Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Improving Your Instructional Design Process

In this post, I will share my ideas on maximizing the effectiveness and efficiency of an instructional design process. A design process is integral to effective instructional design. It can increase quality and efficiency and decrease waste and errors. However, very often these processes are very general in nature, and the individual is left alone to determine how to implement it effectively. This can result in varying degrees of quality and can cause designers to waste energy recreating work that might be reduced through an effective, supported process.

Methods for Improving Your Instructional Design Process
Based on my experience, processes can be used to empower instructional designers and give them tools and support that will help them be more efficient and produce work that is of high quality. Below are some excellent strategies for improving an instructional design process:
  1. Document the process. Do a job analysis and gain some clarity on what the process and what the work entails. Be clear about what is going on and what is expected. 
  2. Clarify the goals and outputs for each phase. Make sure that there is clarity on exactly what the designer should produce for each phase of the design process.
  3. Provide rubrics and checklists. How can a designer know the work is done it properly? Create easy to use checklists and so the designer can easily pass his or her work on to the next phase.
  4. Constantly refine the process. Gather data, discover gaps, and work toward the ideal. Encourage and facilitate sharing and enable the designers to continuously improve. Designers are good at designing, so enable them to design how they design!
  5. Provide tools for design. Create and provide templates, examples, technologies, and other tools for making the work more efficient, effective, and enabling.
  6. Create a performance support page. (I describe this concept in detail near the end of this post). The support page should include the documentation, goals, outputs, rubrics, and tools for the design of the course.
Keep in mind that this advice is not given so that a manager or director can more easily control the instructional design process. The goal should be to remove barriers and enable the designer to be successful. Instructional design is a creative process, and the manager's goal should be to remove barriers, to eliminate wasted effort, and create a process that enables designer creativity and energy.

Criteria of a Quality Instructional Design Process
The general criteria of a good instructional design process include:
  1. Efficient - Your process should be efficient and waste as little time on unnecessary tasks as possible. You must identify what level of efficiency is possible and work toward that ideal through improved efficiency.
  2. Effective - Your process should create quality instructional products that reach the goals of the instruction. You must define what quality is and create a process that will support designers to achieve that level of quality.
  3. Enabling - Your process should enable designers and other stakeholders to design outstanding materials. There are always inherent restrictions in instructional design, but your process should enable and empower designers as much as possible.
An Instructional Design Performance Support Website
One effective method is to create a Performance Support Website that houses the goals, outputs, templates, rubrics, and other resources used in the ID process. The idea is that designers could easily use this site to support their work. The site should be something that is created collaboratively by the design team and that is constantly updating and improving. The image below is my very rough conceptualization of what that site might look like.
Layout of a generic Instructional Design Performance Support Website.
Evaluating And Improving Your Own Instructional Design Process
The following questions may help you as you scrutinize and work to improve your own instructional design process:
  • What is our instructional design process? Is it documented? If not, why?
  • How do we know our process is working effectively? 
  • How long does it take to build a course?
  • Where are we wasting our time or repeating work in an unnecessary fashion? 
  • How can we eliminate the time wasters and decrease overall time for building a course?
  • How do we measure the quality of our work? What is a better way to do it?
  • How do we evaluate and improve our process?
  • Does the process we use restrict or enable our instructional designers to create quality instruction?
  • How can we empower our instructional designers in their work?
  • What tools will make our work more efficient and effective?
  • What tools will enable our instructional designers to work with greater power?
  • What tasks can we eliminate, automate, or delegate?
There are my current thoughts on improving instructional design processes. I will continue to think about this as I work with and around the excellent designers here at Franklin. Do you have any insights on how to improve the process of designing instruction?

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