August 25, 2021

Instructional Design Best Practices: 10 Things You Need to Know

By: ELM Learning

instructional design best practices
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When learning experiences are optional and initiated by the learner, learners are obviously more motivated to learn. The hard part comes when learning is mandatory—yet important—such as compliance training for job safety, corporate security, OSHA, HIPAA, etc.  How do you keep learners engaged and motivated in learning that rarely equates to a bump on the pay scale, increased job responsibilities, or other tangible benefits?


Here are ten best practices for instructional design to motivate the unmotivated and engage the disengaged.

1. Give learners realistic examples that relate to them.

Compliance training is usually serious business. These programs are compulsory because they highlight policies and procedures directly related to employee safety. For learners to retain the key message of the training, it’s important to tie it directly to the learner’s work experience. For example, if you were creating safety training for, say, crane operators, you could create real-life scenarios of the consequences of following or not following basic crane safety guidelines. In scenario-based training, it’s important to not show your hand: letting learners work things out themselves increases engagement.


One of the biggest challenges in instructional design is getting the learner interested and motivated. Providing the learner with meaningful statistics to reinforce the consequences or impact of certain actions can be effective to motivate learners. For example, in a course on laptop security, you could give the learner some statistics on how often corporate laptops are stolen, and the types of data breaches that can happen as a result.


When you’re dealing with a topic that concerns interactions between people, use relevant graphics that support the message. For example, when creating training about sexual harassment in the workplace, images of real people showing real emotions is far more effective than cartoon images or graphics that have a metaphorical meaning.


A lot of compliance training must be completed year after year. Why make employees suffer through information they already know? Instead, give them a chance to show what they know in a pre-assessment, and allow them to skip straight to the certification if they pass! If the pre-assessment shows that they aren’t ready, show them what they need to know, then assess them again.


Adult learners like to be treated like adults. Let the learner navigate through the course in whatever order they prefer. Likewise, don’t enforce timing restrictions on specific pages or sections of a course. Timing restrictions rarely guarantee that the learner will absorb the information just because they’re forced to stare at it for a longer period of time. Branching scenarios are also great way to make training more relevant.


7. Find creative ways to get the message across.

Implementing these 10 best practices for instructional design will no doubt re-charge your training and keep your learners alert (no heads on desks!) and motivated to learn.

Categories: Instructional Design