Instructional Design (ID), simply stated, focuses on enhancing learning. From this short yet straightforward explanation, it follows that ID fundamentals are based on the way learning occurs. Derived from these fundamentals are strategies and teaching methods that trigger the most effective learning in the most efficient manner.
Here are the 5 ID fundamentals that budding instructional designers can use –
1. Understand learner's needs – Before beginning to prepare any instructional material, identifying the learner's requirements is of utmost importance. It is difficult to proceed if you do not have any information about what is to be achieved. Knowing about your audience background and learning outcomes sets the path for developing the training material. Most importantly, it helps outline the topics that need to be addressed.
2. Capture audience attention – People learn about new things for various reasons, be it a new found interest, seeking solution to a tricky situation or purely enhancing skills for personal and / or professional gains. The bottom line is, new learning does not begin until there is a pressing need to learn. This means, when you begin developing instructional material, first bring out the need and you will never fail to grab your audience's attention.
3. Move from simple to complex – Spare a thought for how humans learn about new things. Novel learning starts when one became interested in a topic. To know more about this new topic, one generally reads about its basics before moving to its complexities. People relate new information to what they already know and build upon existing knowledge base.
Knowing about the way people learn clearly points to the way you as an instructional designer should put forth information. Once you know the learners' current level of understanding and the objectives that they want to achieve, develop training material that moves from simple to complex ideas. Present easy-to-recall information such as definitions, examples, and non-examples before graduating to further details.
4. Move gradually – When was the last time you actually learnt something by zipping through its basics? Probably never … Speed at initial stages of learning takes learners only so far.
A sound instructional design typically eases learners into complex ideas. It steadily builds on the basic conceptual knowledge, taking them ahead with sufficient hands on practice, and then finally to a stage where they can apply newly acquainted knowledge to assess a given situation and come up with solutions.
5. Solidify – "Practice makes one perfect." That's because practice solidifies the learning process. Same holds true for an effective instructional design as well. When developing training, in addition to presenting necessary information, include a healthy mix of practices and tests. Provide relevant feedback, summarize and give tips. All this helps solidify new learning so the learners retain it for a really long time.