An instructional design model is the place to start—it is a framework, a tool that guides the structure of a course, that leads the learner to a topic, that removes distractions, provides focus, but still allows a learner to take control. Effective instructional design also helps an instructor to teach, to guide and support learners, and to promote meaningful and active learning. When an online course is not well-designed, often the student doesn’t know where to start, is not sure where to find resources, how to interact, or how to learn. Furthermore, if a student is preoccupied about technical aspects of the course due to ambiguous instructions, glitches, or cumbersome applications, the focus becomes not on learning, but on the technology—more barriers.
This is why I am an advocate for instructional design, why I believe it’s essential now more than ever as learning moves to virtual classrooms. This is the third in a blog post series on instructional design, and my aim here is to share with readers the numerous approaches to course development. In a previous post I reviewed why we need instructional design and in another post, the role of learning theories in instructional design. In the final post of the series, I plan to introduce a model that I’ve adapted for online course development from the models I’ll review here.
There are numerous models for instructional design as mentioned, yet few exist that are specific to online course design. Though I’ve found one, and included it here for readers to consider, as it has a learner-focused orientation. The remaining are traditional models, [often applied to online design] and likely familiar to readers—the ADDIE model, Dick Carey and Carey, and Rapid Instructional Design.
1) ADDIE : The Classic [early 1970's]
This model is considered a classic; ADDIE: Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation. Instructional design originated with the military and it relied upon these five dimensions, yet the ADDIE model wasn’t formalized until sometime in the 1970’s. This is the model I followed when I started in instructional design twelve years ago. The principles are solid, the five phases are universal to education and training development, so much so that most instructional design models build upon these five components.
Critics of the model state that the design is too linear and inflexible. The process is driven by the instructional objectives that are predetermined—inconsistent with learner- determined objectives. The model is instructor-focused, assumes the learner is a consumer of content and materials, and not active in the learning process.
2) Dick, Carey & Carey Model: Traditional 
This is a systematic model of instructional design, first introduced in 1978. It is sequential in nature similar to the ADDIE model, yet the model’s authors were influenced by the work of Robert Gagné—mostly his ‘conditions of learning‘ which focused on real-world settings. The model assumes the learner is active in the learning process, integrates the learner needs, skills and learning context into the design. It is a well-researched model that relies heavily on theoretical principles of learning, which no doubt is why it is a respected and widely implemented model in higher education.
I’ve used this model extensively when working with professors to transition and adapt face-to-face courses to the online format. When studying instructional design in graduate school, we studied this model extensively. One of our texts I still refer to today is, The Systematic Design of Instruction, 7th edition [Dick, Carey & Carey, 2009]. The text also suggests that this model is appropriate for e-learning [p 2 ]. However, there are drawbacks, critics suggest it is rigid, cumbersome, driven by predetermined objectives. Yes I agree, though I don’t intend to disregard these principles completely, as I’ve incorporated principles into my model of design.3) Instructional Design Model for Online Learning (IDOL) [Siragusa, 2005]
This model draws from both the ADDIE and the Dick, Carey and Carey models. This model is based upon a PhD study and is recommended for use alongside other design models, not a replacement for. It presents 24 pedagogical dimensions for consideration during the design process [Siragusa, Dixon & Dixon, 2007]. Though I do see it more as a stand-alone model; it is particularly relevant for online course development given its consideration of pedagogical philosophy.
4) Rapid Instructional Design, [Meier, 2000]
According to the model’s creator, David Meier, Rapid Instructional Design (RID) is a replacement for traditional models of instructional design. Proponents suggest this model is applicable because of the dynamic and rapid shifts in educational priorities and learning technology [Meier, 2000]. RID uses accelerated learning design strategies, and encourages course prototypes that are not time-consuming to develop, and can be adapted and modified on-the-fly.
5) Rapid prototyping is similar in scope to the above method. The goal of rapid prototyping as it relates to instructional design is to “develop learning experiences in a continual design-evaluation cycle that continues throughout the life of the project. This cycle, known as the spiral cycle or layered approach, is considered to be iterative, meaning that products are continually improved as they cycle continues” [instructionaldesign.org]. I’ve used this model, even taken a graduate course in this technique for designing curriculum, and though I see the benefits I find it lacking in the depth, particularly the analysis phase. It lacks a visual representation of the model, which I suggest is needed for clarification and communication when working with a design team on a course project.
There are numerous instructional design models as discussed, though very few address the changing dynamics in education, and in the scope of course design, the different delivery methods used today. There is a need to adapt and change how curriculum is developed, how teachers teach, how learners are assessed, and even a need to consider how knowledge is constructed. Though one component that I suggest that can address at least a small aspect of these challenges, is a tool and method to create learning experiences that will support learners, help them be successful in meeting their needs. Though traditional instructional design models provide a starting point for review, a new, flexible instructional design model is needed for a fresh start. A fresh approach to support focused and specific learning that can be used by faculty, educators and students; a model that helps to remove barriers, break down walls, and open up learning like never before. Stay tuned for my next post in this series.
- Instructional Design for e-learning, Minnesota State Colleges & Universities
- Dick, Carey & Carey, (2009), The Systematic Design of Instruction, 7th edition, Pearson Publishing
- ADDIE Timeline, Big Dog and Little Dog’s Performance Juxtaposition
- Rapid Instructional Design for Accelerated Learning, , Social Learning Blog
- The Dick and Carey model, 
- Tam, M. (2000). Constructivism, Instructional Design, and Technology: Implications for Transforming Distance Learning, Educational Technology & Society 3(2)
- Bonk, C. J., & Zhang, K. (2008). Empowering Online Learning: 100+ Activities for Reading, Reflecting, Displaying, and Doing. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass