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Instructional Design Element 3: Development

🕑 7 minutes read | Jul 03 2024 | By Richard Head, TTA Learning Consultant
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Development takes the material from your Design Document and creates the “assets” necessary to bring the training event about, and creates methods of delivery. In short, development brings the training event to life.

What you’re doing at this stage is specifying what needs to happen and how you’ll “deliver” it. You’ll define:

  • What training covers
  • How the training is delivered
  • How much time students and instructors must devote, and how much is scheduled (I have to be online or in a classroom at a certain date and time)

You’ll also secure financial and other resources.

Primary Stages or Activities

Development isn’t particularly difficult if you’ve already performed Analysis and Design. Hopefully, those two phases have laid out what you intend to develop. Still, development can be thought of in three major “chunks” of activity:

  1. Create a prototype or “proof of concept”
  2. Create the course elements
  3. Conduct a test to see how your efforts perform “in the real world”

 Prototype

A prototype is used to firmly establish the “what and how” of the course:

  • What will you cover?
  • How will you cover it?
  • How will decision makers/funders/approvers get their first look at the course before it’s rolled out? They’ll want to see it in early and later phases so they know effort and money are going to be spent wisely.
  • How will you and your development team know you’re on target with what was identified during the analysis and design phases?

Storyboarding can help. A storyboard is a visual device originally used in the movie and cartoon industries to show, page-by-page or scene-by-scene, what is going to happen and how. In our case, storyboard elements contain a verbal description of what’s happening, text, graphics, colors, activities, and audio-visual element descriptions, outside resources and references, and just about any other elements you think might let someone outside of your design team “see” what you have in mind. PowerPoint or other presentation software can be used here to show “pages” or “screens” of material in sequence.

If you’re developing a classroom or other print-based course, a few “course book” or “student workbook” pages will suffice. Those pages should contain a range of the kinds of elements you’ll include in the final course book. If you’re developing an online course, you’ll show the same thing—what a typical “screen” will display and what the student is expected to do.

Course creation

Once the prototype shows other stakeholders what you have in mind, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and create what you’ve promised.

One of the first tasks is to specify learning activities and events.  This lays out who will direct or “present” them, how students will be involved and “checked for their understanding,”

A great way to begin course creation, particularly if the course is classroom-based or otherwise has some sort of subject-matter-expert involvement and contact with students during course delivery, is to first create an Instructor Guide (IG). The IG tells the instructor what to do, how to do it, and how much time it should take, and directs the instructor on how to handle audio/visual use, and how to engage students with activities, exercises, assessments, and discussion.  The IG essentially is a page-by-page lesson plan, and it can help identify what existing materials you have, what will need to be modified, and what will need to be created from scratch.

Following the IG development can be the student guide or “workbook” if it’s a classroom course. It follows what was laid out in the IG. In this phase, you’ll finalize what existing materials can be used, and what needs to be created, and then fine-tune your budgetary constraints.

Exercises and student assessments are created to bring the learning objectives to life. Included here are also reference materials the students will use during and after the course, and where they turn if they have questions or need assistance.

Learning resources (assets) are also created in the development phase. Depending on whether you’re conducting a print-based classroom course or a virtual course, we’re talking about audio-visual materials such as videos, scripts for narrations and selecting narrator(s), graphics (static and animated tables and graphs); audio voiceovers; PowerPoint or other presentation apps. In the case of online learning, you want to make sure you don’t just have a talking head or endless audio narration without some other elements to catch and keep learners’ interest.

At this phase, you’re making sure that what you develop is logical and orderly, and that your learning objectives are going to be squarely met.

A quick note about a/v use

The purpose of visual aids is to enhance a message by clarifying, focusing attention, and creating interest.  Visual aids should be used only when necessary, in order to avoid “Death by PowerPoint.” By no means should you “drive” an entire classroom presentation off of slides.

Here are old, but still important, rules about “slides” (PowerPoint, Prezi, Canva, Google Slides, Zoho, Visme, etc.):

Visual elements should supplement your material, in the case of classroom presentations. If you can print it or include it in a course book or online reference, there’s usually no need to create a slide about it.

If you do create a slide, remember the 6x6x6 rule:

  • 6 words per line
  • 6 lines per slide
  • Readable from 6 feet away from the screen

This rule ensures everything on the slide is visible and that the slide isn’t so packed and cluttered with text that it’s essentially unreadable.

Here are some Don’t Do recommendations for slides:

  • Don’t just copy material from the course book
  • Don’t introduce non-related material
  • Don’t use too many colors—settle on a group of 2-3 complementary colors, create a slide template, and stick with it
  • Don’t insert cartoons for the sake of humor (copyright issues, also)

Can you break these rules? Of course, but if you do, do it sparingly.

Classroom vs Online

Most of the suggestions above apply to classroom presentations involving a facilitator, printed student materials, and facilitator-used audio/visual resources. If you’re developing for online, some of the suggestions don’t apply because you’re going to have the course driven largely by audio/visual elements. That means you’re going to select a rapid development tool (aka “authoring tool”) and import other resources as needed. One recommendation about online courses is to “chunk” them into short learning elements, usually in the form of 15- or 20-minute segments. Having students click “Next” for two hours is tedious. In the case of classroom or online delivery, you’ll want to check for student understanding every 15 minutes or so with a quiz or discussion. That means developing short quizzes or other checks, usually consisting of no more than 5-7 key elements. Those key elements should be the drivers of what the course module was all about.

LMS development, purchase, or contract

Many larger organizations are using Learning Management Systems (LMS) to schedule and enroll students in courses, track student progress, award student certificates of completion, and a myriad of other analysis activities. You’ll need to consider whether this kind of activity is something you want to build, buy, or rent. In most cases, the buy/lease/rent option is preferable, unless you have the IT human resources and hardware/software to support custom development.

Testing/Piloting

Test several proofs of concept with audiences to see what works and what needs to be changed. You’re testing and evaluating different training elements and delivery methods. “Pilot” a session with test groups and gather feedback that others will review and sign off on. That way you know you’ve met your learning objectives and that money and effort will be well spent.

Evaluation. You want to collect data from your pilot and create a basic evaluation model. We’ll get into the formal evaluation in the last segment of this series, but you’ll need to define “success” at the development stage. How will you know if the training was successful in meeting your learning objectives? What kind of quizzes and assessments will be used during the course, and what kind of formal assessment will be conducted after the course is complete? The term for that activity at this point is called a “formative evaluation,” versus the “summative evaluation” which is the large, total-project evaluation that’s conducted after the training is complete.  The formative evaluation drives the activities that collect the data during the course that will be analyzed at the end of the project. This is a must-do activity because, without it, you’ll have nothing but “smile sheets” as your course evaluation. And we all know how little use those really are.

Ready, Set, IMPLEMENT!

Once you’ve developed and tested your course, and you’re sure that what you’ve developed is going to meet the learning objectives you spent so much time on during analysis and design, you’re ready to go.

Implementation is our next phase and we’ll get to that in our next post.

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