• Travis Jordan

Instructional Design: The Foundation for Problem Solving

Updated: Jul 20, 2019


I can still remember the first time "instructional design" was described to me. As a young student, I curiously asked the dean of our college, "so what exactly is instructional design?" He responded by saying, "instructional design is all about solving problems." He continued, "if you like solving problems, then you will love instructional design." After 15 years in the industry, I have learned that he was spot on; instructional design is the foundation for problem solving.

Below are three reasons why instructional design prepares students and professionals for problem solving in any industry:

1. The ADDIE Model

The ADDIE model is a pattern for problem solving. This model that acts as the heartbeat of instructional design can also be used in nearly any industry to solve problems. First, analyze the need, identify the core problems, listen to and understand your audience, and establish what success looks like. Second, design, prototype, and test your solution. Third, develop your solution. Fourth, implement your solution. And lastly, evaluate your solution to ensure that you hit your target. Whether you are solving an instructional problem, a market problem, a process problem, or even an organizational problem, the systematic process of the ADDIE model helps you identify the root cause of a problem and leads you towards the delivery of a viable solution.

2. Emphasis on Results

At it's core, instructional design is about achieving results. Those results may be cognitive or behavioral, but results must be achieved in order for an instructional design product to be considered effective. Likewise, problem solving is focused on delivering results. Additionally, the field of instructional design encourages the gathering of empirical data to evaluate success and demonstrate that the "needle has been moved". Likewise, effective problem solving leverages metrics. ID literally starts and ends with results. A good instructional designer is taught to identify what success looks like and to "start with the end in mind" during the analysis process. An even more effective instructional designer will always take time to evaluate whether or not the problem was solved, and whether or not the results were achieved in the evaluation phase.

3. An Organizational Mindset

A great instructional designer is highly organized in thought and action. The ID must organize tasks, behaviors, objectives, lessons, testing plans, etc. I have seen many well intended instructional designers struggle because they lack the disciple and capability to be organized. A great problem solver is no different. In order to be a great problem solver, it is critical that the problem solver organizes and prioritizes what problems are most important. A great problem solver also organizes his or her work in a systematic process so that an effective root cause can properly be identified. If you are not organized it may be easy to identify problems, but you may find it difficult to effectively and deliver a solution that solves the problem. The good news is that an organizational mindset can be developed and tutored through deliberate practice and focus!

Great instructional designers are wonderful hires in any industry because they have unlocked the pattern for problem solving! Instructional design is a fantastic foundation for problem solving, and will help any professional to be more successful in his or her career. Next time you solve a problem, pay attention to the natural process that you used to solved it. You might be surprised to discover how you solved it!

#InstructionalDesign #ProblemSolving #ADDIE

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