Instructional Design 101: Best Practices for Effective Online Training

instructional design development

Is your organization ramping up its efforts in online training? Before checking the box that you’re providing quality training for employees, follow some instructional design best practices. Here we’re outlining how to create training that’s engaging AND yields a return on investment. 

The secret to engaging, high-impact training is how effective the instructional designers develop the training. Instructional design is the process of crafting a strategic training experience that allows trainees to learn and apply new ideas. 

Savvy businesses use instructional design principles in remote training and eLearning. The strategic approach and proven methods helps to achieve concrete business goals and develop their people. 

Increase sales, improve process efficiency, develop leaders, decrease customer complaints, improve compliance, boost technology use – whatever result your business is after, solid instructional design methods will deliver it. 

In this article, we’re bringing you our top 8 instructional design best practices. These steps will help you dial up employee performance and achieve tangible results.

    1. Identify training objectives 
    2. Set a scope for your training
    3. Model content to meet objectives
    4. Make it visually pleasing
    5. Make it engaging and interactive
    6. Test your online learning platform
    7. Measure training efficacy 
    8. Update modules regularly 

These strategies can be applied to any type of learning or training curriculum. But we’re going to focus on how to use them in online training programs in tandem with Learning Management Systems (LMS)

First, here are some instructional design basics.

USING INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGN FOR REMOTE EMPLOYEE TRAINING

Instructional design is a science. It’s been perfected by instructional design companies and researchers through decades of research, As a result, our industry has found certain rules that we know drive business results. 

Sure, you can enlist leadership to read off Powerpoint slides to staff when you need things done differently. But odds are, the information won’t stick. And even if it does, it won’t cause big performance changes.

And it’s not because your staff is lazy. It’s because information has to be optimized for learning and behavior change. Leadership might be masters in the content of the training, but they’re probably not masters in the delivery. 

That’s why e-learning instructional design principles are a must-have. At RTG Solutions Group, our instructional design consultants have mastered the science of good training. We know how to turn your leaders’ knowledge into training programs that engage employees and drive results. 

Now, let’s jump into the 8 best practices in instructional design! 

1. Identify Training Objectives

employee training development

Identify your training objectives. This is the first and most important step. Your training goals will be the compass for your entire training program. Once identified, these goals will guide every instructional design decision you make. Content, layout, delivery format – all of these will be tailored to meet your training objectives. 

Here are some questions that will help your team determine your training goals:

  • What goals does our business need to meet?
  • Who needs to be trained to meet this goal?
  • What problem are we trying to solve with training? 
  • Where does staff performance need to improve? 

You need to get down to the very essence of your business needs. If you have several unrelated goals, you may need to prioritize some over others. This allows your project to have a realistic scope – which brings us to our next point.

2. Set a Scope for your Training

Scope is crucial to instructional design. In this step, you outline which goals you will (and won’t) target. A clear scope ensures that resources are allocated efficiently to actually meet goals. 

You may end up with a dozen goals after step 1. If so, you probably won’t be able to tackle all of them with a single project. That’s why you need a scope. 

If your scope is too broad for your budget, you may end up with little to no results. If your scope is too narrow, leadership might not be convinced it’s a worthy investment. 

To drive change, your goals, budget, and scope all need to be aligned. Again, objectives are your instructional design compass. Scope is what allows you to focus on that compass.

3. Model Content to Meet Objectives

So you’ve set your objectives and scope. Now it’s time to choose your content. In instructional design theory, content is based on business goals. And then content should trickle down from your objectives. 

Your instructional design consultant should collaborate with your subject matter experts (SMEs) extensively in this step. The instructional designer’s job here is to take the SMEs valuable knowledge and distill the most crucial pieces. 

Don’t skip the extra step of sifting through information for the most valuable nuggets. This is what makes the difference between training that sort of works and training that moves the needle. 

4. Make it Visually Pleasing

Many people outside the learning & development field think aesthetics are just fluff. And this can be true. Not all visuals will enhance the learning experience. But L&D pros know that the right visuals promote learning, engagement, and behavior change. 

This is especially true in instructional design for distance learning. Every day, your employees use their phones and computers to access website after website that’s been carefully designed to engage them. A generic PowerPoint template can’t compete with that! 

Videos, photos, color schemes, layouts – all of these can be strategically selected to encourage learning and, in turn, improve business performance.

5. Make it Engaging and Interactive

Employee engagement is a vital business resource. You want your employees to be engaged at work all the time. But you especially want them engaged during training. 

If they’re not engaged, they won’t learn. And if they don’t learn, you won’t see results. 

This is where working with an instructional design consultant is beneficial in your efforts. Instructional design pros have spent years mastering the art of learner engagement. 

Interactive activities, user-friendly layouts, interesting videos, quizzes, gamification. Engagement strategies are endless! And with the right help, you can fold them into your training program. 

Want to learn more? Check out these 5 innovative learning tools that will boost employee engagement!

6. Test your Online Learning Platform

Before launching your online training program, it’s important to test it. Actually, you should test your training platform before AND after you launch it. 

If you’re using a program like a Learning Management System (LMS) for employee training, a lot can go sideways. There might be bugs in the system. The site might slow down when too many people are logged in. The format might not be user-friendly. Or maybe, everything runs smoothly, but the training isn’t effective.

How instructional designers test their employee training systems:

  • Run program in “test” environment before moving to “live” environment
  • Perform a stress/volume test on system
  • Invite an independent auditor, like an instructional design consultant
  • Collect user feedback 

To learn more, check out this infographic on 5 ways to test a new learning management system!

7. Measure Training Efficacy

To measure training efficacy, you need to figure out your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). First, think about what your business goal is. This goes back to step 1. What do you want to change? 

Ask: what variables would represent this change? It might be the number of customer complaints, safety violations, positive reviews, etc. Whatever the variables are, these will be your KPIs. 

In order to measure impact, you want to see how that KPI changes before and after training. So you must collect pre-training measurements on the KPI first. Then, post-implementation, monitor that KPI every day. 

If the KPI isn’t moving in the right direction, then training is not effective. And if the training is not effective, then you won’t meet your business goals. When this is the case, it’s back to the drawing board – which brings us to our next point.

8. Update Modules Regularly

Training modules need to be updated regularly. If your KPIs show training is effective, then you need to update it to keep it relevant. If your KPIs show training is not working, then you need to update it to make it more effective.

Why are updates important? It keeps your business moving forward. Industries are constantly changing and innovating. This means your workforce also has to change and innovate. The best way to fuel creativity and growth is training.

Regular training updates help you create a continuous learning culture. And continuous learning goes hand-in-hand with continuous improvement culture. Infuse these two complementary cultures into your business, and your organization will be set to lead in your industry!

CONCLUSION

It’s hard to overstate the importance of instructional design in e-learning. Online employee training through programs like Learning Management Systems is the future – and the future is here! 

Instructional design is a scientific, results-driven discipline. With these best practices, instructional designers can ensure that training yields a return on investment. 

At RTG Solutions Group, our experts can help your learning & development team create training programs that drives growth and boosts efficiency. Contact us today to design training that improves your business’s performance!

“A vision cannot be realized without the ability to execute.”

Khris K. Bhattan
PresidentPresident, RTG Solutions Group
Let's Talk Strategy!

Looking to create dynamic employee training? We can help.