EME6613: Course Orientation

Intro | Steps | Benefits | Limitations | Comparisons | Summary


Figure 0.1 Systematic Design Process

Instructional Systems Design (ISD) is a systemic and systematic process for creating instructional solutions to performance problems based on a combination of practical experience, theory, research and data gathered from field settings. ISD is systemic in that it views organizations and human performance as a system; a set of interrelated components that must work together to achieve a common goal. ISD is systematic in that it follows an orderly process that consists of 5 basic iterative phases, including: analysis, design, development, implementation and evaluation (Figure 0.1). Some suggest that ISD is updated and recommend rapid prototyping or more “agile” design and development processes, such as SAM and SAM2. Experts in the field realize that agile processes also include analysis, design, development, implementation and evaluation phases (so we are not actually leaving ADDIE for SAM as some suggest) but rather reconceptualizing how we complete the 5 basic problem solving phases.

Instructional solutions may include, but are not limited to instructor-led courses, workshops, and seminars, self-instructional print materials, instructional videos, computer-based training/instruction, web-based training/instruction, and instructional television (ITV). The systematic tasks addressed in this course (e.g., conducting instructional analyses, defining objectives, determining assessment methods, generating an instructional strategy) are believed to be relatively generic to the design of most forms of instruction. Differences are thought to be more prominent in the development, rather than the design phase of the overall process.

For example, during the development of instructor-led materials, an Instructional Technologist may create drafts of instructor guides and student materials. In comparison, the development of computer or web-based instruction may require Instructional Technologists to create storyboards, flowcharts and electronic prototypes. Instructional Technologists developing instructional videotapes may produce camera shot sheets and scripts for actors.

It is recognized that there are many reasons why people do not perform (e.g., inappropriate incentives, inadequate tools, lack of motivation, wrong personnel, dysfunctional work environment). Systematic design begins with the assumption that a needs assessment (aka. training needs analysis, performance analysis, front-end-analysis) has been conducted and has determined that instruction is appropriate for addressing a performance problem that is due to a lack of skills and knowledge. Be sure to note: Needs assessment is a key concept associated with Instructional Technology but is only noted here because its relationship to systematic design is discussed in Chapter 2 of the Dick, Carey, & Carey (2009) course textbook and addressed in detail in EME6607 Planned Change. This overview of Instructional Design is divided into three sections:


Major Steps in Process

The systematic design process consists of five iterative phases including (a) analysis, (b) design, (c) development, (d) implementation, and (e) evaluation. Table 0.1 lists tasks associated with each phase along with a sample of related products. One of the key characteristics of systematic design is that the products of one task are used as input for successive task. For instance, the analysis charts, maps and reports are used to generate, cluster and sequence performance objectives. In turn, the performance objectives are used to determine learner assessment methods and generate instructional strategies, and so on.

Table 0.1 Systematic Design Tasks and Resulting Products

Analysis Phase Instructional Analysis Report
Conduct goal analysis Goal statement & analysis chart
Conduct instructional analyses Instructional analysis maps
Conduct learner and context analyses Learner & context analysis reports
Design Phase Instructional Treatment Plan
Define, cluster & sequence objectives Course scope and sequence
Determine assessment method Assessment plan and instruments
Develop instructional strategy Lesson plans
Select media Extended Lesson plans
Development Phase Instructional Materials
Acquire, outsource & produce materials Draft materials
Formatively evaluate materials Evaluation Report w/ Recommendations
Revise materials Revised instructional materials
Implementation Phase Demonstrated Learning
Address logistical issues Access to materials and facilities
Deliver and manage instruction Communications and work samples
Evaluation Phase Revised Materials & Programs
Plan summative evaluations Evaluation Plan
Conduct summative evaluations Evaluation Report


Benefits of Systematic Design

There are a number of benefits associated with applying systematic design tools, techniques and procedures. Systematic design is:

  • Based on a combination of practical experience, theory and research. Unlike many forms of training/instruction that are based primarily on past practices, fads or opinions(aka. pseudo-instruction), key decisions regarding the design of instruction are based on research and experience related to human learning, instruction, and general systems theory. An empirical foundation helps Instructional Designers avoid haphazard investments in unsubstantiated fads or opinions.
  • Empirical and replicable. To increase cost-effectiveness, instruction is designed to be used more than once with as many learners as possible. It is argued that the associated costs are worthwhile because the instruction developed from applying the systematic design process is reusable.
  • Generalizable across delivery systems. The resulting design documents (e.g., analysis reports, performance objectives, instructional strategies, assessment instruments, formative and summative evaluation plans) may be used to develop instruction for a variety of delivery systems, such as, but not limited to: instructional-lead workshops, teacher-directed courses, self-instructional print, computer-based training and instruction, and web-based training and instruction.
  • Begins with an analysis of what learners are to know and be able to do as a result of instruction. With such statements, subsequent planning and decision making may be made accurately and effectively.
  • Provides clear links between design tasks and instructional components. This results in the alignment of instructional events and activities that is essential to effective instruction. By following the systematic design process, educators may ensure that student assessments are aligned with learning objectives and instructional strategies.


Limitations of Systematic Design

Along with the benefits, there are several limitations associated with applying systematic design tools, techniques and procedures. The model posited by Dick, Carey and Carey (2005):

  • does not address the dynamic nature of learner needs and interests. According to Dick, Carey and Carey, instructional designers work with subject matter experts to define learning goals and objectives, instructional strategies and assessment instruments prior to instructional delivery. Except for revisions made during instructional development (viz. formative evaluation), instruction remains relatively static after it has been designed;
  • presents only one basic instructional strategy. A cursory review of instructional development literature reveals a number of research-based instructional strategies that may be applied to enhance learning.
  • focuses discussion of learner assessment on conventional criterion-referenced tests. Relatively little attention placed on performance and portfolio assessments.
  • describes procedures for formatively evaluating instruction, but does not address user interfaces issues that are critical to technology-based instruction. Instructional designers and developers are now applying tools and techniques related to usability engineering to test computer interface design.

Note: Much of the online information provided in each unit of this course has been written to address the limitations noted above.


Comparisons to Related Fields

To help you gain further insights into the nature of systematic design, I will compare the process to related fields of studies, including learning theory, curriculum & instruction, instructional/educational technology and performance technology.

Comparison to Learning Theories

Cognitive and educational psychologists study how and why people learn. Cognitive psychologists tend to focus on the mental process associated with learning, where as educational psychologists are more inclined to examine learning events or experiences. Both generate theories of learning that seek to explain the results of given events. Learning theories range from behaviorist to cognitive information processing to cognitive constructivist perspectives. These learning theories, in turn, serve as the foundation for instructional design models and theories.

Learning theories differ from instructional design theories in that they are descriptive in nature. They seek to describe how learning occurs. In contrast, instructional theories and models are prescriptive in nature. They seek to identify useful methods for stimulating learning in particular situations based on particular learning theories. For this course, we will study the Dick, Carey and Carey (2015) model for instructional design that is based primarily on Gagnes (1985) instructional theory. The model specifies tools and techniques for analyzing, designing, developing and formatively evaluating instruction based Gagnes five domains of learning. Gagnes domains, in turn, is an instructional theory that is based on cognitive information processing theories of learning.

Comparison to Curriculum & Instruction

In many ways, the tools and techniques used in the systematic design process mirror the methods utilized by educators trained in Curriculum and Instruction (C&I). Pre-service teachers and practicing educators in undergraduate and graduate C&I programs learn to design, develop, implement and evaluate instruction. They learn about objectives, instructional strategies and learner assessments. They read theorists and researchers such as Gagne, Piaget, Bruner and Vygotsky. However, systematic design does differ from C&I in a number of significant ways. For example, systematic design:

  • provides clear links between design tasks and instructional components.Those specializing in C&I learn about and develop such things as performance objectives, criterion-referenced tests, and lesson plans. However, unlike C&I, Instructional Technology applies a systematic process where the outputs of one task are used as inputs to subsequent tasks. For example, the results of goal and instructional analyses are used to generate, cluster and sequence performance objectives. The objectives, in turn, are used to develop assessment instruments and instructional strategies. In this manner, educators may ensure that student assessments are aligned with learning objectives and instructional strategies, and that there is a clear relationship between performance goals and instructional objectives. Such alignment of instructional events and activities are believed to be essential to effective instruction and epitomizes systematic design.
  • does not assume validity of learning goals and objectives. In education, teachers often begin the instructional design process with a set of learning goals and objectives that are either prescribed by the state, district or school, or handed to them by colleagues or textbook manufacturers. Systematic design applied in business and industry, and in other work settings, utilize a variety of analysis techniques(e.g., job, task, content, critical incident, instructional) to define appropriate learning goals and objectives.
  • emphasizes the application of formative evaluation. Educators frequently produce, distribute and implement the initial draft of their instruction. In such instances, many problems often occur and either the instructor is blamed for poor teaching or learners are blamed for insufficient studying when, in fact, the instructional materials were not well developed. Cronback and Scriven (as cited by Dick & Carey, 1996) proposed that instructional developers conduct what is now known as formative evaluations – the collection of data during the development of instruction to improve its effectiveness.
  • has different foundations. While systematic design and C&I share common antecedents in instructional, learning and communication theory and research, systematic design also utilizes information and research derived from general systems theory and tends to pay more attention to emerging technologies.
  • had different target audiences. In the past, pre-service and in-service teachers have typically enrolled in C&I programs for certification and professional development. However, with an increasing need to remain abreast of emerging technologies, an increasing number are looking to instructional technology programs and systematic tools and techniques for assistance.

Comparison to Instructional/Educational Technology

General Systems Theory
Figure 0.2 Instructional Technology Foundations

Systematic design, also known as instructional systems design (ISD), is one core process associated with the field of Instructional Technology. As an eclectic field, instructional technology takes what we know about teaching, learning, systems, communications, media and other related areas to create training and instructional solutions to performance problems in various settings (e.g., K-12, higher education, military, business and industry). Figure 0.2 illustrates the relationship between Instructional Technology and its foundations.

Systematic design is one basic process used to develop such solutions. There are a number of different systematic design models (c.f., Andrews & Goodson, 1980; Reigeluth, 1983; Branch & Gustafson, 1997). While they differ in foundations, tools and techniques, they all follow some type of orderly process. For this course, you will learn an enhanced version of Dick, Carey and Carey’s (2005) model for instructional design.

Comparison to Performance Technology

The systematic design of instruction forms a part of the larger field known as Performance Technology. They are similar in that they both:

  • adhere to a systems approach;
  • rely on data analysis for planning and decision making;
  • share antecedents in communication, psychology, etc.;
  • are results oriented; and
  • anticipate obstacles to the introduction of innovations.

They differ in that systematic design begins with the assumption that instruction is the best method for enhancing human performance. Performance Technology (PT) makes no such assumptions and prescribes a needs assessment in order to determine the best method(s) for promoting performance for which instruction is only one of numerous possibilities (e.g., personnel selection, culture change, organizational design, incentive systems). Table 0.2 illustrates the differences between PT and systematic design in further detail.

Table 0.2. Significant Differences between PT and Systematic Design

Systematic Design
Performance Technology
Skills and Knowledge Business Results
Individuals Organization
Analysis and Instruction Analysis and Array of Interventions
Instructional Materials and Services Solution System
Classroom Organization
Specialist Generalist



Systematic design is defined as an orderly and iterative process for generating instructional solutions to performance problems based on a combination of practical experience, research and theory. The orientation characterized the systematic design process by identifying key tasks and interim products, benefits and limitations and its relationship to related fields of study. Furthermore, it is noted that systematic design begins with the assumption that some type of needs assessment has been completed that determined that instruction is an appropriate solution for addressing the specified performance problem. The information provided in this unit provides an overview of the systematic design process so that you can assess your prior knowledge of key concepts and topics covered this course.


Last Updated 08/08/22


Instructional System Design Copyright © by Atsusi Hirumi. All Rights Reserved.

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