Instructional Design for Content Development

For all those who have been wondering where I had vanished, I’m back! I was extremely busy with a very interesting project. It was on my all time favourite, content development.

Two months back, we created and delivered a session for a client on one of their core values. The session went really well, therefore the client asked us to create content on the same. This content would enable their internal trainers to deliver this session to all their employees on a PAN India basis.

So, what am I going to share with you today? Some tips to create great content. And that too, backed by instructional design theories!

Sounds exciting? Here we go…


Instructional Design and its usefulness

I know the term sounds rather complicated, so let me tell you what it means in a very simple manner. Instructional Design is a set of theories which help in creating instruction or content which is effective in maximising learning and satisfying the identified objectives.

In short, it helps you create training sessions where the participants are engaged and learn what you set out to teach them. Using these theories and models, you can aid their performance by equipping them with the required knowledge, skills and attitude. This in turn fulfils organisation objectives and of course training objectives. Giving us happy participants, a happy L&D department and a happy organisation. All in all, exactly what all of us strive for!

And how do we do all this? By following the insights that educators and content development experts have provided through various instructional design theories.

So, let’s get straight to it. I won’t take you through each of the theories here, as some of them can seem a little complicated! I’ll give you their derivatives instead. And you can directly apply these to your content.

So, here goes…


Using Instructional Design prior to Content Development

As per instructional design, we need to conduct various types of analysis to ensure our content actually fills the need and is appropriate for our audience.

  • Need Analysis

    While this sounds like a no-brainer, many of us actually don’t spend enough time trying to find out the need. And in the bargain, may land up creating a session that fulfils what we ‘think’ is the need. And we all know the result. A waste of time and effort not only on our part, but even for the participants and eventually the organisation. And the issue at hand may stay as it is. Or in case you do partially fulfil it, may pop up again in the same or a different form in the future.

Therefore, make it a point to understand the problem that is being faced completely. Ask questions to get to its root cause. And ensure you have a holistic understanding of all the factors that could be causing it. As always, refrain from jumping to the pill without a proper diagnosis!

  • Audience Analysis

    Understand your participants well. Gain information on Demographics (Age, Gender, Total Experience, Organisational Experience, etc.), Culture, Language, Attitude towards training and the topic, Past training experience, Challenges being faced, Motivation, Interest, etc. After all, there’s no point in creating a session which does not cater to the audience.


  • Task/ Goal/ Content Analysis

    This one’s about understanding the tasks the audience should be able to complete as a result of the training. And therefore, gives us direct inputs as to the goal and content of our session.


Ask the experts in the respective area how best to complete the task. Also ask them for relevant examples and success stories that the participants can relate to and can motivate them to learn and implement their learning.


Ensure you have a clear picture of what you need to do, why you need to do it and some idea about how you are going to do it.



During Content Design and Development


Some things to keep in mind while designing and developing the content are:


  • Objectives 

    Again, an extremely important step. And also, a guiding beacon for developing the content and creating assessments.


You can start by creating the overall aim of the session. This can be a one-liner which broadly states what the session aims at fulfilling. For example, the aim of our blog today is to help our readers create effective training sessions by explaining the application of various instructional design theories. Then specify the learning outcomes of each topic in your outline to showcase what the participants will be able to do post that particular module. Or you can mention what you, as the facilitator, aim at doing through each module by writing objectives. Doing this will give you a clear picture as to how each topic or module contributes to the overall aim.


While writing the aims, objectives and learning outcomes be careful not to use vague words like understand, know, believe, etc. Also, be specific as to the level of knowledge, skills and attitude the participants will possess post the session. This will ensure your content sticks to what is required and chances of you including ‘good to know’ versus ‘need to know’ is minimised! Check out Bloom’s Taxonomy for the terms that you can use to describe the levels of learning in each of the knowledge, skills and attitude domains.


To make the objectives or learning outcomes more specific; specify the audience, the behaviour they need to exhibit post the session, the condition under which they should be able to exhibit it and the degree to which it needs to be done to show proficiency.

  • Content Tips

Now for some tips that can help you design and develop your content well:


  • Sequencing – Organise the topics so that they go from simple to complex or in the order required for effective learning


  • Connecting – Help participants connect topics and explain transitions so that they can see how various topics fit into each other along with the larger picture


  • Relevance – Use examples that the audience can connect well to and content that is meaningful for them


  • Novelty – Use a variety of training methodologies; based on the type of content and audience learning styles. Appeal to visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners


  • Interactivity – Adult learners need plenty of interaction. Ask them plenty of questions and ask them to share experiences and examples.


  • Building on Prior Knowledge – Include topics that can build on to what the participants already. And build relevant links with their past experience or knowledge


  • Experimentation – Allow participants to construct their own meaning out of the experiences you provide them


  • Control – Give participants control wherever you can. For example, let them decide how much practise they require to master a particular skill


Assessments to Evaluate Learning

We have all encountered out of syllabus questions in our examinations. And honestly, it’s a complete no-no! You have to ensure that the session objectives, the content you teach and the assessments that the learners give are all at the same level. So, if your objective is teaching a concept till the application level, you can’t just define the concept during the session and expect participants to show its application during the assessment. Application of the concept needs to be covered by the content too!


These were a few valuable tips from various instructional design theories and models. There are a lot more that I can share with you from my experience too. But maybe another time. Till then, All the Best with content development. May you create some amazing content and deliver even better sessions!


"Content Development – Tips from Instructional Design" - By The Yellow Spot - - 1 Comments

One comment

  1. Hi,
    This was an interesting read and very insightful. As a prior content writer and current ESL trainer, I’d like to know more about it and maybe have one on one with the writer of this article.
    Therefore, I was hoping if you could provide the writer’s name or LinkedIn profile.

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