This course is designed to introduce you to proven instructional design principles and techniques. The course will also provide you with an environment in which you can practice and apply those tools. It is our goal that this experience will lead you to a more purposeful plan for creating instructional projects. We will be studying a systematic approach to the design, development, and evaluation of instruction. We realize that instructional designers tend to shy away from anything “systematic,” but it is our hope that the systematic model (developed by Walter Dick  and Lou Carey) we will be following contains practices that can and will be used in various stages of your instructional design practice and will also help you to build an arsenal of skills to draw from in the many different designing scenarios you will encounter in the future.

Course Objectives

Course goal: To introduce you to a systematic design of instruction that focuses on the learner, the context and content and serves as a guide for you to create a ground-up instructional plan of your choosing that you will be able to follow either in whole or in part in all of your future instructional designs.

At the end of this course students should be able to:

  • Make connections between design and the field of Instructional Design.
  • Describe the system of an instructional design and how each part effects the whole.
  • Write an instructional goal that meets the criteria for initiating the development of instructional materials.
  • Classify instructional goals based on Gagne’s domains of learning.
  • Apply analysis techniques to identify goal steps and subordinate skills required to reach a desired instructional goal, and identify appropriate entry behaviors.
  • Describe the importance of understanding the learner’s characteristics in instructional design.
  • Analyze and describe the contextual characteristics of the eventual performance and instructional settings.
  • Describe the importance of being able to create clearly expressed objectives for the skills, knowledge, and attitudes indicated in an instructional analysis.
  • Develop an instructional strategy that supports the learning of a set of objectives for a specific target population, and includes all necessary instructional design components.
  • Identify and/or develop appropriate and well-written assessments that match given instructional objectives and reflect meaningful, purposeful contexts.
  • Given an instructional strategy, describe the procedures for developing instructional materials.
  • Describe methods that might be used to formatively evaluate a set of instructional materials.

Required Materials

There is one book required for this course:
Dick, W., Carey, L, & Carey, J. O. (2008). The systematic design of instruction (7th ed.)

There is one book that is strongly recommended for this course:
Mager, R.F. (1997). Preparing Instructional Objectives: A Critical Tool in the Development of Effective Instruction (3rd ed.). The Center for Effective Performance Publishers. ISBN 1879618036

Introduction to Instructional Design

This is a course about design, and more specifically, about Instructional Design.

Before we begin this course let's review a few important concepts that we will eventually relate to design. As discussed in the IDT Foundations course, we defined Instructional Technology (IT) as the theory and practice of the design, development, utilization, management, and evaluation of processes and resources for learning (Seals and Richey, 1994). IT is committed to the goal of improving the quality (effectiveness) of human learning environments. Remember that this goal focuses on learning and not teaching. Learning was defined as the acquisition of new knowledge, skills, or attitudes resulting from an individual's external interaction with his or her environment and/or "internal" interaction between new and previously existing information. Learning can be inferred by observing a persistent and permanent change in a person's behavior. And Instruction was defined as the arrangement of the environment to facilitate this learning.

Historically, the field of IT has focused on three areas. Each of these three areas is relevant to the field of Instructional Design (ID) and will be addressed in this course:
The study of how different types of media (physical elements within the environment which communicate messages) can be used for instructional purposes.
The development and evaluation of systematic approaches to the design, development and implementation of instructional material.
Development of strategies and methods for individualized, personalized learning.

One of your jobs as an instructional designer is to determine how to arrange the learner's environment to maximize the probability that they will acquire the skills that you want them to. In other words, you want to present instruction in a way that will facilitate learning. Within this process instructional designers have two primary roles:
Decide what is important for students to learn.
Effectively arrange the learning environment (media) to maximize the probability of individual student learning (permanent changes in behavior).

Assumptions Underlying Instructional Design

We'll be addressing design in the ID process in greater detail later on. You will read about several approaches to Instructional Design, and learn about one particular approach in detail. Until then, here are some assumptions underlying instructional design that may be helpful for you review as you begin this course (Smith & Ragan, 1999). They will become clearer to you as you progress.

  • In order to design instruction, the designer must have a clear idea of what the learner should learn as a result of the instruction.
  • The "best" instruction is that which is effective (facilitates learners' acquisition of the prescribed knowledge and skills), efficient (requires the least possible amount of time necessary for the learners to achieve the objectives), and appealing (motivates and interests learners, encouraging them to persevere in the learning task).
  • Students may learn from many different media: A "live teacher" is not always essential for instruction.
  • There are principles of instruction that apply across all age groups and all content areas. An example is: Students must participate actively, interacting mentally as well as physically with material to be learned.
  • Evaluation should include the evaluation of the instruction as well as the evaluation of the learner's performance. Information from the evaluation of the instruction should be used to revise the instruction in order to make it more efficient, effective and appealing.
  • Learners should be evaluated in terms of how nearly they achieve the instructional objectives.
  • There should be congruence among objectives, learning activities, and assessment. The objective should be the driving force behind decisions about activities and assessment.

Here are a few more assumptions to consider

  • There are alternative ways of presenting materials to different learners, some of which are better than others.
  • A trainer or instructor can manipulate the conditions of the learning environment to maximize learning.
  • There is no single correct way to instruct.
  • Learner's individual differences in abilities, background, and learning styles should be taken into account in the design of instruction.
  • Instruction is a process that can be planned and improved.
  • Both instruction and learning can and should be evaluated.
  • Learning objectives are viable and essential to a carefully constructed system design.


  • Each lesson will direct you to some reading. Most of it will be from the Dick, W., Carey, L, & Carey text The systematic design of instruction (7th ed.) since it contains the details about the model we will be following. Read through the chapter before working on your assignment for each lesson.
  • Assignments are listed in each lesson. They will help you complete the steps necessary to produce each part of your Instructional Design Project. The assignments provide you with an opportunity to practice each step in the Dick, Carey, and Carey model for ID.
  • Many of the assignments ask you to write a summary. This summary will be the only statement in your final design document that reflects the work you completed for the step. For example, in Lesson 7 you will analyze the performance context. The summary of this analysis will be the only statement that describes the characteristics of the performance context in your final design document. Therefore, it is critical that these summary statements be a complete representation of the information presented as you responded to each item in the analysis. One or two sentences is insufficient.

Course Assignments

Design for Learning Projects & Lessons Points for Activity
Lesson 1 - Design 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 20
Lesson 2 - Activity 2 (2.1, 2.2, 2.3 Systems and Systems Thinking) 30
Lesson 4 - Needs Assessment: ID Project: Part 1 20
Lessons 5 & 6 - Instructional Analysis Parts 1&2: ID Project - Part 2 "A" & "B" 40
Lesson 7 - Learner and Context Analysis: ID Project: Part 3 20
Lessons 8 & 9 - Writing Objectives and Assessment Instruments: ID Project: Part 4 "A" &"B" 40
Lesson 10 - Instructional Strategy: ID Project: Part 5 30
Lessons 11 & 12 - Development and Formative Evaluation: ID Project: Part 6 "A" & "B" 10
Final Report: Final ID Project 32
Total Points:

This course is divided into 14 lessons. In the initial lessons, you are encouraged to think about the topics of design and systems thinking. The remaining lessons comprise the steps of the Dick, Carey and Carey ID model and your application of each step to your project. Lessons and assignments are grouped into six parts. At the end of the course you will assemble your final design document, bringing together the critical information for each part of the ID process, to present a complete picture of the details of your instructional design project.

The ID model used in this course is rigorous and requires much detail. Spend time thinking about each step as you progress through the course. Read each chapter a couple of times before you begin working on an activity, don't immediately turn in your first draft. And please, proofread your assignments before submitting them. The feedback you receive on each part of the ID project is extremely important. It affects how you proceed with subsequent steps in the process. This means that you should not wait until the middle of the term to begin submitting your first assignments.

From the perspective of the ITMA program administration, due dates are flexible except where specifically noted. Grades are calculated based on the university grading system and final grades are submitted based on the Graduate School schedule. If you want to finish this course by the end of the term, you should submit all work according to the due dates. If you wait and submit all assignments, at one time, near the end of the semester, you will receive an "I" in the course. Students that have been keeping up with course work will be given priority over students that have waited until the last minute. Remember, it is to your advantage to work steadily through lessons, especially as these lessons will be fundamental to your success in other modules. Please remember that it takes time to grade your work and provide feedback. All assignments must be completed to receive a final grade.

Course Grading Scale

There are 242 points possible in this course. The following scale will be used in determining final grades:

Percentage Grade
93-100% A
90-92% A-
87-89% B+
83-86% B
80-82% B-
77-79% C+
73-76% C
70-72% C-
67-69% D+
63-66% D
60-62% D-

Submitting Assignments

We will be using an online student interface form to aid you in submitting your assignments. This interface will let the graders know when you have completed an activity, and will allow them to organize and grade your activities in a timely manner. When you have completed an activity, proceed to the student interface:

Online Student Interface

You should log in using your PID and ITMA Password. Once you are logged in, select the appropriate module along with the "Submit Assignment" option. On the next screen, follow the three step process displayed in the interface to complete the submission process.

When an assignment has been graded you will then be able to log back into this interface to view your score and any feedback that was given. The interface will also allow you to review the grading rubrics for each assignment.

Honor Code

As part of an intellectual and ethical community, you must practice complete honesty in the preparation and submission of all work. Cheating, dishonesty and plagiarism of any kind, including the misuse of internet sources, are not tolerated. Any instances of academic dishonesty will be reported and may result in a “Fail” for the course. For information about the Honor System, refer to https://graduateschool.vt.edu/academics/expectations/graduate-honor-system/ghs-constitution.html Please read carefully Section 3 under Article I Purpose and Description.



There will be no formal face-to-face meetings; instruction will be delivered via this website and through the readings. If you have any questions or need assistance, please contact ITMA.

Have a look around the course and then let's begin with Lesson 1.