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What is instructional design in education?

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Unravel the art of creating impactful educational content. Learn the role of instructional design.

What is instructional design in education?

Especially prevalent in e-learning and online courses, instructional design ensures that educational content is both effective and engaging for learners, so let’s dive into everything you need to know about instructional design, including a must-have tool.

Understanding instructional design in education

Instructional design in education refers to the systematic process of creating, developing, and delivering educational courses and programs. At its core, it revolves around the analysis of learning needs and goals, and the formulation of a plan to meet those needs using a variety of teaching methods and strategies. Drawing from fields such as cognitive psychology, communication theory, and instructional technology, instructional designers seek to optimize learning experiences in ways that make them effective, engaging, and relevant for learners. As the educational landscape continues to evolve with technological advancements and diverse learner needs, instructional design plays a pivotal role in ensuring that learning outcomes are achieved in the most efficient and impactful manner.

The goal of instructional design in education

The primary objective of instructional design in education is to facilitate the attainment of learning objectives. It's not just about conveying information; it's about designing a learning process that ensures understanding, retention, and the practical application of knowledge in the real-world.

Why is instructional design important in education?

Instructional design plays a pivotal role in ensuring that learners receive a coherent, comprehensive, and user-friendly education experience. As online learning continues to grow in popularity, the need for structured, well-designed online courses becomes even more pronounced. Instructional design bridges the gap between subject matter experts and learners, ensuring content delivery that aligns with learning theory and methodologies.

Basic components of instructional design

Instructional design is the intricate architecture behind effective learning experiences. It's not merely about transferring information but about structuring content in a way that facilitates understanding, retention, and application. At the heart of this design process are a few fundamental components. These elements, which act as the building blocks for crafting meaningful educational content, range from the initial assessment of learner needs to the formulation of clear objectives, the selection of relevant instructional strategies, and the deployment of suitable assessment tools. So without further ado, let's delve deeper into each of these fundamental components of instructional design:


This phase involves understanding the needs of the learners, the goals of the instruction, and the resources available.


In this stage, instructional designers work on learning design, course content, curriculum design, and the overall structure of the learning program, often using storyboarding or simulations.


Here, the actual instructional materials and modules are created, often incorporating multimedia and interactive elements into learning activities.


This crucial phase assesses the effectiveness of the instructional materials in achieving learning outcomes.

Benefits of instructional design

Instructional design ensures that learning materials are tailored to meet specific educational objectives. It provides a structured framework for content delivery, enhancing the user experience. By using a systematic process, instructional design ensures that learning is consistent, relevant, and engaging.

Examples of instructional design models

Instructional design models provide structured frameworks that educators and trainers use to develop effective learning experiences. These models serve as blueprints that guide the instructional design process, from needs assessment and defining learning objectives to the creation and delivery of content. Here is a breakdown of the most common instructional design models:

The ADDIE Model

The ADDIE Model is a systematic instructional design framework used to guide the creation of effective educational programs and training modules. Serving as a dynamic, iterative blueprint, the ADDIE Model ensures that educational interventions are both comprehensive and adaptable to evolving learner needs. Representing a five-phase process:

  1. Analysis — where learning needs and objectives are identified
  2. Design — where course content and learning experiences are mapped out
  3. Development — where actual course materials and activities are created
  4. Implementation — where the program is delivered to learners
  5. Evaluation — where the effectiveness of the instruction is assessed and refined

The Kirkpatrick Model

The Kirkpatrick Model, developed by Dr. Donald Kirkpatrick in the 1950s, is a widely recognized framework for evaluating the effectiveness of training programs. Together, these levels provide a comprehensive understanding of training efficacy, from immediate perceptions to long-term outcomes. It comprises four hierarchical levels of evaluation

  1. Reaction — This is the most basic level of evaluation and measures the participants' immediate reaction to the training program.
  2. Learning — At this level, the goal is to measure the extent to which participants have advanced in terms of skills, knowledge, or attitude after going through the training.
  3. Behavior — This level evaluates the transfer of learning to the job environment. It looks at whether participants are using what they learned during training in their workplace.
  4. Results — This is the highest level of evaluation and aims to measure the tangible outcomes and results achieved due to the training program.

Bloom’s Taxonomy

Bloom's Taxonomy, introduced by Benjamin Bloom in 1956, is a hierarchical framework used to classify learning objectives into levels of complexity and specificity. It delineates the cognitive processes involved in learning, ranging from basic knowledge acquisition to advanced cognitive skills. Originally structured in three main domains—cognitive, affective, and psychomotor—the taxonomy is most widely known for its cognitive domain, which is often depicted as a pyramid with six levels: Remembering, Understanding, Applying, Analyzing, Evaluating, and Creating. These levels guide educators in designing instructional tasks, framing questions, and assessing student progress, ensuring a comprehensive approach to teaching and learning.

Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction

Robert Gagne's Nine Events of Instruction is a systematic approach to instructional design that outlines specific steps educators should follow to ensure effective and efficient learning. Rooted in cognitive psychology, these nine events are based on the idea that certain instructional events align with and stimulate distinct cognitive processes in learners. The following events, when followed in sequence, offer a robust framework for creating impactful instructional experiences:

  1. Gaining attention to capture the learner's focus
  2. Informing learners of the objectives to set clear expectations
  3. Stimulating recall of prior knowledge to build upon existing understanding
  4. Presenting the content in an organized and clear manner
  5. Providing learning guidance to aid comprehension
  6. Eliciting performance to have learners demonstrate understanding
  7. Giving feedback to clarify any misunderstandings
  8. Assessing performance to ensure learning objectives have been achieved
  9. Enhancing retention and transfer to help learners apply knowledge in different contexts


The ASSURE model is an instructional design framework that guides educators in creating effective learning experiences by integrating technology and media into the learning process. An acronym for Analyze learners, State objectives, Select methods, materials, and media, Utilize materials and media, Require learner participation, and Evaluate and revise, the model provides a systematic approach to lesson planning. By emphasizing the integration of technology and active learner engagement, the ASSURE model ensures that educational experiences are dynamic, relevant, and tailored to meet the diverse needs and preferences of today's learners.


The Successive Approximation Model (SAM) is an agile and iterative instructional design approach that has gained traction in the educational and corporate training sectors for its adaptability and efficiency. In contrast to the traditional ADDIE model, which is linear and often seen as time-consuming, SAM emphasizes collaboration, repeated small-scale testing, and rapid prototyping. The model is broken into two primary phases: the Preparation Phase and the Iterative Design Phase. The former involves basic preparation and groundwork for the instructional design process, while the latter comprises iterative cycles of design, development, and evaluation. By fostering an environment of ongoing feedback and refinement, SAM ensures that the end product is both effective and aligned with the needs of the learners.

What is a career in instructional design like?

In the realm of secondary and higher education, instructional design is a pivotal domain where experts, known as instructional experience designers or simply instructional designers, play a significant role in shaping the learning landscape. These instructional designers work diligently to create, update, and refine e-learning courses and other curricular materials based on solid design principles to ensure optimal student learning.

Beyond traditional curriculum development, their work often delves into producing training materials, overseeing e-learning course development, and even mastering the intricacies of learning management systems. A strong emphasis on project management and problem-solving enables these professionals to devise innovative learning solutions tailored to various needs. Their expertise ensures that the learning environment is engaging, with activities designed to foster comprehension and application of knowledge. Given the increasing reliance on digital platforms in education, their role in designing and optimizing e-learning experiences is more crucial than ever.

Speechify AI Studio — A must-have tool for instructional designers

In the rapidly changing digital world, Speechify AI Studio emerges as a crucial tool for instructional designers. This advanced platform offers AI-driven features that cater to contemporary instructional needs. Designers can use its AI video editing to integrate various multimedia for impactful e-learning modules, while AI voice overs ensure clarity and consistency. The 1-click dubbing enhances accessibility with multiple languages, and AI avatars add a personalized touch, boosting engagement. Leveraging Speechify AI Studio, designers can produce inclusive, top-tier educational content suitable for diverse learners. Experience Speechify AI Studio for free today.


What qualifications are required to work in educational instructional design?

To work in educational instructional design, one typically requires a bachelor's or master’s degree in instructional design, education, or a related field, with many employers preferring candidates with a master's degree, experience in curriculum development, and proficiency in learning management systems, instructional design theories, and e-learning tools.

When did instructional design start?

Instructional design, as a formalized field of study, began to take shape during World War II with the military's need for rapid training programs.

How much do instructional designers make?

The average salary for instructional designers in the U.S. was around $65,000 annually, but this can vary widely based on experience, education, location, and specific industry.

Do instructional designers make elearning courses?

Yes, instructional designers specialize in educational technology, ensuring that learners, whether in microlearning tutorials or full-fledged online courses, receive the best possible education.

Where can I find instructional designer jobs?

You can find instructional designer job listings on LinkedIn by using the platform's job search feature and entering "instructional designer" as the keyword.

Do instructional designer work with stakeholders?

Yes, instructional designers often collaborate with stakeholders to ensure learning solutions meet organizational and learner needs.

Cliff Weitzman

Cliff Weitzman

Cliff Weitzman is a dyslexia advocate and the CEO and founder of Speechify, the #1 text-to-speech app in the world, totaling over 100,000 5-star reviews and ranking first place in the App Store for the News & Magazines category. In 2017, Weitzman was named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list for his work making the internet more accessible to people with learning disabilities. Cliff Weitzman has been featured in EdSurge, Inc., PC Mag, Entrepreneur, Mashable, among other leading outlets.