Less Instructional Design May Result In More Learning

Picture of a businessman with cartoon strong arms showing selling potential

How could it be possible that less instructional design may result in more learning?  Sometimes, less is more when it comes to adult learning.

Once clear business and learning outcomes have been identified, most instructional designers follow four age-old steps to make a corporate training session happen:

  1. Subject-matter experts share the applicable content and knowledge
  2. Instructional designers put an approach together to learn new skills, knowledge, behaviors and attitudes.
  3. Facilitators deliver the training (hopefully at least 70% is experiential learning)
  4. Participants master it – hopefully through relevant practice, performance tests and helpful performance feedback.

Done right, this instructional design approach can be accomplished quickly and effectively. Done wrong, this old-school instructional design approach can take weeks, if not months, and miss the true business needs while disengaging participants.

One approach to increase speed and effectiveness is to transform participants into subject matter experts and their own facilitators as part of the learning process and instructional design approach. This learner-led instructional design approach forces participants to get involved in the creation of the not only the materials, but the learning outcomes. It also lifts the effectiveness of learning and can be quickly adapted to different audiences with less preparation by subject matter experts, instructional designers and facilitators.

Here’s one simple example of how this learner-led approach can be applied.

  • Instead of having a subject matter expert present material to participants (as their eyes glaze over), have the participants create a list of questions to try to stump the expert during a question and answer session.

This learner-led instructional design approach means less preparation time for your subject matter experts, fewer “death by PowerPoint” experiences, and more experiential learning time for your participants.  The idea is to engage your participants to create and learn with each other. It is just one approach to faster, cheaper and better instructional design.

To mitigate risks and stay on point, we recommend giving learners partial-design responsibility within an overall design construct rather than the total-design responsibility.  So next time someone asks if less instructional design may result in more learning, tell them Yes!  There is a better way.

To learn more about learner-led instructional design principles, download Faster, Better and Cheaper Instructional Design Best Practices

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