Instructional Design for E-Learning


Today, technology has invaded almost all aspects of our life, for better or for worse. Though technology’s role in our life is debatable to some extent, its happy union with education is definitely something to cheer for. The enhancement of education through proper application of technology is termed as e-learning. Having come of age over the years with drastic leapfrogs in technology, e-learning has today evolved into a great learning platform that is radically different from that of the conventional learning techniques, conceivably in a better way.

Just as there are numerous approaches to conventional teaching, e-learning too has varied approaches to it. Instead of dwelling upon the various approaches to e-learning, I will discuss here one of the most popular one. Widely known as Instructional Systems Design (ISD), it is also known by other names such as Instructional Systems Design & Development (ISDD), the Systems Approach to Training (SAT), or just Instructional Design (ID). Starting with the assessment of a student’s expectations from the courseware, it leads the student through a step by step guide involving the design and development of the training material, and finally allowing the instructor to gauge the efficacy of the program through student assessment.


A combination of some of the most popular definitions of instructional design or systematic design for e-learning gives a crystal clear idea about what it exactly is, and an insight into its core process of learning. At the nucleus of an instructional design approach is the importance it gives to learning instead of technology. Learning requirements and objectives are first analysed, and in conjunction with these needs, a delivery system is developed. The instructional design methodology was first put to use in World War II and became immensely popular in the years thereafter. It found place in corporate training, military training, textbook authoring, and web/computer based learning. A systematic design for e learning entails continuous assessment and response. Instructional Design is based on theoretical and practical research in the areas of cognition, educational psychology, and problem solving. All in all, instructional design is essentially a learning framework that simply organises learning resources to enhance the learning process to reach defined goals.

Advantages of Systematic Approach to E-learning

Unlike a classroom setting for learning, a systematic approach to e-learning benefits the overall training process in more ways than one.

  • It allows individuals other than the instructors, such as other learners, or students wishing to take up the course, to view and weigh up the content, discussions, interactions, etc.
  • It makes objective assessment of e learning quality possible.
  • It guarantees the examination of vital theories through apposite presentation and pertinent learning.
  • It makes e learning process more transparent, thereby bequeathing quality upon it.
  • It immensely helps the students of online programs through good content presentation and interactive sessions.
  • It renders distance learning more effective due to its interactive characteristic and transparency compared to conventional distance learning programs.
  • It provides students with the liberty of picking the instructional framework instead of the instructional framework governing student’s choice of course.
  • It builds a comfortable link between pedagogy and technology, thereby allowing a change in the plan of instruction depending upon the student response, which cannot be achieved by technology alone.
  • It to e learning is enhanced by well organized subject content and well thought out strategies for teaching.
  • It helps in blending the material offered by different instructors and different courseware.
  • It begins and ends with the learner and his experience.

The development of instructional material is a time consuming process and, hence, a major concern. Systematic approach to e learning accelerates the development process to come up with the most effective way of content presentation, and a structure to navigate through the courseware.

Various Models of Systematic Approach to E-learning

A model of any process is a representation of standard occurrences, thus restricting its blind replication in a real life situation. The review of various models of the systematic approach only reiterates the fact that different ones are effective in designing different courses, ranging from a science course to a people management course.

ADDIE – This is an ellipsis of Analyze, Design, Development, Implement, and Evaluate. One of the most popular models of instructional design, it is frequently used by instructors for academic courses.

Dick and Carey Model – It is based on the concept of breaking instructions into modules. The instruction material targets the skills and knowledge that is intended to be taught.

Minimalism – Developed by J.M. Carroll, this model is useful for computer based learning. It emphasizes the importance of meaningful and self contained learning activities, execution of realistic projects by students, error recognition and recovery of training material and a tangible link between training and actual system.

Algo Heuristic Model – It is based on the assumption that all pedagogical activities can be categorized into algorithmic, semi algorithmic, heuristic or semi heuristic. Once a cognitive activity can be put under a certain head, its specific systems act as the foundation of the systematic approach.

Robert Gagne’s Model – This model is considered to be the pioneer, in which many other models find their genesis. It subscribes to the belief that events and categories of learning form a framework that can be used to account the learning conditions.

Epathic Model – A five step design model, it includes – observation, capturing data, reflection and analysis, brainstorming for solutions, and developing prototypes.

Rapid Prototyping Model – Here, learners, and subject matter experts constantly communicate with instructional designers and prototypes in a cyclic manner.


E-learning is plagued with a number of difficulties including high dropout rates, learner resistance, poor learner performance, etc. These glitches can be taken care of through the systematic approach. Its various other benefits make it a unanimous choice for organisations and institutions alike.


One thought on “Instructional Design for E-Learning”

  1. Nice article. I think many people forget that instructional technology is quite different than instructional design. You have done a good job making it clear of the importance of sound instructionla design in elearning

    Dr. Greg Williams
    Director and Clinical Assistant Professor
    University of Maryland, Baltimore County
    ISD-Training Systems Graduate Program
    Program Website
    Faculty Website

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s