While eLearning may have its shortcomings as well as a relatively short history, it has quickly carved a niche for itself as an acceptable platform for all forms of learning, formal or informal.
In the traditional classroom or in-person learning, course instruction is easy because of the presence of a teacher or guide who directs the flow of the session, giving explanations and additional information about specific topics. This is useful because it is easier to carry everyone along and hold their attention through the discussion. This is however not obtainable in digital learning as all parties must proceed without the presence of such an instructor. This limitation highlights the importance of instructional design.
Instructional design refers to the systematic development of educational software by incorporating learning experiences that make the process of acquiring and retaining knowledge more intuitive, efficient and appealing. In short, it is the art of digitalizing the approach a physical teacher would take as closely as possible by incorporating concepts about learning processes and the best way to present instruction
A lot of online courses, however, tend to pay little attention to instructional design or flat out ignore it when creating instructional material for their students, instead focusing all their energy on making their coursework as aesthetically appealing as possible. Of course, it is vital to present learning materials as beautifully as possible because you have to be able to attract people first before you can interact with them. But what happens when all you have is aesthetics and little functionality?
Before you continue, take a moment to think about this: if you were to take on an eLearning course, what would you look out for? Easy navigation and apt interaction or compelling graphics?? In other words, Instructional Design, or the visual design? The answer is pretty simple: both.
It’s easy for online institutes to enlist the services of web developers to come up with alluring visual designs, but that’s where their job ends. It’s one thing to attract a crowd; it’s another thing entirely to keep them engaged.
When coming up with an eLearning course, you cannot afford to emphasize more on just visuals and ignore the actual instructional content part of it. The reason is simple, poor content cannot hide under enthralling graphics for long, and poor visuals will discourage students from being actively involved in the course. eLearning involves a lot more than catchy presentations, and this is where instructional design comes in. A content developer skilled in instructional design is the answer to issues such as the state and needs of the learner and what learning environment the learners are in order to craft appropriate responses and alternatives to further assist in the learning in line with the objectives of the digital course. Such responses are usually made available via well-organized contents, visually appealing multimedia, assessments, intuitive elements, and adequate feedback.
In a nutshell, any coursework without instructional design is merely a cache of text and images on a computer or smartphone. For an excellent instructional material to be complete, four fundamental questions have to be answered during the conceptualization and design stages.
- Who are the learners?
- What skills or knowledge should the learner be able to achieve by the end of the course? In other words, what is the course objective?
- What is the best way to present the information to ensure maximum impact?
- How best can the course be evaluated in reaching its goals?
Once these questions are answered, it becomes easier to make design decisions that allow how best way to use online programs in teaching. Intentional design strategies must be evident in all educational programs. It takes time, practice and an understanding that adjustments and changes will need to be made after the initial implementation and evaluation. An understanding of the importance of instructional design in eLearning grants the opportunity to craft and deliver educational programs that enhance knowledge and capacity to meet the goals and objectives of any online learning platform.
The role of the instructional designer is one that involves making sure that the attention of all e-learners is sustained without a physical tutor. Without efficient instructional design, it would be impossible to guarantee effective transfer of knowledge online. Content lacking instructional design only ends up offering visually-appealing e-courses with bells and whistles that do not achieve learning objectives. You might already have top-notch content, but you need instructional design to make it learnable within the limitations of a digital environment.