Study Examines Learning Through Instructional Design

By Bill Leonard May 13, 2015
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When senior leaders fail to grasp the importance of instructional design, their organizations’ training and development initiatives face sizable stumbling blocks, finds a new study from the Association for Talent Development (ATD).

Instructional design (ID) has become a critical element of effective organizational learning programs. ATD joined with the Institute for Corporate Productivity to survey more than 1,100 instructional-design and training professionals from organizations of all sizes in a variety of industries. The results were published in Instructional Design: A New Age of Learning and Beyond.

The survey quoted researchers at Utah State University to define ID: “Instructional design is a technology, which incorporates known and verified learning strategies into instructional experiences, which make the acquisition of knowledge and skill more efficient, effective and appealing.”

While most of the survey respondents reported that ID has become an essential element of their organizations’ learning and development efforts, they also said there are still many challenges to making instructional design more efficient and effective in their organizations.

The study’s researchers also found that instructional designers don’t rate the success of their efforts very highly. Only slightly more than half of participants in the study reported that their ID efforts had a positive impact and helped their organizations achieve business objectives.

Senior leaders who don’t fully understand how ID can support their organizations’ learning initiatives and rapidly changing technology posed two of the biggest challenges to the effectiveness of a company’s learning initiatives, respondents said.

When senior leaders’ understanding of ID and efforts to keep the technology and learning tools up-to-date coalesce, ID initiatives can reach their full potential and benefit every person in an organization.

David Berz, head of instructional design at LinkedIn, commented in the survey report that ID programs that reach this full potential are much more effective in creating an organizational learning culture.

It drives “a better learning experience. In my group, we call ourselves the learning experience team because we don’t believe in just designing a training course or a workshop,” he said. “We’re trying to create real experiences for people—to meet them where they are. So they aren’t just taking training, they are actually living it, experiencing it and being excited about it.”

Bill Leonard is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow him on Twitter @SHRMBillLeonard.

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