COVID-19 was a big catalyst in fostering the normalization of online education and work from home. Because people all around the world were quarantined, the only way to keep moving forward academically as well as professionally was to go online. People soon transitioned to these new systems of communication, and for many people, it has now become part of their routine. How many classes and meetings do you take on Zoom or on MS Teams these days?

Technology has done a brilliant job at dismantling geographical limitations in the world. Now that we know how easy and convenient it is to do so much online, many workplaces as well as schools still offer this system. This is where instructional design comes into play.

Instructional design

Instructional design is basically a process that allows people to plan out helpful instructional materials that can be used to teach people effectively. It requires designers to know what sorts of materials would be needed to help achieve various academic goals, all differing from one field to another. It also allows people to come up with many useful tools to help make education easier.

Instructional design isn’t only limited to education. In fact, it can also be used in workplaces. This is because instructional design aims to provide guidelines, methods, tools and more to make learning effective during all levels of learning, whether it takes place in educational institutes or in an office setting.

When applied to e-learning or remote work, instructional design revolves around coming up with different techniques to make online work easy and just as effective as face-to-face environments.

Instructional design models

There are many models that have been created in this field to help make education and jobs more efficient, especially when they take place online. Different scenarios will require different models as best suited to the need of the situation. Here are some of the most popular instructional design models being used today.

  1. ADDIE model

The ADDIE is a linear model created in 1975 by the US Army for Florida State University. Though its use then was not for e-learning, the model is still applicable and even preferred by many educational experts to help organize good-quality learning plans. The acronym stands for Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate. Designers first analyze the needs of the institute (whether it’s a workplace or school) and what it is that they desire to teach to their students or employees. This stage is also responsible for assessing what topics of education or training are relevant to the organization.

In the design stage, the task is to come up with a road map of the entire process, such as what needs to be taught, how it will be taught and what channels will be used to communicate the lessons. In this case, the channel is online, so the designer will need to settle on a form of technological infrastructure.

In the development stage, the course/training curriculum is finalized. In the implementation stage, everything is carried out according to plan, and the lectures are delivered to the intended audience. Progress is monitored so that necessary changes can be made in the evaluation stage. Evaluation can be achieved through the use of analytics, user feedback or through conducting surveys about the service.

  1. SAM model

An abbreviation for the Successive Approximation Model, think of SAM as an easier-to-use version of ADDIE by being non-linear. The idea this model proposes is to test various techniques before they are officially rolled out to be used on a large scale by getting relevant feedback during the developmental stages. The SAM model is broken down into three primary stages: preparation, iterative design and iterative development.

In the prep stage, the designers should include as many stakeholders as possible during the brainstorming sessions to come up with possible ideas. The work is easier if the intended target audience is also included. This way, designers can work on building a process that is based on what the students/workers and organizations need.

When the iterative version is ready, it is rolled out to be tested by a very limited group of people, similar to a soft launch. These people then provide prompt feedback, which is registered and used to make the needed changes and fixes. When using SAM, people have an actual product to test out, so it becomes easier to provide helpful feedback. In the final stage, the final prototype is ready to be used. However, it can also be sent back to earlier stages for redevelopment if it is not accepted by users.

  1. Kemp model

Another non-linear model, the Kemp model makes use of nine core stages that are to be considered while trying to come up with a workable educational plan. This model is actually presented in a circular fashion, which gives the instructional designer a lot of freedom in choosing the order of the elements to be considered and incorporated into the final blueprint. Because of the model’s shape, it enables designers to actually work on a few stages simultaneously if and when needed. In fact, in some situations, some of the stages may also be discarded if they aren’t relevant.

The model also takes into account many other contributing factors such as the content that is to be taught, the needs and desires of the learning audience as well as the goals that the organization is trying to achieve. The nine elements that are central to this model include:

  • Defining specific goals of the organization/institute
  • Identifying characteristics of the learning audience
  • Clarifying course content
  • Defining the objectives of the instructors and the outcomes they desire to see
  • Ensuring the rationality and order for instructional content to foster effective learning
  • Designing instructional strategies to make sure individual learners are able to get fruitful outcomes
  • Planning the appropriate mode of delivery of the instructions suggested
  • Developing evaluation instruments to see the progress of the proposed system as well as of the students
  • Finding and choosing appropriate resources aimed at aiding both the instructors and the learners
  1. MPI model

The Merrill’s Principles of Instruction, or MPI, model is slightly different from the ones above as it promotes a task-centered approach, which means that students do a lot of application in order to learn. As they continue to master different tasks, the methods of teaching become more complex so as to foster the ability to deal with different problems and situations.

Apart from the tasks that are assigned to explain the point of the lessons, there are four core stages central to this model: demonstration, activation, application and integration. The course that arises as a result of this technique should be able to demonstrate the lessons in a way that is retainable by the audience. The activation phase is mainly concerned with the students being able to rely on the knowledge they already have from past learning experiences to be able to solve problems. They are then required to apply the old and new concepts they learn to more complex problems. Integration is all about being able to apply the learning to practical scenarios that may occur outside of the learning environment.

  1. Gagne’s nine events of instruction

Named after the man who invented this model, it is the most widely used model in educational settings, especially in online settings. As the name suggests, there are nine specific phases. This model provides a behaviorist approach to learning because it can be customized according to the teaching style of the instructor as well as according to the learning needs and requirements of the students. This model is best used when the learners are looking to find expertise in a subject area. The nine stages are:

  1. Gaining attention of the students
  2. Informing students of the objective
  3. Stimulating recall of prior learning
  4. Presenting the content
  5. Providing learning guidance
  6. Eliciting performance
  7. Providing feedback
  8. Assessing the performance
  9. Enhancing retention and transfer (to different professions)

All of these stages are very self-explanatory, but the outcome of this model is the retention of knowledge in a way that can be directly transferred to future jobs.

Which instructional design model is better?

There is no direct answer to this question. It entirely depends on the nature of the course that an instructor intends to offer, the people it is aimed at and the desired outcomes that are to be achieved as a result. You can say that it is dependent on the specific situation; one model that works perfectly for one school curriculum may not be suited to the other or vice versa.

What skills do instructional designers need?

There are many skills an instructional designer needs in order to be good at their job, including creativity, problem solving, analytical skills, research skills, communication skills and more. If you are working in the online space, then a crucial skill to master is computer literacy as your goal is to create a functional learning mechanism that is to be delivered via the internet. Instructional designers need to know their way around different internet-based tools to be able to perform their work in a holistic manner. If you are interested in instructional design, you should consider a degree in computer science.

Computer scientists have a myriad of job opportunities available to them. While becoming an instructional designer isn’t the most apparent one, it is a field that is well-suited to those with a computer science background. Everything must be designed in a manner that is supported by e-learning systems to be delivered in a digital format. Knowing how different channels operate, how they can be customized and how e-learning platforms can be optimized all are areas computer scientists would shine at. If you want to pursue work in this sector, consider the Laurier online master’s in computer science, which will allow you to understand how to best use computer technology to your advantage as an instructional designer.


There are so many interesting professions to dive into in this digital era, and instructional design is a perfect example. Not only is it challenging and exciting because of the multi-faceted nature of the work involved, but it also adds so much value to our educational and professional systems. This blog has talked about some of the most commonly used instructional design models, but there are many more out there.

In the past, many students and employees have had to miss out on opportunities because of geographical limitations, health issues or difficulties with finding balance with other areas of life. With online systems aided by instructional design, these limitations cease to exist, making online education and work from home real possibilities.