eLearning Instructional Design Made Easy

Performing basic instructional design does not have to be time consuming and difficult. Planning your eLearning course development might be similar to processes you have used for other training purposes.

One quick and easy instructional design technique is to start by making a list of your goals, then break those goals into categories. For example:

  • Organizational Objectives – What goals do you want to accomplish through a well-trained workforce?
  • Job Roles and Job Behaviors – Which employees (job roles) are responsible for accomplishing those goals for you ?
  • Learning Objectives – What do these employees need to know and/or be able to do in order to achieve your goals?

Below you will find a brief explanation of these fundamental concepts. If you are looking to improve the quality of your instructional designs, I believe you will find these ideas helpful.

Organizational Objectives

When you begin a new eLearning project, first make a list of your organizational objectives and the desired results.  Make them specific and measurable. If you aren’t sure where to begin, start by asking your organization’s leadership (CEO, vice presidents, managers, etc.) their short- and long-term goals.

  1. Why are these goals important to your organization?
  2. Has the company tried and failed to achieve these goals in the past?
  3. How does the company measure these goals?

Asking leadership to assist in defining the corporate goals will narrow the focus of your eLearning course and solicit their buy-in to your project.

Sample Organizational Objective Examples

  • Reduce slips-trips-and falls by 20%
  • Increase sales revenue on xyz product by 5%

Job Roles and Job Behaviors

Once your have determined the course objectives, list the job roles for each individual goal.  Job roles are usually fairly easy to determine. Just review a list of job titles and their associated job descriptions and list which ones map to the organizational objectives. If necessary, run a report from your HRIS system of various job roles and the number of employees in each. This may help you down the line when it comes to assigning your final course to your learners.

Conversely, Job behaviors (also known as skills and competencies) require a little more thought in order to nail down.  Behaviors are the routines, habits, tasks, and technologies that employees use in the course of their day-to-day work.  For example, a sales representative may be responsible for making 30 cold calls per day, while a warehouse worker may be required to place a hazard cone next to any area in which a liquid may have spilled.

The complexity in defining job behavior comes in to play when you dig deeper.  Start by listing as many of the attributes required for successful job performance as you can.  For example, while sales representatives may be expected to make 30 cold calls per day, the behaviors they exhibit before, during, and after making those calls can vary widely. The job “task” of “making 30 calls per day” can be further broken down into specific job behaviors. For example:

Example Cold Call Job Behaviors

  • Prepare and use a cold-call strategy (calling a specific industry from 10:00 – 12:00)
  • Review prospect research prior to placing call
  • Prepare and use a voice mail script and follow-up email script
  • Enter call results in the CRM
  • Schedule a follow-up call or task for each prospect called

Are you Creating or Changing a Job Behavior?

For each job behavior you have identified, ask yourself this question: Is this behavior something new that my audience will learn for the first time, or are we trying to get people to change their existing habits? As you may know, changing behavior can be more complex and require a different approach than teaching something new. This helps your learners unlearn and/or stop doing things the old way and transition to a new way.

Furthermore, asking this question is a critical step to creating more effective training. Unfortunately, the scope of this article does not allow me to dive much deeper. For now – just trust me: ask this question and see where the answers and ideas lead.

Learning Objectives

Once you have defined the the specific goals of your course and the job roles and behaviors that support them, the next step is to determine the learning objectives. Narrow the focus and be as specific as possible. Asking these questions might help:

  1. What do the learners already know? (Avoid basic or repetitive information)
  2. What do we want them learn? (Be specific)
  3. How will know if they have learned it? (Assessment)
  4. What will we do if they haven’t learned it at the end of the course? (Support)

When possible, write learning objectives in the form of a quiz question that, if answered correctly, indicates that they have learned the target information. Also consider some common misunderstandings or problem areas that need to be clarified. Consequently, the ideas you develop as learning objectives can be used as actual quiz questions or interactive learning simulations in your eLearning course.

The image below shows you just how easy it can be to map your organizational objectives into specific job behaviors and learning objectives.

Organizational Objective Job Behavior and Learning Objective Matrix

You may find that courses you’ve developed “on the fly” cover all of the major objectives nicely. You may also discover that your existing training programs are incomplete or have gaps. Either way, you will find that this fundamental instructional design exercise does not take very long and is well worth your time.

Create a Course Outline and Gather Your Content

Now that you have your learning objectives documented, you are ready to draft a course outline and start gathering your content. You will find that once you have narrowed your criteria for learning and success, gathering the supporting content will be easy.

In addition, rely on subject matter experts to provide the appropriate content. You might find that PowerPoint presentations and training materials already exist for many of your objectives. These are a great place to start. Furthermore, give them a quick update to ensure they cover the appropriate material and your content is ready to be transferred to your eLearning course.

Need Professional Instructional Design Support?

Check out the eLearning.net instructional design services page for details about how we can help. Or feel free to contact me, S. Magic Johnson, directly by calling toll-free at 866-771-4449. I’ll gladly provide basic guidance and answer any questions you may have.

Recommended Reading

Skills and Competencies

Organizational Behavior 

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