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Instructional Design Principles to Improve Your Online Course

Instructional Design Principles to Improve Your Online Course

There is one not-so-great trend in the online learning industry today. Even though the number of enrollments for online courses increases, up to 40-80% of online students drop out. This situation can be caused by students' reasons, such as lack of motivation, fear of failure, busy schedules, etc. However, one of the main reasons for drop-out is poor online course design.

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Marketing Specialist, Raccoon Gang

Daria is the e-learning enthusiast with 6+ years of experience in Marketing. Holding the position of Digital Marketing Specialist at RG she explores trends and innovations in education.

Instructional Design Principles to Improve Your Online Course

Instructional design principles were created to help course developers make ideal online courses and reduce drop-out rates. In this article, we'll look at what instructional design is and reveal five fundamental principles to help you design an online course that your target audience will appreciate. Without further ado, let’s get started.

What eLearning Instructional Design Is all About?

Before analyzing the main principles, we should delve into the basics and determine what instructional design is. Instructional Design Central defines the concept as follows: Instructional design is a defined process that assists in designing and delivering any educational product. Such learning products include online courses, operating instructions, video tutorials, training models, and more.

Instructional design

As you can see, instructional design in education is a specific process, and the process must be based on something. In our case, we have three main elements that represent the foundation of instructional design. Let’s talk about them in more detail:

Foundation of instructional design

  • The analysis is one of the essential elements since you will not start online course development without it. You need to set goals for yourself before designing a curriculum. Also, you should analyze the primary needs of your target audience that you are going to meet and why you are going to do it; consequently, it will help you create a course that will benefit your users.
  • Design & Development. When you complete the analysis and know the goals you want to achieve, it's time to start developing the course. The development stage is directly related to the creation of the course. During this phase, you design lesson plans, course content (presentations, text, video, and audio materials), prepare the grading system, and much more. During development, the idea in the head turns into a finished product that can be presented to students.

  • Evaluation. It is impossible to create an excellent online course without learning from your mistakes. There is an assessment stage that helps to correctly evaluate certain decisions made during the course development, as well as to understand whether your course has achieved the goals set at the analysis stage or not.

It is noteworthy that you have already met the results of using the instructional design principles, whether in online learning or any other business area, since they have already proven their effectiveness. This can be compared to the pedagogical principles that teachers use to design standard classes.

However, today we are not talking about pedagogy but eLearning instructional design. Now is the time to discuss five main instructional design principles that help educators shape high-quality online courses.

Five Instructional Design Principles in eLearning Industry

These instructional design principles are time-tested rules that are designed to create quality online courses and training programs. Whether you are a beginner in course creation looking to understand how to create an excellent online course, or an established educator looking for ways to improve existing courses, you should pay attention to these five instructional design principles.

Five Instructional Design Principles

Principle #1. Design Must Be Carried Out at an Effective Pace

The success of the entire course depends on how you arrange its pacing. This instructional design principle stands for an effective learning material presentation that will encourage students to practice as often as possible and use what they learn. To do this, it is worth keeping in mind a few valuable tips:

  • Don't forget about students' backgrounds when creating a course. This will help you make assignments that provide a proportionate challenge that encourages adequate knowledge without overwhelming students.

  • Add additional study materials and problems. It is always nice to have supplemental materials to provide to students who master the course faster than others. This extra material will allow not to idle the acquired skills and get busy the most successful students while the others deal with the central part of the program.

  • Break learning into small blocks. Information is better and faster absorbed when served in small portions.

Principle #2. Contextualize Learning Information

Suitable examples and contextualization do wonders when it comes to learning. This instructional design principle helps students learn more quickly by linking theory to standards they know. Also, it helps to more often and more successfully apply the knowledge gained in real-life situations. To use this principle, follow these simple tips:

  • Use several different options. Since the audience of the course can be broad, it is worth using a wide range of examples. For example, if you teach foreign languages ​​and know that there are service workers among your students, give various examples of polite communication with clients in foreign languages. In addition, do not hesitate to shuffle the different formats of examples, as some students may be more suitable for infographics while others will prefer video material.

  • Link theory with practice. Practice helps to assimilate various theoretical information versions, excluding simple memorization. Offer students various practical activities that can apply the knowledge they have learned.

Principle #3. Community-Based Courses are More Effective

Since the learning process does not happen in a vacuum, building a community around your course is worth considering. By following this instructional design principle, you will ensure that your learners constantly share what they learn. To create a community around your course, you can follow these tips:

  • Allow peer feedback to enhance the eLearning process. Feedback from other students plays a huge role in the facilitation of the learning process. For example, a student in the programming department might introduce a particular program code part to other students and ask for advice on optimizing it. All this can provoke a discussion, and as you know, truth is born in a debate.

  • Enhance the team-playing skills of your students. When students complete your course and begin to apply knowledge in an actual workplace, they will be faced with the need to act as part of a team. To successfully use and develop team skills, introduce specific tasks that require interaction with other students. These can be team projects or evaluations of each other's work.

Principle #4. Create a Field for Students’ Content and Encourage It

It’s no good when you force students into a box and ask them to use what they have learned only in strictly controlled formats and course locations that you have established. This instructional design principle will help students self-actualize by creating their content and using their accumulated knowledge along the way. How to do it? Here are some helpful tips:

  • Articles and presentations that are expressing the personal opinion of the student. This format can be used after the production of your educational material. Allow students to analyze a particular problem themselves and express a reasoned opinion to substantiate their perspective.

  • Encourage the real-life use of gained knowledge. Let's go back to the programming department example. Ask the students to create a chatbot based on the accumulated knowledge they will implement in chats with their friends. This will be another example of a real-life knowledge application that will teach students to operate the acquired skills through a personal project.

Principle #5. Establish a Thought-Through Knowledge Evaluation System

This instructional design principle is closely related to the first one. The more material you give without a break, the larger your assessments will be. Hence, learners will have longer intervals between tests, which leads to partial oblivion of previous material. Assessment of learning should also have a certain thoughtful pace, which will exclude knowledge from getting into students’ short-term memory. To create the right tempo, follow these valuable tips:

  • Place small assessments throughout the material. This approach is a great way to help students better understand the material. You can place various quizzes and small tests throughout the study unit. These activities will help remember specific learning material points, keep their knowledge fresh, and prepare students for the final examination.

  • Provide detailed feedback. A simple number in the grading column may not say anything to the student and may not prompt correction of mistakes and the thought process. Literate and detailed feedback will help the student not to give up and helps to understand the wrong decisions and missed moments. Beyond that, feel free to make indulgences where appropriate. If, for example, the student correctly painted the solution to the problem but made an arithmetic error, set a partial credit while always indicating the place of the error.

Wrapping Up

These were five main instructional design principles that can help improve your online courses. If you are creating your first course, we advise you to follow all of the above principles, as this will make your online course effective, both in terms of knowledge delivery and retention rate. However, if you need professional help setting up the eLearning process, Raccoon Gang is ready to provide you with a high-quality eLearning development process. We can build a course that will comply with all instructional design principles and your vision and business needs. Share your project idea with us, and we consult you on all development nuances. 

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