Instructional Design

What is Instructional Design?

Instructional design is the systematic development, delivery, and evaluation of effective and engaging learning products and experiences that are geared towards producing specific learning outcomes. Instructional design begins by identifying where there are opportunities to improve skills and academic performance outcomes among a targeted set of learners, followed by the design and implementation of learning experiences that meet these opportunities. Instructional designers build courses, instructional manuals and curriculum, tutorials, face-to-face workshops, simulations, and many other types of learning resources and materials, many of which build off of innovative educational technology for the virtual and in-person classroom. Using evidence-based pedagogical research and promising instructional practices from the field, instructional designers work to create learning experiences that motivate learners and that foster deeper and more meaningful levels of skills development and knowledge transfer and retention.

Instructional Design

Instructional designers use innovative educational technology for the virtual and in-person classroom.

Why is it important?

Instructional design focuses on the needs of the student and creates a positive learning experience for them, which contributes to the achievement of their learning goals. Instructional designers ensure students learn efficiently by helping instructors create high quality learning materials and activities that take into account the varying backgrounds of all students. Instructional design has contributed to the progression of higher education courses from lecture-based instructor performances to well-planned effective learning experiences. CATE instructional designers support faculty in their adoption of educational technology and to implement innovative, evidence-based teaching methods that improve student learning and sense of belonging.

How Instructional Design Works

Instructional designers typically use a theoretical framework to design or create learning modules to ensure a quality course build. While there are many reliable models for instructional designers, most instructional designers will identify and use the most appropriate model that is most adaptive for design needs of your specific course.

As a learner-centered rather than instructor-centered design approach, the ADDIE model is the most popular framework utilized by instructional designers in online course design. The ADDIE model was created in 1975 by the Center for Educational Technology at Florida State University for the U.S. Army. ADDIE is a structured and replicable methodology that is highly effective in five sequential phases for learning and training online.

  • 1) Analysis – The analysis phase, typically a collaborative effort involving the instructional designer and subject matter expert ( e.g., the course instructor seeking a course redesign), determines the appropriate delivery method centered on learner characteristics, preferences, and motivation, with organizational timelines and resources as well.
  • 2) Design – Incorporating Wiggins’ Backward Design and Bloom’s Taxonomy theory, the design phase identifies and maps learning objectives and activities to assessments.
  • 3) Development – A prototype (the creation of the newly designed course) is established in the development phase and refined before implementing a finalized design.
  • 4) Implementation – In the implementation phase, the finalized instructional design model is implemented in the learning management system (Blackboard). This is done via a live rollout with students in the course.
  • 5) Evaluation – Critical in all phases of the model, the evaluation phase is formative in evaluating the learning design actively in practice. The instructional designer manages the direction of active instruction, makes adjustments as needed, and determines the effectiveness of the learning design and delivery.

The ADDIE model serves as a foundation for managing instructional design projects and is considered to produce tangible results; however, most instructional designers at UIC use an iteration or combination of this process with Wiggins’ backward design theory, Bloom’s Taxonomy, and Merrill’s Principles of Instruction.

To learn more about other instructional design theories, see Top 7 Instructional Design Theories and Models.

Schedule a Consultation

If you have any questions regarding instructional design or course redesign, request an appointment with one of CATE’s instructional designers at

Schedule a Consultation