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E-learning Design: Instructional Design Models Vs Strategies

As instructional designers, at the start of every new eLearning project, we are called upon to think of a strategy which is best suited to the project at hand given the technical, time, and financial constraints. In this scenario, we often tend to mix up our strategies with models. Though the two might overlap, there is a fine distinction between a strategy and a model. We will understand the distinction between the two so that we have a very clear idea of what each is and what is its place in the scheme of things.


A strategy is a high-level, all encompassing plan. It is usually a long term plan and impacts the aspects of day-to-day operations. It is not subject to frequent changes. A strategy is an umbrella which covers all the tactical decisions.

The strategy you select for your project will depend on your overall goal. Selecting the perfect strategy is both an art and a science. It is an art because it needs creative thinking to come up with a strategy that addresses all issues of your project. It is a science since it needs to be selected keeping in mind certain parameters dictated by a model.



A model tries to explain concepts or phenomena that have no physical laws. Models are mostly neotic. They are abstract representations which aid in understanding concepts that have no physical metrics or observable behavior. This is where models help us. They attempt to set guidelines or boundaries to abstract phenomena to help us understand. This gives us a frame of reference to base our understanding on.


Learning is the best example of a phenomenon which has no tangible representation. Several centuries since the dawn of mankind, we are still trying to come to grips with how the human brain accepts and assimilates knowledge. We are still in the dark about how learning occurs. There are close to fifty published models on learning todate. The well-known models include ‘The ADDIE Model’, ‘Gagne’s Nine Step Model’, and ‘The Learning Cycle’.

Strategy and Model in the Context of eLearning

In our eLearning courses, we have to select our strategy based on certain parameters including but not limited to the following:

  • The target audience
  • Their prior experience in the subject and level of knowledge
  • Intended learning outcomes from the course
  • Technical, time,and financial constraints
  • Cultural background of the audience

For example, in the Eaestern world where authority figures are revered and held in great esteem, having a guided avatar for a course would be a good strategy. The same won’t hold good in the Western world where people are self-driven.

Similarly, a course meant for a predominantly or exclusive male audience is bound to have a different strategy (in terms of langauage, visuals, etc.) compared to a course with a good mix of male-female audience.

So, your strategy should address these issues and deliver optimal learning. It will usually lie within the framework of the selected model – the steps can overlap or the order can be changed based on the strategy selected.

For example, you can start with questions to start with the unkown and answer them in your course or you can proceed from the known to the unkown and end with review questions.

Hence, your whole eLearning course will be curcumscribed by your strategy, ably supported by the models.

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