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The Instructional Design and eAuthoring Module[edit]

This is undoubtedly the most important module in the MSc. in Applied eLearning course. Your expectation as students should be enormous and the possibility to learn about how to use the available technology in education and how to create an effective and attractive elearning course. Through this section you will know about the learning outcomes and the assessment necessary for his module.

Learning Outcomes[edit]

As successful students in this module we should be able to fill in these requirements:

  1. Design a pedagogically sound and accessible e-learning resource/activity, informed by relevant theories and using appropriate information communication technologies.
  2. Develop a storyboard to plan for a user friendly, technically robust and pedagogically effective e-learning resource/activity.
  3. Justify decisions relating to the selection, design and use of elearning technologies taking into account the impact of local, national and global contexts.
  4. Apply principles of learning orientations to an identified elearning situation within their own working context.
  5. Evaluate critically the pedagogical value and usability of e-learning materials in a range of different contexts.
  6. Show evidence of active engagement with peers in learning about the end product and also about the process of working in a team.


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Module Assessment[edit]

The students must demonstrate and justify their understanding of the theories of learning and instructional design. They must select appropriate tools to create resources/activities that are technically sound and educationally effective.

Group's assessment:

  1. A Storyboard showing evidence of careful planning and rationale.
  2. A elearning resource which should adhere to standards of usability and accessibility.
  3. An oral presentation of the project be made to peers and tutors.

Individual's assessment:

  1. An annotated bibliography with evidence of research for this project describing the literature researched and referred to.
  2. A reflection of 1000 words providing a rationale for the design process and informing by literature (learning theories, instructional design theory and pedagogical rationale for use of technology). The reflection also should contain reflection on group work, how they contributed to the group work, or worked individually.

The Art of Instructional Design[edit]

"There are three principal means of acquiring knowledge available to us: observation of nature, reflection, and experimentation. Observation collects facts; reflection combines them; experimentation verifies the result of that combination. Our observation of nature must be diligent, our reflection profound, and our experiments exact. We rarely see these three means combined; and for this reason, creative geniuses are not common." (Diderot, 1713-84).


Instructional Design models or theories may be defined as frameworks for developing modules or lessons that increase and/or enhance the possibility of learning, and encourage the engagement of learners so that they learn faster and gain deeper levels of understanding.

Instructional Design (ID) models have a broad scope and typically divide the instruction design process into five phases:

  1. Analysis
  2. Design
  3. Development
  4. Implementation or Delivery
  5. Evaluation

There are three types of strategies within Instruction Design theories (Reigeluth, 1983):

  1. Organizational strategies are broken down on the micro or macro level and deals with the way in which a lesson is arranged and sequenced.
  2. Delivery strategies are concerned with the decisions that affect the way in which information is carried to the student, particularly, the selection of instructional media.
  3. Management strategies involve the decisions that help the learner interact with the activities designed for learning.

Merrill's Component Display Theory[edit]

M. David Merrill's Component Display Theory (CDT) (1983) describes the micro elements of instruction (single ideas and methods for teaching them). It is designed to work in conjunction with Riegeluth's theory.

CDT is comprised of three parts:

  1. A performance/content dimension comprised of the desired level of student performance and type of content.
  2. Four primary presentation forms
  3. A set of prescriptions relating the level of performance and type of content to the presentation forms.

Merrill further classifies learning into two dimensions:

Which consists of facts, concepts, procedures, and principles. Content ranges from facts, which are the most basic forms of content, to principles. It is the actual information to be learned. The four types of content in component display theory are:
  1. Facts - logically associated pieces of information. Some examples are names, dates, and events.
  2. Concepts - symbols, events, and objects that share characteristics and are identified by the same name. Concepts make up a large portion of language and understanding them is integral to communication.
  3. Procedures - a set of ordered steps, sequenced to solve a problem or accomplish a goal.
  4. Principles - work through either cause-and-effect or relationships. They explain or predict why something happens in a particular way.
Made up of remembering, using, and generalities. Performance is classified with remembering as being the simplest form of performance, to finding (generalities) the most advanced. Performance is the manner in which the learner applies the content. The three types of performance are:
  1. Remembering - the learner is required to search and recall from memory a particular item of information,
  2. Using - the learner directly apply the information to a specific case and
  3. Finding - the learner uses the information to derive a new abstraction (concepts, principles, etc.).

Human-emblem-multimedia.svg Watch a video clip about instructional design with Dr. David Merrill delivered at Utah State University in 1989.

Robert Gagne's Nine Steps of Instruction[edit]

According to Robert Gagnè (1985), there are nine events that are needed for effective learning. They include a sequence of events similar to the following:

Gain attention:
Present a problem or a new situation. Use an "interest device" that grabs the learner's attention. This can be thought of as a teaser (the short segment shown in a TV show right before the opening credits that is designed to keep you watching and listening). The ideal is to grab the learners' attention so that they will watch and listen, while you present the learning point. You can use such devices as: storytelling, demonstrations, presenting a problem to be solved, doing something the wrong way (the instruction would then show how to do it the right way) or why it is important.
Inform learner of Objective:
This allows the learner's to organize their thoughts and around what they are about to see, hear, and/or do. There is a saying in the training filed to: Firstly tell them what you're going to tell them, secondly tell them, and finally tell them what you told them. This cues them and then provides a review which has proven to be effective. e.g. describe the goal of a lesson, state what the learners will be able to accomplish and how they will be able to use the knowledge.
Stimulate recall of prior knowledge:
This allows the learners to build on their previous knowledge or skills. Although we are capable of having our "creative" minutes, it is much easier to build on what we already know. e.g. remind the learners of prior knowledge relevant to the current lesson, provide the learners with a framework that helps learning and remembering.
Present the material:
Chunk the information to avoid memory overload. Blend the information to aid in information recall. This is directly related to Skinner's "sequenced learning events". This allows learners to receive feedback on individualized tasks, thereby correcting isolated problems rather than having little idea of where the root of the learning challenge lies. Bloom's Taxonomy Blooms taxonomy and Learning Strategies can be used to help sequence the lesson by helping you chunk them into levels of difficulty.
Provide guidance for learning:
This is not the presentation of content, but are instructions on how to learn. This is normally simpler and easier than the subject matter or content. It uses a different channel or media to avoid mixing it with the subject matter. The rate of learning increases because learners are less likely to lose time or become frustrated by basing performance on incorrect facts or poorly understood concepts.
Elicit performance:
Practice by letting the learner do something with the newly acquired behavior, skills, or knowledge.
Provide feedback:
Show correctness of the learner's response, analyze learner's behavior. This can be a test, quiz, or verbal comments. The feedback needs to be specific, not, "you are doing a good job" Tell them "why" they are doing a good job or provide specific guidance.
Assess performance:
Test to determine if the lesson has been learned. Can also give general progress information.
Enhance retention and transfer:
Inform the learner about similar problem situations, provide additional practice, put the learner in a transfer situation, review the lesson.

Reigeluth's Elaboration Theory[edit]

What is known as "sequencing" and organizing "epitomes" in Reigeluth's Elaboration theory, is commonly referred to as "chunking" — configuring large amounts of information into smaller units of information that are scaffolded (supportive structures) in order to accommodate memory and learning limitations.

For example, "Instructional Design" is chunked or epitomized into analysis, design, development, Implementation, & evaluation.

Charles Reigeluth was a doctorate student of Merrill. He used a sequencing approach that is consistent with Merrill's Component Display Theory (that is, each theory enhances the other). Reigeluth believes that instruction is made out of layers and that each layer of instruction elaborates on the previously presented ideas. By elaborating on the previous ideal, it reiterates, thereby improving retention. This layering has a zoom lens sequencing approach that runs from simple to complex and repeated general-to-specific:

  1. Present overview of simplest and most fundamental ideas.
  2. Add complexity to one aspect.
  3. Review the overview and show relationships to the details.
  4. Provide additional elaboration of details.
  5. Provide additional summary and synthesis.

This zoom lens approach first looks at the subject through a wide-angle lens. That is, the subject matter is general and fundamental. This allows us to deal with the core aspects of the subject. Elaboration begins with an overview of the simplest and most fundamental ideas of the subject.

Then we start to zoom in with the lens so that we pick up some details and specifics about the subject matter. We can also observe the relationships between the wide-angle subject shot and the zoom details. This principle as applied to elaboration theory is called a cognitive zoom.

As we continue to zoom, we go into great detail with each iteration or layering. Note that we are primarily concerned with the sequencing of ideas as opposed to the individual ideas themselves. Each zoom that we make is called a sequence. Sequencing in this case relates to fundamental ideas or core principles. The basic ones are presented first, this in turn, leads to a great layer of specifics. Each sequence of ideas or principles are called epitomes in elaboration theory. The epitome serves as a foundation from which more specific information may be developed.

The Seven Steps in Elaboration

1) Sequence

This simple to complex procedure can take many forms such as an overview, advance organizer, or spiral curriculum. This sequence is one in which the general ideas epitomize rather than summarize, and the epitomizing is organized on the basis of a single type of content:

  1. Conceptual - Concepts are certain sets of objects, events, or symbols that have certain common characteristics.
  2. Procedural - Procedures are sets of actions intended to achieve an end. Theoretical - Principles are changes in something else, generally denoting cause and effect.

One of these three contents is chosen to achieve the goals of a lesson or course. Epitomizing is structured as follows: One type of content is chosen (conceptual, procedural, or theoretical). All the organizing content in the course is then listed. The most basic and fundamental ideas are selected and presented at the application level.

Prechunks is the subject matter before the first level of elaboration. Before we epitomize (chunk) the subject matter is in a state of disarray (elaboration). When we postchunck in Instructional Design we put chaos into order when we chunk (epitomize) the subject matter. From this first layer or epitome, we can then elaborate by organizing (the second step) the content.

2) Organize

The second step elaborates upon organizing the content in the first level. This process continues in the same way as the first step of Sequence. The relationships that result between the levels are organized according to content. At each level the expanded epitome is used to create a means to elaborate upon the next level.

Epitomes can be sequenced according to the order of steps:

  1. Forward Chaining is presenting them in the order in which they are performed.
  2. Backward Chaining is presenting them in the reverse order (backwards).
  3. Hierarchical Sequencing is presenting all the major sub-steps separately before integrating them into a step in the sequence.
  4. General to Detailed Sequencing is presented by summarizing.
  5. Simple to Complex Sequencing is presenting them by their shortest paths (procedures) with each successive path becoming more complex.

Each epitome should be examined closely to determine if the learners have the essential knowledge that will allow them to learn the subject matter. If the necessary knowledge is not present, it must be provided.

3) Summarization

In order to systematically review what has already been learned, a "summarizer" (defined as a concise generality for each topic presented in the elaboration (Ely & Plomp, 1996)) is created. A summarizer provides a concise statement of each idea, an example. Two types of summarizers are used:

  1. Internal - The summary comes at the end of the lesson and deals specifically with the content of that lesson.
  2. Within-set - This deals with all that has been learned so far in a particular set of lessons. This can include other lessons that coordinate with that lesson.

4) Synthesize

This step integrates and interrelates the ideas taught thus far. The goal is to facilitate deeper understanding, meaningfulness, and retention in regards to the content area.

5) Analogy

Analogy is the use of a familiar idea or concept to introduce or define a new idea or concept. Analogies aid the trainer in reaching the learner's field of experience. Presenting analogies throughout the instruction helps the learners to build on their present knowledge or skills.

6) Cognitive-Strategy Activator

There are two categories of cognitive-strategy activators:

  1. Imbedded - Uses pictures, diagrams, analogies, and other elements that force the learner to interact with the sequence and content.
  2. Detached - Causes the learner to employ a previously acquired cognitive skill.

7) Learner Control

Learner Control deals with the freedom of the learner to control the selection and sequencing of such instructional elements as content, rate, components (instructional-strategy), and cognitive strategies.

Concluding Thoughts

Note that this is a macro strategy of instructional design that focus on the organization and sequencing of subject matter content by addressing the four design problem areas: selection, sequencing, synthesizing, and summarizing.

Elaboration theory is best suited for teaching causal relationships and sequences rather than problem solving or facts. It works in conjunction with component-display theory, which deals with the micro aspects of instruction and works out the details of elaboration.


  1. Clark, D. R. (2009). "Instructional System Design", from
  2. Diderot, D. (1753). "Interpretation of Nature", no. 15, repr. in Selected Writings, ed. by Lester G. Crocker, 1966.
  3. Downes, S. 2005. "E-learning 2.0". ed. e. Magazine. New York: ACM.
  4. Gagne, R. 2005. "Principles of instructional design". Belmont CA: Thomson / Wadsworth.
  5. Koohang, A. 2007. "Learning objects and instructional design". Informing Science Press.
  6. Merril, M.D. (2002). "First principles of instruction. Educational Technology Research and Development".
  7. Patti, S. 2004. "Competencies for online instructors". Denver CO: Learning Peaks LLC.
  8. Piskurich, G.M. (2006). "Rapid Instructional Design: Learning ID Fast and Right". San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons.
  9. Reigeluth, C.M. 1999. "Instructional design theories and models". Mahwah NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  10. Reigeluth, C.M. 2009. "Instructional design theories and models: building a common knowledge base". New York: Routledge.
  11. Strickland, A. W. (2007). "ADDIE" Idaho State University College of Education, from