What is Learning Design?

Learning Design is the science (and art!) of creating and measuring learning experiences to achieve a specific outcome. The work appeals to creative and analytical types alike. While there are many models and frameworks professionals use to guide this work (see below for some examples), we have found that one model is particularly clear, succinct, and iterative fashion: ADDIE, which stands for Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation.

Image of ADDIE Model

  • Analysis: Identifying opportunities to improve learning or performance outcomes with effective learning experiences. Data sources for the analysis can include interviews, focus groups, organizational reports, learning system analytics, performance evaluations, and more.
  • Design: Crafting clear, measurable learning and/or performance objectives, aligning these with various technologies and modalities (text, multimedia content, interactive exercises, assessments, etc), and creating the overall framework necessary to achieve the desired outcomes.Design can also include brainstorming for related communication, measurement, and change management plans.
  • Development: Collaborating with subject matter experts to curate, write and/or refine content, and develop the experience. Development can also include drafts, reviews, and final versions of related communication, measurement, and change management plans.
  • Implementation: Delivering the program online, in a classroom, and/or a blend of modalities, and creating or carrying out related communication and change management plans to maximize impact.
  • Evaluation: Determining whether the developed program achieved the original objectives. This may take place throughout development (formative evaluation) in the form of usability labs and pilot testing, and/or once the program is implemented and learning or performance outcomes can be measured (summative evaluation).

Learning designers may also look to other models, including the following:

Dick and Carey’s model for Instructional Systems Design (ISD):

Image of the Dick and Carey Model

The Successive Approximation Model (SAM):

Image of Successive Approximation Model

Wiggins and McTighe’s Backwards Design: 

Image of Backward Design Model

Each of these models serve the important purpose of helping designers and stakeholders think through the project in a systematic fashion. Each should be used iteratively, as learning design projects rarely follow a linear path from beginning to end.

diagram showing learning design projects roles and skills
Learning Design Projects: Roles and Skills

In short, learning design involves the thoughtful identification of goals, opportunities, technologies, and metrics. One project might involve a number of professionals wearing multiple hats as shown in the diagram above. The precise roles and skills needed for a project will depend upon the scope, audience, tools, and modalities identified by the designer and stakeholders. Course Kitchen will help you with any part of this process, but we most love opportunities to contribute to the full cycle!

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