10 tips for effective instructional design

10 tips

Instructional design is defined as the systematic design, development, and delivery of instructional materials and experiences, both digital and physical, in a consistent and reliable way, that leads to effective and engaging transfer of knowledge, skills and attitudes. With the continuous growth in demand for engaging medical education content, following instructional design principles offers a way to navigate the specific challenges of adult learning in an innovative learning environment. Use these tips to take your education to the next level.

1. Be an advocate for your learners

  • How do the decisions being made about the learning experience affect the learners’ perceptions, awareness, and commitment to the learning topic? 

  • How will the way that the content is delivered help the learners fulfill the desired learning outcomes? 

  • What will the learners gain from the learning experience and how can you help them feel that it was a valuable use of their time?

2. Research and analyze learners needs

  • How do our participants prefer to learn? 

  • What are some of the biggest challenges learners might face in achieving the learning outcomes? 

  • How can the delivery of the learning content be adapted for different levels of what learners already know versus what they need to know?

3. Clearly define your instructional design plan for each stage of the curriculum

  • What are the best learning resources and assessment types to fulfill the desired learning outcomes?  

  • What techniques will you use to avoid cognitive overload while covering the required topics?

4. Align your instructional design plan with well-defined learning objectives

  • How will your instructional design fit each distinct learning objective? 

  • How will you manage content overlap or gaps? 

  • Does the content you are putting together fit into the learning objective or should it be moved elsewhere?

5. Keep written text effective and concise

  • What text type and layout will most clearly provide information? 
  • Is there unnecessary language that could be edited out to make the text shorter? 

  • Are there important points that should be highlighted or expressed visually?

6. Include a variety of visual references

  • What image or other media best conveys the meaning of the content? 

  • Would an illustration, animation, or virtual simulation help explain the content more clearly? 

  • Are the selected visuals clear enough for learners to understand without a lengthy explanation?

7. Use a variety of instructional strategies

  • What instructional technique would help the learners understand this concept the best? 

  • Is there another way to present the content that would be more engaging for the learners? 

  • Does the output of the instructional activity match the level of assessment required for learners to achieve the learning objective?

8. Summarize and consolidate

  • What are the key takeaways that the learners should grasp after going through the content? 

  • What references and resources would the learners like to access for later use?

9. Test the experience from beginning to end

  • Will the learners be able to easily navigate through the content? 

  • Is any additional instruction needed to understand the activity or use of the learning platform? 

  • Do learners know what progress they have made and the results of their learning?

10. When in doubt, keep it simple

  • Are the instructions for activities written clearly and concisely? 

  • Does the complexity of any of the activities hinder the learners’ ability to understand the content? 

  • What feedback from the learners could help improve the overall experience?

Additional resources

  1. The Learning Guild. 156 Ways to Improve Your Instructional Design. 2023.
    Free e-book available: https://www.learningguild.com/publications/190/156-ways-to-improve-your-instructional-design/ 

  2. West, RE. Foundations of Learning and Instructional Design Technology: Historical Roots and Current Trends. EdTech Books; 2018.
    Free e-book available: https://edtechbooks.org/lidtfoundations 

  3. Bean, C. The Accidental Instructional Designer: Learning Design for the Digital Age. 2nd ed. ATD Press; 2023.