Skip to content

The Instructional Design Standards Every E-learning Professional Needs to Know

Instructional design standars examine the relationship between the course purpose, its objectives, the content, methods, and the learner. So this is the heart of an eLearning course. Let’s see what these standards require.

Standard 1: Expression of Course Purpose

This standard says the course purpose should explicitly describe the intended outcome, the target audiences, and the scope of the course – what it covers and its syllabus.

In the above screenshot, you can see the course description, which says this course highlights the importance of information security. It defines the types of data and explains how to identify, handle, and dispose data based on its sensitivity. The course duration is thirty minutes. So it provides a basic introduction of the course to learners and orients them towardit.

*Adopted from ASTD eLearning course certification standards

The maximum possible points are six. Some important elements to remember are:

  • The purpose describes the intended outcome in terms of knowledge and skills the learner will acquire.
  • It describes the intended outcome in terms of tasks or problems the learner will be able to accomplish or solve.
  • It describes the target audience.

So a course purpose should cover all these points.

Standard 2: Presence of Instructional Objectives

This standard says the course should have well-framed instructional objectives, which should be performance-based. They should be clearly stated and describe specific, measurable, and observable skills or knowledge the learner will acquire in each unit, module, or lesson of the course.

You can see instructional objectives in the above screenshot. These learning objectives can be displayed in a list, an animation, or a set of questions. How you display the objectives is not important, but the presence of those instructional objectives is the standard.

*Adopted from ASTD eLearning course certification standards

The weightage is seven.

  • Objectives should be clearly stated.
  • They should mention the skills that will be gained and they are to be stated in observable and measurable terms.

Standard 3: Consistency of Objectives With Course Content

According to this standard, it is very important to ensure the content of your course is aligned with its objectives. You need to remember that ‘extra’ or insufficient content in the course do not help achieve the instructional objectives. It is better to frame the instructional objectives first and then collect the content. This way, you can map content accurately to the instructional objectives.

*Adopted from ASTD eLearning course certification standards

The maximum possible points is pretty high at nine.

  • Subject matter is consistent with course objectives.
  • Interrelations between different parts of the course content are noted when appropriate.
  • Course content exists for each of the objectives and is sufficient in substance to cover the objectives.
  • Course subject matter is equal in detail when covering multiple objectives.

It is advisable to have a tracking sheet, where you have the objective in one column and the module name and the scope in another column, so that you know exactly which module is aligned to each objective. In the last column, we can have the assessments, where we can learn which assessment is linked to which objective and where it is covered in the module.

Standard 4: Presentation, Demonstration, Facilitation of Learning

This standard says you need to use two or more instructional methods to support the objectives and provide new information to the learner. You need to help the learner internalize, synthesize, and apply new information. This standard emphasizes more on how you present your content and how you demonstrate what the learner needs to learn.

For example, in this screenshot, there is a demonstration of a motor. The learner will be able to see the object being demonstrated. It can be a motor or it can be a selling skill. It can be software; it can be anything.

Now, how do you facilitate learning? Usually, we facilitate learning through a number of things. It can be a tip at the bottom, it can be feedback to a formative assessment, it can be a resource, or additional information displayed when a hotspot is clicked.

This is a very important standard and scores twelve points. The most important points are:

  • The course uses varied instructional methods to present and demonstrate new information. It is very important that you do not use just one or two methods.
  • You should have a mixture of presentation patterns. Use media such as animations, videos, graphics, or diagrams to effectively deliver the presentations and demonstrations.

Standard 5: Practice With Feedback

According to this standard, it is very important that your learners have opportunities to practice with feedback. The course needs to provide practice opportunities with feedback and guidance, allowing learners apply the newly acquired knowledge or skills. Most of the times, the learner is just told whether he answered a question correctly or not. But, he is looking for more; he wants to know why he is right or wrong. So, we should make sure feedback is given in a constructive manner and tells him why he is right, even if he answers the question correctly. By doing so, you reinforce the learning. In case he gets it wrong, you need to guide him to the right response in a gentle manner.

*Adopted from ASTD eLearning course certification standards

It is a very important standard with a score of fourteen. Certain aspects in it are very important.

  • Practice opportunities are present whenever key concepts are complex, require memorization, and/or require multiple attempts to master. This aspect of the standard gives a clear guideline on where assessments should be and how many of them are needed. You should not have a formative assessment for a simple thing. You should always have it for something slightly complex and difficult to memorize.
  • Practice opportunities are consistent with course objectives. Don’t forget to complete the learning cycle of enabling the small objectives. Try to reinforce the learning for those critical learning units, which will help achieve the learning objectives of the course.
  • Practice opportunities should have correct directions or instructions.
  • Practice opportunities allow the learner to make an incorrect response and recover from the error. You can allow learners to retry by providing options such as try again and reset the options.

Standard 6: Engagement Techniques

This standard says you need to have engaging interactivities in the course. You can have any number of interactions and sky is the limit for your creativity. But you need to keep the costs in mind. Sometimes, implementing novel engagement techniques could be expensive. Now-a-days, authoring tools allow the creation of a wide variety of interactivities without any programming knowledge.

*Adopted from ASTD eLearning course certification standards

The Maximum possible points for this standard is 6.

  • Engagement techniques are varied.
  • They should have a clear relationship or connection to the course content.
  • Engagement techniques should suit the intended audience.

Standard 7: Assessment of Learning

When it comes to the final quiz, make sure each question is linked directly to a learning objective. If the learning objective is to describe an object, the question should ask the learner to describe it. Likewise, if the learning objective is to compare two phenomena, the quiz question should be about the comparison. Many a time, instructional objectives do not ‘sync’ with the questions in the final quiz. This needs to be avoided. You need to test only the instructional objectives.

These are the various eLearning standards that help us create better courses.

The score is 6. Assessments are valid, and they should provide guidance.

*Adopted from ASTD eLearning course certification standards

These are the e-learning standards we have. If you can make a checklist of these standards and hand them over to your designers, I can assure you the quality of your courses will take an immediate leap to the positive.

nstructional Design 101: A Handy Reference Guide to eLearning Designers