Instructional Design:

Design in-person training when learning peer learning is critical and creating a safe space to collaborate and apply
concepts is central to learning.

What is instructional design?

Instructional design is the process of transforming content into learning experiences so employees can gain new skills and knowledge and enhance their performance. The learning experiences can range from creating a 15-minute elearning self-paced tutorial on using a new software application, to setting up a social platform for employees to learn from each other. Content can range from highly technical skills, to skills like project management or sales, to “softer” skills like communication.

Why is instructional design important?

Taking the time to follow an instructional design process ensures:

  • Training supports the desired performance and business goals.
  • Extraneous content is reduced – training includes “need to know” versus “nice to know” content.
  • Abstract theory is minimal and there are frequent opportunities for employees to practice what they learn. 
  • Employees demonstrate new skills and knowledge.
  • Employees can apply what they learn to their job and can start contributing right away. 
  • The impact of the training initiative can be measured against the business goals, especially when combined with an upfront needs assessment.

Note: Please see the I4PL Competencies for additional detail.

What is the instructional design process?

Instructional design starts with having a clear understanding of the business need and how the employee’s performance needs to change. I complete a needs assessment to clarify and document the business needs and and desired performance outcomes.

ADDIE (Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate) is a common instructional design process. My instructional design process is similar, with a few tweaks. I follow these steps to design a training course:

  1. Develop a High-Level Design – This includes the performance objective, learning objectives, ‘flow’ or sequence of learning, and, with elearning, the ‘backstory’ that will engage learners. The high-level design is a continuation of the needs assessment and lays the foundation for the training evaluation.
  2. Create a Detailed Design or Storyboard – This expands on the High-Level Design by incorporating specific timing and detailing the learning activities in facilitated learning. For elearning, the storyboard also includes the script for the narrator, and instructions for the elearning developer.
  3. Create the materials and/or develop the elearning course – Facilitated learning materials include a Facilitator Guide, slides, and participant materials (e.g., handouts, job aids, participant workbook). Developing the elearning course takes the content and instructions and builds it into an online program.
  4. Support the client in implementing the course – I support my clients in different ways depending on their needs.
    • I facilitate courses for my clients.
    • I provide a Train-the-Trainer (T3) to prepare their facilitators.
    • I provide the detailed Facilitator Guide and course materials for my client to implement.
    • For elearning courses, clients upload the course to a hosting platform or Learning Management System (LMS). Testing the uploading is part of developing the course so I support the implementation as part of this testing process.

What’s the difference between a custom-designed course and a tailored course?

A custom-designed course is a training solution that is based on the needs assessment and the instructional design process outlined above. The learning solution incorporates your organization’s culture, values, systems and processes and uses your content as the starting point. An established learning consultant will have models, frameworks and content they can incorporate, but the design should first and foremost reflect your organization’s needs and content.

A tailored course, or customized course, is a course that is ‘off-the-shelf’ and has been tweaked to meet the needs of your organization. Often these are pre-packaged sales or leadership courses that are adapted to meet your audience.

Here are some things to consider when evaluating whether to implement a custom-designed course or a tailored course:

  • What is your budget? Custom-designed training can be more expensive initially to design. However, typically once it’s been created, you own the rights and intellectual property (IP). You don’t have to pay licensing fees or ongoing material costs.
  • How unique is your content? Often compliance topics (e.g., health and safety, anti-harassment) are quite universal. Existing courses could be easily tailored to meet your organization’s needs.
  • How well established are your company’s models and frameworks? A custom-designed approach works well to reinforce well-established coaching models, leadership frameworks and sales processes.
  • How integrated does the content need to be with your organization’s processes and systems? Consider if your custom systems (e.g., financial software, sales or CRM systems) and internal processes need to be reflected in the training course.

My career has been focused on creating custom-designed training programs for clients. Check out the Projects page to see how I’ve helped clients address their employee performance needs.

I have also developed partnerships to provide existing courses I tailor to meet my clients’ needs.

Where can you learn more?

Learn about online and elearning design


Instructional Design: Online

Additional resources


Performance Matters offers a 6-week online program, From ‘Wing it’ to Wow, where participants design a program for online delivery.

  • 6-online modules over six weeks.
  • Learn a process and receive templates to reduce design time.
  • Get support to redesign a course so it’s as good as or better than in-person.

Click here to learn more.



Email me if you need help with designing a course for in-person, online or elearning delivery.