How Would You Explain Instructional Design to a Layman?

Though Instructional Design is a fast growing field, I still come across people who do understand what Instructional Design is about. Technical Writing is much better known than Instructional Design in India. I am not sure how it is in the rest of the world. Have you tried to explain Instructional Design to someone who has no clue what you are talking about? If so, how did you do it? This is going to be interesting especially today when the face of Instructional Design and the role of Instructional Designers are changing.

Wikipedia defines Instructional Design as the practice of maximizing the effectiveness, efficiency and appeal of instruction and other learning experiences. The process consists broadly of determining the current state and needs of the learner, defining the end goal of instruction, and creating some “intervention” to assist in the transition. I am not sure how much someone can understand what Instructional Design is about from such a definition.

To me, Instructional Design is about designing effective learning experiences irrespective of the tools and methodologies used. I will try to explain this using an example.

Let’s say you have to teach a few rhymes to a 2 year old kid. What are the options available?

  • Sing a few rhymes to the kid yourself and get the kid to learn a few rhymes.
  • Play a few audio cassettes or audio files and allow the kid to listen and learn.
  • Allow the kid to play a few games or watch a few videos on the computer.

While there are many options, it is important to use the right content, an effective approach that appeals to the kid  and the perfect learning environment where the kid learns the best. This is where an Instructional Designer can help.

An Instructional Designer is someone who designs effective learning experiences that engages learners and helps them learn well. You have instructional designers in custom e-learning companies who deal with wide range of subjects,  industries and develop learning content as and when demand arises. You also have Instructional Designers in software companies who focus on specific technologies and create learning content only for those technologies. You find templatized learning material and also creative learning material. All said and done everyone everywhere needs learning material in all forms be it physical workshops, online sessions, e-learning or virtual training programs.

With the available tools and technologies today, instructional design know-how, creative ideas and of course restrictions and limitations an Instructional Designer tries to design effective learning experiences for the classroom or online environment.

Well I am not sure if a layman would get this explanation of mine. Err! This is challenging.

Why don’t you try?

6 comments to How Would You Explain Instructional Design to a Layman?

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  • Very well said Rupa, your simple example will certainly help any layman understand. It is indeed very challenging to lay your thoughts across the table in this subject. I am Master’s student of Instructional Design, and every time I explain to any of my friends about it, their face is expressionless.

    These are a few definitions I generally choose to convey. –

    • It’s a science of designing instructional material by integrating technology using a systematic process.

    • I design instructional material that involves integration of various technologies using a systematic process so that learning is more efficient and less difficult but also making sure that training objectives are met.

    Recently, I am following a discussion in Linkedin, that answers Enid Crystal query on ‘What is your “elevator speech” explaining Instructional Design to a business person?’.