With the advancement of technology and the requirement to be
online, the IDMM helps better define the process an instructional
designer would follow when developing an online course.
The Instructional Design Maturity Model (IDMM) illustrates the
connection between the instructional design process, the
instructional design systems, and the instructional design
capabilities - following the discipline of project management as
seen by the outer rings.
Figure 1. The Instructional Design
To be sure, have been numerous changes in the way we learn since
Blooms' Taxonomy was developed in the early 1950s. Many approaches
have been based on Blooms' methodology, and have incorporated new
levels of learning techniques to ensure that the learning meets the
requirements of the time. With advances in technology - and the
subsequent move toward more online education - the way workplace
learning and performance professionals construct courses must
adapt. The IDMM provides an approach to support the move to more
effective online experiences.
Levels of instructional design
There are three levels of instructional design (ID) that support
the creation of online courses with the underlying management
principles of project management:
- Instructional Design Process (IDP)
- Instructional Design Systems (IDS)
- Instructional Design Capabilities (IDC).
Figure 2 illustrates the development lifecycle and quality control
practices for these three levels, as well as project management
Figure 2. Connection Between Levels of Instructional
Each one of these elements contributes to the development of a
mature level of online design. The better defined the process and
deployment of the system components, the greater the likelihood
that the desired ID capabilities will be achieved.
The ID process is a long-standing process that has been used by
organizations involved in the development of traditional or
instructor-led courseware. When developing an online course,
however, there are several items that need to be included that are
not typically addresses in the traditional approach.
Level 1: Instructional design process (IDP)
Figure 3. PM-Integrated Instructional Design Process
Typically, there are five phases required in the development of any
course: analyze, design, develop, implement, and evaluate. These
also are the first series of steps for developing an online course.
As with any type of development, you must first develop the
foundation on which (in this case) the online course should be
- Determine if the client's materials for the course have already
been created into a printable and useable program (such as
Workbook, PowerPoint presentation).
- If the course already exists, determine if the course was built
following an instructional design process. If so, then the course
already has the foundation for conversion into an online format.
If not, a subject matter expert is required.
- Determine course and lesson outcomes and linkage back to
- Analyze organization environment (department, position,
culture, and so forth) to gain an understanding of the course
requirements and desired outcomes.
- Compile all development tasks associated with each lesson.
- Develop a course work plan that details each lesson, each
activity and the result you want the learner to achieve. Select
tasks that people need to learn to become performers (needs
analysis from course materials to online materials).
- Review performance measures of a SCORM (Sharable Content Object
Reference Model) compliant program for the tasks to be learned and
how the information will be captured and delivered in the Learning
- Choose instructional setting for the tasks to be learned, such
as classroom, e-learning, on-the-job, online self-led, online
instructor-led, blended, and so on.
- Estimate cost and compare to benefits gained.
- Develop the learning objectives for the course.
- If the course is part of a series of courses, ensure that the
objectives align with the other modules.
- Develop the learning outcomes per lesson.
- Identify and list the learning steps that are required for each
lesson and how they link back to the learning objectives of the
- Structure lessons to support learning, but that are also
focused on increasing retention rate.
- Outline the domains of learning for the various lessons and
activities, than show how they tie to your learning outcomes per
- Develop performance activities and a main test to track a
learner's understanding and successes and failures.
- List the entry behaviours (prerequisites) that the learner must
demonstrate prior to entering the learning program.
- Sequence and structure the learning objectives.
- List activities that will help the students learn the task.
This could be pulled from the SMEs of the course if the course has
- Select the learning activities (result desired).
- Review existing material so that you do not reinvent the wheel.
- Develop the instructional courseware into authoring tool.
- Synthesize the courseware into a viable learning program, made
up of learning lessons and tied to other learning modules if the
course is part of a larger program.
- Validate the instruction to ensure it accomplishes all goals
and objectives as previously defined.
- Enter in all descriptions, keys words, lesson headers and other
details that will be required to be registered within the Manifest
of the authoring tool.
- Export course materials as a package into a SCROM compliant
format to ensure reportable functions work properly;
- Import 'Package' into a learning management system
(LMS) and test functionality.
- Create a management plan for conducting the training.
- Assign learners with access user names and password for the LMS
- Conduct the training.
- Review and evaluate each process phases (analyze, design,
develop, implement) to ensure it is accomplishing its goals and
- Perform external evaluations; observe that the tasks that were
taught can actually be performed by the learners in their working
- Revise training system to include improvements and better meet
Level 2: Instructional design systems
As we walk through the instructional design process, we notice that
there are areas of development that require the entering of data
into a system or multiple systems. These systems are referred to by
most practitioners as "the instructional design systems," and
developers require some or all of these tools in order to
successfully build an online course.
It is critical that developers consider that "inputs" and "outputs"
of each technology when incorporating the systems and tools into
the development process. What this means is that not all systems
will work well together and thus potentially create technical
The model in Figure 3 illustrates the order in which the
technologies are generally used through the lifecycle of course
development. Each technology plays its part not only along the
cycle, but across the layers of instructional design.
Figure 4. PM-Integrated Instruction Design System
Without the proper tools, the instructional design process (IDP)
and your instruction design capability (IDC) are greatly
compromised in supporting the online world. Because traditional IDP
was created for the development of classroom-based materials, the
systems and tools required were usually mass-marketed,
document-processing tools such as MS Word.
When you move to developing materials for distribution in the
virtual world, the level of required technology increases
immensely. If you want to create dynamic and interactive online
learning, it's even more so. This is due to the fact that
traditional IDP enables instructor-led courses with the capability
to make best use of the various pedagogy approaches without the
need for technology because facilitators are present with the
learner and through simple observations such as body language,
gesturing, as well as direct communication and other forms of
interaction, she is able to gauge the learner`s understanding and
adapt their learning approaches.
In an online environment, these approaches need to capture what is
done within a classroom setting to the best of its ability. In
order to do this, systems and tools are required that surpass what
is readily available to the common person. Once someone has access
to these technologies, there is still the need to understand how to
incorporate the content, instructional design, and technologies
together to produce the desired result. The understanding of these
processes and the ability to integrate them is key to being
successful - but the work is just beginning.
The third level of development taps into the capabilities of the
online instructional designer. The difference between a
traditional ID and online ID is the level of capabilities as it
pertains to transforming content into online content using the
Level 3: Instructional design capabilities
IDC is the main infrastructure of tangible development.
"Capability" is defined as a person able to do the work required to
create an on-line course. This is where all the systems and tools
are used to start building the framework, the elements, the
activities and the outcomes that make up a good online course. When
developing an online course, it is important to also understand all
levels of instructional design, but being successful is the ability
to move those theories into results.
Figure 5. PM-Integrated Instructional Design Capabilities
Course developers can achieve better capabilities in this area
through first defining and understanding the entire IDMM process.
Some instructional designers consider that by using authoring tools
and incorporating graphics, they would automatically create a great
online course. This is obviously not the case. The best results are
achieved using the capability to successfully move materials into
an end product by following the processes defined by the IDMM:
helping capture the essence of the content, enhancing the ability
of a learner to retain the information through proper learning
techniques, and how to best make use of the knowledge.
All of this requires using the right technologies - by developers
who understand the products' inputs and outputs and who have the
capabilities in all levels of ID to move the product through the
process. A typical ID methodology still focuses mainly on a single
dimensional process, but in the virtual world we need to be
thinking more three-dimensional, at multiple levels and integrating
the learning approaches.
The IDMM aims to illustrate the various elements required in order
to move your concepts, content, and ideas through to a tangible
product by leveraging state-of-the-art learning elements. These
elements, with use of the many technologies, include such things as
enhanced animations, rich graphics, videos, and virtual characters.
In essence, these equate to interactions with content that are
sequenced across timelines and then combined with professionally
scripted narrations that are reinforced through visual and audio
The capabilities of a developer at this stage should be focused
around the use of technologies and the know-how to move through
each step in a logical and sequential format, capturing all the
learning outcomes, and transforming them into lessons that provide
an engaging and rich learning environment. There are a lot of
elements required to create an online course and here are some
examples of these elements as illustrated in Table 1.
Table1. Elements Required to Create an Online
| || |
- Determine size and length of course
- Define the course users
- Develop budget and timelines
- Outline limitations and constraints
- Identify available resources
- Describe the type of output required or desired
- Verify use of technical vs. soft skills training
- Establish use of internal or external SMEs
- Determine server and technical capabilities
| || |
- Develop agreements outlining scope of work and continuation of
work; this will help ensure the client understands the level of
efforts required in the development and support of an online course
| || |
- Request to see course content
- Establish access to systems and software
- Determine images or design elements that the client would like
to add in the course
It is important to understand the scope of what the customer has as
well as what they want you to develop. This could have an impact
on the scope of the development
When creating an online course it is important to understand how to
deliver it as though it was being taught by an instructor. Most
materials are written in third-person, and we need to rewrite it in
first-person viewpoint - as though you are talking to the learner
directly. This will increase the connectivity you would have with
you audience. You also need to remove and add elements into the
script that makes sense.
Once the script is defined, it is important to break them down into
management sections. These sections are then storyboarded with
learning outcomes, common look and feel, potential activity ideas
and other elements that begin to form the framework for the
During the storyboarding process, images start to take shape and
are outlined for each section. These images will be used to tie
into the script and help emphasis key points and the message the
lesson is trying to get across. These images can either be created
or purchased from an art source bank.
The narration of the script is developed so that it can be added in
a timeline for the development of the animations, graphics and
other illustrations. In order for everything to be sequenced
together, the narration needs to be used as the benchmark.
Virtual instructors (via avatars) may need to be added into the
storyboarding processes so that placement can be incorporated into
the design of each lesson. The placement of these characters will
help better ensure that the run time of the narrated content is
easily visible behind the avatar. Avatars are used as a means of
helping connect with an instructor; they are not always required,
but do add a level of interactivity.
There is content that is sometimes more technical or requires a
little more explanation and animations are a great way to
With online development, the activities need to be housed in a
design that represents the CLF of the lessons. In order to do this
a template will need to be created. This template would include
supporting links, content and a tie into the authoring tool.
For each lesson, the ID should outline the type of activities and
the results the activities are meant to accomplish. These
activities are then needed to be developed and incorporated into
the authoring tool. In order to have a successful online course, it
is critical that the activities incorporate the testing elements
and are recorded properly.
As with activity templates, the lessons need to have a template
created as well. This template would need to incorporate a Table of
Contents, links to supporting documents and glossary, navigation
through the lessons, activities and tests, as well as a CLF.
After the development of the graphics, animations and other
elements particular to the course design, they need to be compiled
together into one file so that they would run seamlessly together
as well as tie into the authoring tool. This should also include
such things as activities.
It is important to ensure that the learner is being assessed on
progress, understanding and retention. To do this, assessments need
to be developed and incorporated throughout the lessons and at the
end of the course. There are a variety of pre- and post-assessments
that can also be incorporated in the development of your course, so
ensure that you determine what these assessments are designed to
After all the sections, activities, tests, templates, graphics,
animations and other learning elements are compiled together, then
need to be exported using a SCORM compliant tool in order to be
successfully recorded within a learning management system.
Throughout the entire process, testing needs to be performed to
ensure that the elements work seamlessly together. Once complied
and ready for LMS use, the testing will need to be performed on
each lesson, on links, from results of activities, retesting on
loading, reloading, capacity usage and other elements as defined by
Once the product has been completed, the files are compiled,
zipped, and provided to the customer in the required format to be
used with any LMS.
Developing online courses are a great way to reduce costs, increase
flexibility, and boost market range, but there is a lot of work
involved in the development of a course that is to be considered
successful. An online learning program needs to capture the
learners' attention, hold it for the duration of the course, ensure
that the learner understands the lessons, and is able to retain the
information and put good use of it.
Online learning differs from instructor led in-class lessons
because the learner is dependent solely on the course materials,
the animations, illustrations, graphics, voice instructions,
specifications, models and processes, quizzes, tests, and other
elements that tries to emulate what is taught in the classroom. If
these elements are not developed and delivered properly, the
overall course might not accomplish the objectives of what is to be
considered a success. The IDMM differs from other instructional
design models because it incorporates multiple levels of
development that are required to meet today's technological
advancements and user expectations.
Scott Hunter, PMP, CMA, is president of the
Project Management Center.
Brad Loiselle, PMP, is president of iPal
Interactive Learning Inc.; firstname.lastname@example.org.