Week 4: Instructional Design and the Online Environment – Winter 2020


In the last module, we explored learning theories that describe where knowledge originates and how people learn. In this module, we will focus on instructional design that involves “translating principles of learning and instruction into plans for instructional materials, activities, information resources, and evaluation” (Smith & Ragan, 2005, p. 2). Although some institutions and organizations have dedicated instructional designers, the responsibility for designing instruction often falls to individual educators, thus it is important for educators to have an understanding of instructional design whether teaching face-to-face or online. Instructional design offers a systematic process for the planning of instruction and it can help educators create engaging and meaningful online learning experiences. The goal of this module is to provide a general overview of instructional design and to examine commonly used models that are applicable to online teaching and learning.

Learning Outcomes

When you have completed this module, you should be able to:

  • Describe the purpose of instructional design and its importance in the online environment.
  • Discuss the relationship between learning theories and instructional design models.
  • Identify the key characteristics of Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction, ADDIE, and Integrated Course Design/Backward Design models.

Topic 1 – What is Instructional Design?


The field of instructional design has a long history dating back to the Second World War when it was used in the development of training materials for military personnel (Bullen, 2014). There are many definitions and conceptions of instructional design that have evolved over the years.

Please read the following article and watch the following video:

Siemens (2002) cites a variety of definitions and summarizes instructional design as “a system or process of organizing learning resources to ensure learners achieve established learning outcomes” (para 5). He suggests that it is both a framework for learning and a quality process that helps to ensure the effective presentation of content and aids in supporting learner interaction. In the video, Bullen (2014) describes instructional design as largely common sense for educators and explains that at the basic level, it involves alignment – alignment between learning outcomes, assessment, and learning activities. He suggests that instructional design forces educators to move from a content-centered perspective to a learning-centered perspective where learning outcomes, not content, guide the assessment and learning activities. Bullen (2014) also notes that instructional design helps educators make appropriate media and technology choices, which is especially important in the online environment.

According to Mager (1984), the goal of instructional design is to answer three major questions:

  1. Where are we going? (What are the goals of the instruction?)
  2. How will we get there? (What is the instructional strategy and the instructional medium?)
  3. How will we know when we have arrived? (What should our tests look like? How will we evaluate and revise the instructional materials?)

Learning Activity 1 – Why Instructional Design?

Please reflect on the following question:

  1. Why do you think instructional design is important in online teaching and learning?

Please take a few minutes to think about why instructional design is important in online teaching and learning, and consider how instructional design can be implemented within the online environment.

Topic 2 – What is the Relationship between Instructional Design and Learning Theories?


Please read the following article:

McLeod (2003) explains that learning theories are descriptive in nature and aim to describe how people learn whereas instructional design models are more prescriptive and offer specific guidance on how to help people learn. Essentially, instructional design involves translating abstract theories of learning into concrete plans for instruction. Once educators have an understanding of how learning works, instructional design models can help them to make decisions about how to support learning in specific educational contexts. McLeod (2003) provides examples of how learning theories inform the instructional design process. For example, Behaviourism supports the development instructional objectives, Cognitivism encourages task and learner analysis, and Constructivism promotes the consideration of context when planning instruction. Similar to learning theories, educators and instructional designers do not typically rely on just one single theoretical framework to guide design; they often combine theories and use them as a foundation to design instruction that suits the needs of the learners and the instructional situation.

Learning Activity 2 – Learning Theory and Instructional Design

McLeod (2003) describes the implications of Behaviourism, Cognitivism, and Constructivism on Instructional Design. This article was written in 2003 when Connectivism had not yet been introduced as a learning theory. Given your understanding of Connectivism from the last module, how do you think an instructional designer might apply the theory of Connectivism? Can you think of an example from your own teaching and learning context of how Connectivism might inform the instructional design? Please share your thoughts on your blog and tag your post with “EDDL 5141.”

Topic 3 – Instructional Design Models


Please watch the following video:

Instructional design models provide guidance on the processes that should be followed when designing instruction. They offer systematic steps to follow, and serve as a blueprint for developing and delivering instructional materials. Instructional design models help educators to make sense of abstract learning theories and provide a common language and guiding tool for course design. There are a wide variety of instructional design models available that suggest different approaches to the design and development of instruction. Similar to learning theories, each model has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the choice of which to use will depend on which model works best for your educational context. The next section will provide an overview of three of the most popular instructional design models.

Topic 4 – Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction


Gagné (1965) has been described as the father of instructional design as his 1965 publication “Conditions of Learning” proposed a model of instruction that has provided the foundation for many contemporary instructional design models and practices. Gagné described a process called the “Nine Events of Instruction” that should be taken into consideration when designing instruction:

  1. Gain attention of the students
  2. Inform students of the objectives
  3. Stimulate recall of prior learning
  4. Present the content
  5. Provide learner guidance
  6. Elicit performance
  7. Provide feedback
  8. Assess performance.
  9. Enhance retention and transfer to the job

Although this model was originally designed for the traditional face-to-face environment, it has been adapted for online teaching and learning and is used by many educators and instructional designers to guide the development of online instruction.

Please read the following blog post, which provides an overview of how Gagne’s model can be applied to the online environment. As you read the article, think about any learning experiences you’ve had that exhibit characteristics of Gagné’s model:

Topic 5 – The ADDIE Model


Please read the following article:

The ADDIE model is one of the most popular and widely used instructional design models, especially for the development of online instruction, and it is also heavily used for corporate e-learning and training.

The model consists of the following five phases:

  1. Analysis — This phase involves clarifying the instructional problem, establishing the instructional goals and objectives, and identifying the learning environment and learner’s existing knowledge and skills.
  2. Design — This phase involves planning and designing the learning objectives, assessment instruments, content, lesson planning, teaching and learning activities, and media selection.
  3. Develop – This phase involves the creation of content and the loading of content into a web site or LMS.
  4. Implement — This phase involves the actual delivery of the course, including any prior training or briefing of learner support staff, and student assessment.
  5. Evaluate — This phases involves the collection of feedback in order to identify areas that require improvement and this feeds into the design, development and implementation of the next iteration of the course.

The ADDIE model represents an iterative process with evaluation leading to re-analysis and further design and development modifications. There are a several variations of the ADDIE model, and many new instructional design models are based on the basic tenets of the model. Despite its popularity, the ADDIE model has been criticized as being too linear and inflexible, and lacking learner-instructor interaction and detail for application.

Topic 6 – Integrated Course Design/Backward Design


Please read pages 1–4 of the following guide:

Fink’s (2003) Integrated Course Design model is focused on the alignment between situational factors, learning goals, feedback and assessment, and teaching and learning activities. Fink suggests a twelve-step instructional design process that consists of three main phases:

  1. Initial Design Phase
    • Step 1. Identify important situational factors
    • Step 2. Identify important learning goals
    • Step 3. Formulate appropriate feedback and assessment procedures
    • Step 4. Select effective teaching/learning activities
    • Step 5. Make sure the primary components are integrated
  2. Intermediate Design Phase
    • Step 6. Create a thematic structure for the course
    • Step 7. Select or create an instructional strategy
    • Step 8. Integrate the course structure and the instructional strategy to create an overall scheme of learning activities
  3. Final Design Phase
    • Step 10. De-Bug possible problems
    • Step 11. Write the course syllabus
    • Step 12. Plan an evaluation of the course and of your teaching

The basic components of the Integrated Course Design model are the same as those found in other models of instructional design, including the backward design model that has been outlined by Wiggins, Wiggins and McTighe (2005) and the constructive alignment model from Biggs (1996). In all of these models, the learning outcomes that students are intended to achieve are defined first, and then the assessment and teaching methods are then designed to best achieve those outcomes. This instructional design approach is learner-centred as the focus is on what the learner has to achieve and how the learner may best be engaged in order to achieve it (Biggs, 2014).

Learning Activity 3 – Instructional Design Model Review

Please examine the online course that you are using for the Online Course Audit Assignment and share at least two examples demonstrating how elements of the course align with the instructional design models described in the module. Explain either why you think the model was chosen, or how this design decision impacts the course. Please share your examples on your blog and tag your post with “EDDL 5141.”

Assessment #2

Online Design Plan

Refer to the Assignment Overview to complete Assignment #2.

Review your peer’s examples and identify one instructional design element that you would like to incorporate into your own online teaching and learning experience for your Online Design Plan Assignment. Please comment on your peer’s post and describe how plan to incorporate one of their examples into your Online Design Plan Assignment.


Instructional design provides a systematic process that can be used to create meaningful and effective instruction both face-to-face and online. It builds on what we know about how people learn, and provides guidance on instructional strategies that help people learn and supports the process of developing and implementing those strategies. There are a variety of instructional design models, including Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction, the ADDIE model, and the Integrated Course Design Model. In most cases, no one model is used exclusively to design instruction. Similar to learning theories, most educators and instructional designers use a combination of models to inform their instructional design approaches and strategies. Following the steps of an instructional design model can help educators become more efficient in designing their instruction for a variety of different learning situations, including the online environment. In the next module, we will explore the Integrated Course Design Model in more detail including identifying situational factors and writing learning outcomes.


Arshavskiy, M. (2016). Leveraging Gagné’s nine events of instruction . Retrieved from https://elearningindustry.com/leveraging-gagnes-nine-events-of-instruction

Bates, A.W. (2015). The ADDIE model. In Teaching in a digital age: Guidelines for designing teaching and learning . Vancouver BC: Tony Bates Associates Ltd. Retrieved from https://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/chapter/6-5-the-addie-model

Biggs, J. (1996). Enhancing teaching through constructive alignment. Higher Education , 32 (3), 347-364.

Biggs, J. (2014). Constructive alignment in university teaching. HERDSA Review of Higher Education , 1 (1), 5-22.

Carleton University. (2017). Instructional design models [Video file]. Retrieved from https://mediaspace.carleton.ca/media/Instructional+Design+Models/0_zzlam58x

Commonwealth of Learning. (2014). What is instructional design? [Video file] Retrieved from https://youtu.be/dWqc3s64LIU

Dee Fink, L. (2003). A self-directed guide to designing courses for significant learning (pp. 2-4). Retrieved from http://www.deefinkandassociates.com/GuidetoCourseDesignAug05.pdf

Gagné, R. M. (1965). The conditions of learning and theory of instruction (1st ed.). New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

Hess, A. K. N., & Greer, K. (2016). Designing for engagement: Using the ADDIE Model to integrate high-impact practices into an online information literacy course. Communications in Information Literacy , 10 (2), 264.

Mager, R. E (1984). Developing attitude toward learning (2nd ed.). Belmont, CA: Lake Publishing.

McLeod, G. (2003) Learning theory and instructional design. Learning Matters: The journal of the Durham Technical Community College 2(1), 35-43. Retrieved from https://library.digitalnc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/yearbooks/id/8404/rec/1

Siemens, G. (2002). Instructional design in elearning . Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/InstructionalDesign.htm

Smith, P. L., & Ragan, T. J. (2005). Instructional design (3rd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Wiggins, G. P., Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design . ASCD.

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