7 Instructional Design Standards for Better E-learning

7 Instructional Design Standards for Better E-learning

Global organizations like yours are relying increasingly on eLearning to train their geographically dispersed workforce. So, it is very important for eLearning course developers, whether in-house or external, to develop standardized courseware which can be used across multiple environments. Today we will explore 7 instructional design standards.

What are Instructional Design Standards?

These are the standards that observe the connection between the purpose of the course, course objectives, instructional content, instructional methods, and the learner.

Standard 1: Expression of the Course Purpose

The purpose of the course should explain the intended outcome of the eLearning course in terms of the knowledge and skills the learner will acquire. It should describe the intended outcome in terms of tasks or problems the learner will be able to accomplish or solve. It describes the target audience, the scope of the course, the syllabus, and how long the course would take to complete.

Expression of the Course Purpose

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. Hence it provides a basic introduction of the course to learners and orients them toward it.

Standard 2: Presence of Instructional Objectives

It is very important that the course should state its learning objectives. There is a lot of difference between the course purpose and instructional objectives. Instructional objectives 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.

Presence of Instructional Objectives

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 these objectives are displayed is not important, but the presence of those instructional objectives is the standard.

  • 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 important to ensure the content of your eLearning course is aligned with its objectives. We need to keep in mind that ‘extra’ or insufficient content in the course does not help achieve the instructional objectives. It’s better to frame the instructional objectives first and then collect the content. This way, the content is mapped accurately to the instructional objectives.

Consistency of Objectives With Course Content

  • 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.
  • Subject matter is equal in detail when covering multiple objectives.

It is advisable to have a tracking sheet, where the objective is in one column, the module name and the scope in another column, so that it is exactly known which module is aligned to which objective. In the last column, assessments are placed, where we can find them linked to their appropriate objective and where it is covered in the module.

Standard 4: Presentation, Demonstration, Facilitation of Learning

This standard says the eLearning course developers should use two or more instructional strategies to enrich online learning, support the objectives, and provide new information to the learner. This helps the learner internalize, synthesize, and apply new information. This standard emphasizes how the content (what the learner needs to learn) should be presented and demonstrated.

Now, how is the learning facilitated? Usually, it is facilitated through several 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.

Presentation, Demonstration, Facilitation of Learning

The most important points are:

  • The course uses varied instructional methods to present and demonstrate new information. It is very important that course developers do not use just one or two methods.
  • There should be a mixture of presentation patterns. Using various media such as animations, videos, graphics, or diagrams to effectively deliver presentations and demonstrations are some effective ways.

Standard 5: Practice with Feedback

According to this standard, it is important that learners have opportunities to practice with feedback. The eLearning course needs to provide practice opportunities with feedback and guidance, allowing learners to 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, ensure the feedback is given in a constructive manner and tells the learner why he is right, even if he answers the question correctly. By doing so, learning is reinforced. In case he gets it wrong, the learner should be provided the right answer in a subtle manner.

Practice With Feedback

Practice With Feedback - Incorrect

Certain important aspects:

  • 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 placed and how many of them are needed.
  • Rather than using a formative assessment for a simple concept, it should be used for concepts that are slightly complex and difficult to memorize.
  • Practice opportunities should be consistent with course objectives. It is necessary to complete the learning cycle of enabling the small objectives. It is important to reinforce learning for those critical learning units, which will help achieve the learning objectives of the course.
  • Practice opportunities should have correct directions/instructions.
  • Practice opportunities allow the learner to make an incorrect response and recover from the error. Learners can be allowed to retry by providing options such as try again and reset the options.

Standard 6: Engagement Techniques

This standard states that the eLearning course should have interactivities whose primary reason is to engage the learner. There should be ample interactions and course developers should be creative while developing them, not forgetting the cost factor. Sometimes, implementing novel engagement techniques can be expensive. Now-a-days, authoring tools allow the creation of a wide variety of interactivities without any programming knowledge.

Engagement Techniques

Engagement techniques should:

  • Use varied methods
  • Have a clear relationship or connection to the course content
  • Suit the intended audience

Standard 7: Assessment of Learning

When it comes to assessments, it should be ensured that each question is linked directly to a learning objective. If the learning objective is to describe an object, the question should ask the learner about the different aspects of the object description. Likewise, if the learning objective is to compare two phenomena, the quiz question should be about the comparison. Hence, it is necessary that the assessments are in sync with the learning objectives of the online course.

Assessment of Learning

These standards are also intended to ensure a consistent, high quality learning experience for all learners. Course developers can make a checklist of these standards to ensure the quality of courses and provide an enriching learning experience to learners.

View E-book on Instructional Design 101: A Handy Reference Guide to E-learning Designers