Instructional Design

Formal Definition

Instructional design (ID) encompasses a wide array of activities to improve human performance, learning, products, processes, and overall return on investments. ID includes the use of research, theory, and common sense. Instructional designers work closely with organizations and subject matter experts to solve problems, determine needs, improve outcomes, and/or find opportunities through systematic analysis and model-based approaches. For example, before producing a learning object, designers will systematically breakdown the skills, subskills, and entry level skills of a learning task for analysis to inform design decisions. ID includes the full spectrum of analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation in a systems approach method.

Informal Definition

Instructional design utilizes critical thinking, expert knowledge, best practices, and technologies to improve an organization either system-wide or in discrete work units. Technology refers to any tool, software or hardware, or process. For example, simple writing tasks can be improved with an ergo-dynamic fountain pen, desk, and workstation. From this example, even a pen is considered technology. It’s the role of the instructional designer to take all matters, including potentially insignificant ones like a writing tool, into consideration when developing a plan of action.

My Alternative Instructional Design Model

I developed the Magis Instructional Design Model for online courses with input from the Jesuits at Spring Hill College, as subject matter experts, and my professor, Dr. Davidson-Shivers. It’s unique in that it addresses religion, spirituality, and social justice in addition to intellectual growth. It’s inclusive of service to others. According to one theology professor, Jesuit educators try to focus instructional activities on experiential learning to engender the cycle of experience leading to reflection and further action. This is based on the dynamics of Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises. Additionally, Jesuit school educators include techniques for reflection within their units of study in order to challenge students to serve others (Korth, 1993). Further action and service to others is for the “Kingdom of God”. The following iterative steps are the framework of the Magis ID model for distance education, which is inclusive of the Ignatian pedagogical layers to develop learners into caring leaders.

  1. Analyze Human Learning Experience Online/Offline
  2. Establish Relationships of Mutual Respect Online/Offline
  3. Tap into Learner’s Prior Knowledge & Experience
  4. Design Optimal Learning Experience for Whole Person
  5. Assimilate New Information
  6. Transfer Learning into Lifeworld
  7. Encourage Lifelong Learning & Reflections Beyond Self-Interest
  8. Learners Become Contemplatives in Action

Online Community of Inquiry

Designing for a community of inquiry (COI) loop will address the Ignatian principles of teaching to the whole person (Step 4). A  COI exists when you have social presence, cognitive presence, and teacher presence. These are essential elements to the communication loop for an online COI (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000). This means that learners in an online environment are involved in activities that are cognitively challenging, are able to interact with their classmates, and that the teacher is present in some way through words (e.g., text-based discussion), voice (e.g., podcasts), or person (e.g., webcast).

Bernard et al. (2009) conducted a meta-analysis of 74 online course interactions and found substantive research outcomes indicating the positive effect on learning when online educators build these types of interactions into their courses: student-student, student-teacher, and student-content. These interaction treatments (ITs) were defined as the environments and not the actual behaviors that occur within them. Through instructional design processes, one can design and develop these types of environments for distance education. Table 1 displays the main components of a Jesuit education, COI, and ITs, and their interrelationships.

Table 1

Comparison of Jesuit Education and Research-Based Best Practices

Jesuit Education of the Whole Person Mind Body Spirit
Necessary Elements for an Online Community of Inquiry Intellectual Presence Social Presence Teacher Presence
Research-based Best Practices for Interaction Treatments Student-content interactions Student-student interactions Student-teacher interactions