facilitators within your organization.

Most of what we need to know, we’ll learn by asking questions? Initially, we may not know the right questions to ask or even the right person to ask the questions. However, the more questions you ask, the more stories you hear. The more stories you hear (from different perspectives), the closer you get to the source of performance challenges, as opposed to just treating the symptoms.

#2 – Design, whether it is graphic design for marketing or instructional design for learning, has the same goal – evoke an emotional response

In the world of corporate training, evoking an emotional response may sound counter intuitive, but it’s not. In his article ‘If Content is King, Context is God‘ Gary Vaynerchuk explains the value of context as it relates to branding. The context is your story. Your story is your brand, values, vision, and strategy. It’s your story, that will resonate with your employees as well as your customers.

In his thought provoking article, “Storytelling that Moves People,” Bronwyn Fryer, communicates the same idea this way, ‘stories are how we remember; we tend to forget lists and bullet points.’ Just as marketing is more effective when it’s creatively designed to tell a story, the same is true of learning. When supporting a team or business unit, if the learning design team doesn’t know your story or doesn’t fully understand how your story fits into the big picture, the instruction designed – will be impotent.

#3 – Develop a library of targeted resources that are fully aligned to your story

Learners are taking charge of their learning experiences by utilizing a variety of open source resources: Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), YouTube videos, blogs, etc. While learning and development professionals admire and encourage the initiative of the ‘entrepreneurial learner‘ it’s important that targeted learning resources are developed that clearly reinforce your organization’s unique messaging. Keep in mind that an excellent source of content required to create your most relevant learning resources will be your SMEs and your high performers.

#4 – Consider the consequences of how your LMS implements personalized learning strategies

In his article, Artificial Intelligence Comes to Learning, Zach Posner asks an intriguing question: can you thoroughly analyze, evaluate and create knowledge if you challenge yourself less and less by routinely outsourcing those functions to computer programs? If we allow ourselves to get lazier and lazier about building connections between information, facts, figures, people, and resources – will our creativity ultimately suffer?

The benefits of artificial intelligence are many, but we need to be careful that we don’t stifle creativity in our quest to make it easy to learn. Just as we are discovering the hazards of ‘social media filter bubbles‘, knowledge filter bubbles may produce similar consequences. Provide easy access to a variety of quality online learning resources (i.e. Lynda.com) to strengthen current skills while at the same time, developing new skillsets.

Empower employees by giving them the freedom to choose topics they want to learn that are not specifically aligned to their current role. The 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report estimates that the half-life of a learned skill is approximately 5 years, therefore the goal of a comprehensive learning strategy is not just to meet the current needs of an organization, but also to address future needs – many of which are currently a mystery.

#5 – Evaluation is the life blood of learning strategies

It’s often said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. In the absence of open, honest, and continual feedback of your learning strategies, it’s very easy to get in the habit of doing just that. Thorough evaluation demands more than just a survey conducted immediately following a learning experience. Because the majority of learning is the result of blended learning experiences, evaluating training programs should be conducted over a designated time frame in order to measure: the initial reaction (to a specific learning experience), recall of concepts or skills (generally being reinforced by a variety of learning experiences), observed application of concepts or skills (in traditional or novel ways), and ultimately the impact to your business’s bottom line. This feedback loop is critical to designing relevant and engaging learning experiences.

Evaluation takes the design team back full circle. It’s by no means the end of the design process. A combination of formative evaluation (performance tasks, quizzes, or surveys given throughout a learning unit or activity) and summative evaluation (follow up performance assessments or surveys given to evaluate the compound effect of a series of blended learning activities) is required. Consequently, evaluation generally needs to be conducted over a designated period (i.e. quarterly or semi-annually) to provide useful feedback – particularly if the goal is performance enhancement.

The instructional design team will need to take into consideration: feedback from the learners, feedback from those who evaluate the learners’ performance, and reports that quantify the impact of performance on the business’s bottom line. In turn, the feedback needs to be integrated into the design. For example, perhaps in hind sight, now we see that despite our initial analysis, our evaluation results indicate several learning exercises treated the symptoms of the problem, but not the source. If an exercise or an activity results in no significant change in behaviors or performance, it’s back to the drawing board, and the design process continues…

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