Instructional design is the systematic and data-driven process of creating educational content and experiences. It’s a crucial component in the world of online education, one that has been disregarded by many educational institutions for many reasons. The cost of not investing in instructional design or trained instructional designers goes beyond the quality of an educational product. It connects directly with the fulfillment of the mission of your institution. Here are 5 reasons why I think instructional design is essential for online learning:  

1. Enhances learning outcomes

The instructional design focuses on the learner and their needs, ensuring that content is engaging, relevant, and easy to understand. This results in improved learning outcomes, with students retaining information better and achieving their goals more effectively. This is the first place I’ve seen many subject matter experts struggle to create courses when they have to create measurable and achievable outcomes. 

2. Improves engagement

Online learning can often be seen as dry and unengaging, but effective instructional design helps to combat this. By using multimedia, interactive elements, and gamification, instructional designers can create engaging and enjoyable learning experiences for students. It is very challenging for subject matter experts with little to no training in pedagogy and instructional design to think of the learner and move their content into a learning experience. Usually, online classes have prepackaged content, which leaves little room for active engagement. Those engaging opportunities must be maximized for a tremendous and exciting learning experience. 

3. Increases accessibility

Instructional design helps to create content that is accessible to all learners, regardless of their background, learning style, or abilities. This means that online education can reach a wider audience and help to break down barriers to education. One of the challenges with online classes is that you can only change a little in the live classroom once the course is designed and launched. You must be more intentional on the front end and develop a learning experience that foresees and anticipates a diverse group of students and their challenges in engaging with the class. This is an integral part of the instructional design process. 

4. Supports scalability

As online education continues to grow, instructional design provides a framework for creating and delivering content that can be scaled and adapted to meet the needs of a growing audience. Online education in higher education was often made to mirror traditional face-to-face teaching. Many Universities have moved away from that and created uniquely designed courses for online learning. Yet, the business process for creating online classes, updating content, and launching courses still follows the traditional model. Online classes are sometimes the last to be updated because of the complexity of implementing changes. Investing in an instructional design platform will directly impact the scalability needs and positively impact future growing demands for online education.   

5. Facilitates technology integration

With the rise of technology in education, instructional design plays a crucial role in ensuring that technology is used effectively and in a way that enhances learning outcomes. Instructional designers work to seamlessly integrate technology into the learning experience, creating a seamless and practical learning experience. The technology rush comes with challenges. There are very few technologies explicitly developed for higher education, including learning management systems. Finding tools designed with higher education in mind can genuinely improve the course creation process and impact the online learner.

Instructional design is a vital component of online education. It helps to enhance learning outcomes, improve engagement, increase accessibility, support scalability, and facilitate technology integration. By putting the learner at the center of the design process, the instructional design ensures that online education is practical, enjoyable, and accessible.


Alin Vrancila
Co-founder Ready for Online

Alin Vrancila