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The Art of Making Sense - Instructional Design

What is the role of an instructional designer in developing an online course?

1. Reviewing the client's content

When kicking off a learning solution project (as the role instructional designer), we receive the original content from our clients.

This content is usually written by one or more subject matter experts, or SME - these are the people in the company that have knowledge of specific products or processes.

The content is usually provided in the form of Word documents, presentation files, PDF files, videos or any other type of content they have been using or have developed for a training purpose.

2. Developing a high-level outline (design document)

When you start writing an essay or a book, you would probably start with jotting down some ideas and topics to discuss, then you would develop those into chapter headings, sub-headings and eventually the body.

Creating a high-level outline is of the course content is the foundation.

While reviewing the original content, we create a document that includes a few sections:

  1. Main goal of the course and the learning objectives

  2. Estimated duration of the course and reference the original documents that are used

  3. High-level content: section headings, main topics and sub-topics to be taught

  4. Gaps in content - if something is missing or needs clarification

  5. Rough treatment - what type of slides/interactions/quiz are we planning on using for each topic

We often change the original order of the content, to have topics relate better to one another. This is the art of making sense! If it doesn't make sense to us, how can it make sense to other people who are new to the topic?

This document is the blueprint of the course and once the client approves, we head on to the next phase.

3. Developing a storyboard

A storyboard, in some industries, is a way of planning visuals and angles for each frame.

When developing an online course, our storyboard is a document for planning every screen (slide). This is where we dig in and write everything:

  1. Section heading

  2. Screen heading

  3. On-screen text - which text should appear and read on the screen

  4. Narration text - which text should narrated

  5. Visuals - what type of images should be used and how

  6. Developer notes - regarding order, animation, interactions and more

If there are still gaps in content or questions raised, this is our place to flag them, and the client to fill in the gaps.

The next phase is creating the beta for this online course - the eLearning.

4. Reviewing and refining the beta course

After the beta course has been built, the instructional designer reviews and refines the outcome. It's our role to ensure that the content flows naturally and seamlessly.

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