What is instructional design?

Instructional design (ID) is a systematic process of creating a learning experience to engage students and improve outcomes (Molenda, 2015). Developing education that meets the needs of learners is conducted by instructional designers (IDs) who have training and experience in the theories, models, and instructional methods that produce quality training and courses.

What is an Instructional Designer?

An instructional designer applies this systematic methodology (rooted in instructional theories and models) to design and develop content, experiences, and other solutions to support acquiring new knowledge or skills. Instructional designers ought to begin by conducting a needs assessment to determine the needs of the learning event, including what the learner should know and be able to do as a result of the training or learning solution and what the learners already know and can do.

Instructional designers are then responsible for creating the course design and developing all instructional materials, including presentation materials, participant guides, handouts, and job aids or other materials. Instructional designers are commonly also responsible for evaluating training, including assessing what was learned and whether the learning solution led to measurable behavior change.


Course design involves setting objectives, choosing appropriate instructional strategies, identifying educational technologies to enhance learning, and evaluating performance (Branch & Kopcha, 2014). Achieving these goals requires using a proven instructional design model. Branch and Merrill (2002) suggest an instructional design model typically includes six characteristics: (a) a learner-centered approach, (b) contains well-defined goals, (c) improves students’ real-world performance, (d) includes measurable, valid outcomes, (e) is empirical, and (f) is often conducted by teams.


The ADDIE model is a systems model known by the acronym ADDIE which represents the five phases of the model: analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation. While the origins of the model are unclear (Molenda, 2015), several events led to the development of the model, which is one of the most popular and the foundation of numerous models (Aldoobie, 2015). Florida State University’s (FSU) development of an instructional systems design process for the U.S. Army marks a critical stage in the history of ADDIE (Branson et al., 1975).


Aldoobie, N. (2015) ADDIE Model, 5(6), 68–72.

Branch, R. M., & Kopcha, T. J. (2014). Instructional design models. In Handbook of research on educational communications and technology, 77­­­ – 87. Springer New York.

Branch, R. M., & Merrill, M. D. (2012). Characteristics of instructional design models. Trends and issues in instructional design and technology, 8-16.

Branson, R. K., Rayner, G. T., Cox, J. L., Furman, J. P., King, F. J., and Hannum, W. H. (1975) Interservice procedures for instructional design systems development: Executive summary and model. Tallahassee, FL: Centre for Educational Technology

Molenda, M. (2015). In search of the elusive ADDIE model. Performance Improvement54(2), 40 – 42. https://doi-org.ezproxy.lib.uwf.edu/10.1002/pfi.21461

Image Source: Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at North Carolina State University