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SLowe's design narrative: The application of instructional design to the HE context

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Sue Lowe
5 April 2016


I was studying a PostGraduate Certificate in Instructional Design for eLearning and was working in a newly formed Technology-Enhanced Learning (TEL) unit at a university in the UK.


The TEL Design team, part of the TEL unit, had just started running a TEL Special Interest Group (SIG) to spread the word about TEL and the new TEL unit. The SIG was open to all members of university staff but the audience at the time was largely those in the TEL Design team, those in the production unit and those involved in learning design (LD) both in faculties and in the LD team. Attendance was voluntary.

Three other colleagues had been studying the PG Cert in ID for eLearning alongside me. The course had been sponsored by our unit and we were asked to pass on ‘anything useful’ to other colleagues.

Key actors were:

  • Me and my three colleagues, as Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and training session designers
  • Our training department, sponsor of our studying the PG Cert
  • TEL management team, wishing to spread the word about TEL
  • The SIG organiser, needing to ensure what we did worked from the SIG’s point of view
  • SIG participants, wishing to get something useful out of the session.


The task was to design a TEL SIG session (a face-to-face training session) about the application of instructional design to the university’s context. The aim was to provide a brief overview of what instructional design is, with a focus on one particular approach, ADDIE. The participants would then consider what could be taken from it, if anything, perhaps adapted, and applied to their own work context in designing and producing university courses. The session would last two hours.

The task was also to spread the message that TEL Design relates to a wide range of activities/aspects.

Success would be measured through participants being able to discuss instructional design, albeit very briefly and loosely, and through participants evaluating what they currently do in the light of ADDIE, potentially adapting what they do, where relevant.

Success would also be measured in terms of attendance to the SIG increasing, as well as word getting around about what TEL is and what the TEL design team does.


The following actions were taken in developing the training session:

  • My three colleagues and I talked to the training department, TEL management and the SIG organiser to establish their requirements, how much time we had etc.
  • We thought about who was likely to attend, and talked to some of them to gauge what they would find useful in terms of content and approach.
  • The four of us, as SMEs, worked up learning outcomes for the session.
  • The four of us created a storyboard for the session.
  • We explored options for teaching/learning and decided to give a presentation to provide the brief overview, followed by the participants working in small groups, each group with a different task focussing on a specific aspect in relation to ADDIE.
  • We got feedback from the stakeholders.
  • We produced the materials (presentation, task sheets, feedback forms).
  • We did a trail run, just amongst the four of us.
  • We ran the session.
  • We asked for feedback from participants and passed this back to the training department, management and SIG organiser.
  • We made the presentation and outcomes from the group work available to everyone via the TEL website.


The expected outcomes are as stated under ‘Task’ above.

The session went well overall. There was good attendance and the discussions were lively. Outcomes were captured and made available to everyone for future reference.

Participants said they did feel there were certain aspects from ID/ADDIE that they could apply to their day-to-day work. This came out of the group work in which participants worked in separate groups to consider what might be taken from or adapted in relation to Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, Evaluation. The separate groups then fed back to the plenary. This made the most of the short amount of time available.

In terms of spreading the message about TEL, my evidence is anecdotal only, to date, in that some staff continue to ask what TEL is and what the TEL Design team does. Personally I see this as positive in that it is difficult to capture in a few words or ideas what TEL’s all about and the fact they are asking about TEL is a good thing as it’s keeping TEL at the forefront of their minds :)

SIG attendance varies, admittedly – attendance is voluntary and everyone is busy – but on the whole, it is good and the existence of a TEL/LD SIG has become the norm (though this is not only due to this particular session, of course).


This was ‘only’ a two-hour training session, not a ‘full-blown’ online training course lasting several days nor a university course lasting many weeks. That said, the process of planning and designing the learning event is as important. We tried to implement what we were teaching – analysed the audience and stakeholder requirements, designed, developed and evaluated the learning event.

Having said that, we did each of these stages on quite a small scale – for example, there was no need for technical testing during the development stage, other than checking the Powerpoint slides showed sufficiently clearly on the screen in the training room, for example. Nor did we assess the learning given attendance was voluntary. In hindsight, we could have introduced an element of assessment, albeit a light-hearted quiz perhaps.

I would also like to evaluate the session from a longer-term perspective. Has the session changed the behaviour of any of those who attended? Has the university benefitted from it at all? Perhaps a follow-up session and/or interviews/questionnaires with stakeholders. I do wonder whether some participants were/are unwilling to apply the ideas of ID to their own context since there seems to be a stigma attached to ID amongst some members of the HE community.

Overall, we were relatively limited in what we could do given the session was only two hours. (The length was pre-determined.) We were also relatively limited in what we could do in that it was only the second TEL SIG session with the TEL team still introducing the idea of the SIG in itself. Nevertheless, a successful session within the constraints.

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