Opinion: Great eLearning design does not equal great instructional design

I fear the “instructional design” field is creating great eLearning designers, but that doesn’t always make them great instructional designers. This is coming from an accidental ID, so I learned quickly that there was a lot to learn.


I’m not so sure. There are plenty of IDs who are adequate at designing instructor-led training classes, but don’t seem to be able to make the leap to designing for eLearning. They fall back on the formulaic approach to designing for ILT (maintaining a death-grip on ADDIE), producing an eLearning course which ends up being mountains of text, irrelevant clip art, stock sound effects, videos lifted from YouTube, and little else. The “interactivity,” if you want to call it that, consists of the NEXT and BACK buttons. The assessment is True/False, Multiple Guess, and occasionally a fill-in-the-blank, 80% pass.

These IDs seriously need to read Leaving ADDIE for SAM: An Agile Model for Developing the Best Learning Experiences and Michael Allen’s Guide to e-Learning: Building Interactive, Fun, and Effective Learning Programs for Any Company. The old formulas for designing instruction do not take into account the capabilities of the delivery medium, much less a developer who is equipped to fully-exploit its capabilities.


I agree, it goes both ways. Right now, it just seems like there is a lot of focus on eLearning design for those that are newer to the field and less on traditional instructional design methods. But for sure, I spend most of my days explaining how to apply traditional methods to the newer delivery mediums. I don’t believe eLearning is the answer to all training needs, and that seems to be the default nowadays. We have all these great social learning tools that aren’t being used as frequently as they could be because they can involve more traditional ID thought processes that newer eLearning designers may not actually have skills in yet.


I like what MilwJoe had to say, and maybe that coupd be a discusaion all it’s own! And as far as relying too heavily on eLearning to do the training, yes, but the delivery method is so easily accessible for an enterprise-wide roll-out (not to mention cheap). A classroom-led experience can be more engaging, and it is nice when the eLearning compliments that experience as pre-work or “ticket into the class” setup.

I was also an accidental ID professional and really had to get myself marinated in the basics of ID to understand what the heck i was doing designing eLearning or anything else. But ultimately i think any eLearning can succeed if the designer asks themselves, “would i be put to sleep by what im making if i was the learner?” And then of course balance that out with, “Yes, what i just made is super engaging, but is it distracting from the takeaway or reinforcing it?”


Depends on the definitions and perspectives of what you see as eLearning Design. if eLearning Design goes beyond the andragogy or pedagogy and tech, into the realm of learning experience design, then Yes, it is different from instructional design.


Good point @lxd-doula yet it’s frustrating when you see a job post and the key attribute is experience with Storyline (or whatever authoring tool of choice is inserted). The art of creating assessments that delve into content mastery beyond multiple choice seem to be gone from the current elearning “ID”. The resource library suggested by @MilwJoe is a good one to help create the bridge!!

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