Instructional designers often keep to proven, academic-based design principles. But the project management side of design is just as impactful when it comes to the creation of effective learning programs. Many of the pain points and bottlenecks that occur during training design can be traced back to ineffective project management during the front end development phase.
Unless a training course is carefully thought out, planned, and analyzed from the start, L&D teams can continue to expect budget issues, missed deadlines, confusion over project tasks and roles, and learning outcomes that are never quite reached.
Creating a blueprint can ensure that the course material, design, and delivery is on point and on time. Plus, if you’re following Agile Learning principles, a course blueprint can help to maintain the high level overview of course progress your team needs.
What is a learning blueprint design?
Learning Solutions magazine calls this blueprint a “front-end analysis.” When conducted as a first step in the learning design process, a blueprint will save your team time and money. Here are some other initial steps you should take in the learning design process.
According to Learning Solutions, the blueprint defines project requirements, describes the ideal performance or instruction to meet the project requirements, and identifies acceptable alternatives.
To someone outside of the learning function, this would seem to be a natural part of project management. Defining requirements and parameters is acceptable or even anticipated in the course of general project management.
A blueprint enables you to design with the big picture in mind. In this way, you can ensure you reach every milestone and build consistency throughout the curriculum — even when faced with uncertainty in the project.
One of the most important products of this blueprint is a course syllabus, which conveys all of the critical information about the course and serves as a guide during the more granular aspects of instructional design.
The elements of a blueprint design
The key elements of an effective blueprint include:
- Course information
- Course learning objectives and outcomes
- Lesson topics and format
- Learning resources
- Activities and assessment
Let’s have a closer look at these 5 elements of a blueprint.
Course information helps you stay organized during the learning design process. Your syllabus should include the following:
- Course title and course code
- Working course description
- If it is part of a certification program
- Required prerequisites and level
While this may not seem important at the outset, adding this course information at the beginning helps your team understand where and how your course fits in with other published courses. It provides guidance on the level of depth expected in the material.
Such information can remain with the course through the course lifecycle and may also help employees find the course when performing a search.
Course learning objectives and outcomes
You should map individual activities to both objectives and outcomes, as this activity provides a foundation for the course curriculum. This ensures that learners reach their instructional goals and that the designer is building a learning experience consistent with the goals of the program.
This part comes directly from ADDIE, a tried and true instructional design model. ADDIE’s first two phases, Analysis and Design, are perhaps the most pivotal. In the Analysis phase, the instructional problem is clarified, the instructional goals and objectives are established, and the learning environment and learner’s existing knowledge and skills are identified.
However, this step of defining course learning objectives and outcomes applies to any model of instructional design or project management you might use, such as new Agile Learning instructional design frameworks.
Lesson topics and format
This part of the blueprint covers the majority of design activities that take place throughout the course of a training project. It deals with selecting content, exercises, lesson planning, assessment instruments, and technology or media.
This phase should be as systematic and specific as possible, even though each new learning project possesses its own set of variables. It’s also the phase of the project where an iterative Agile approach to learning design can have the most impact.
By iterating on the best content and design for your course and using the other blueprint elements to keep the bigger picture in mind, your team is far more likely to produce a learning experience of quality that your learners will love.
Other elements of the course design that should be represented on the blueprint includes the extensive resources you want to make available to aid the learner, in addition to the course’s lessons. These might include online resources or multimedia assets.
It is imperative to vet these resources to ensure that their content is aligned with the learning objectives of your course, or it may cause confusion. Also, consider including additional resources sparingly, so as not to overwhelm the learner.
Activities and assessments
Activities and assessments are the final steps needed to complete your blueprint. Designing assessments to gauge student mastery of concepts can be tricky. Start by tying assessment approaches to the learning objectives. If an objective needs to be met, then the test should be strategically designed to meet that objective. For more detail on the perfect learning assessment strategy, check out this on-demand webinar recording.
Indeed, creating a blueprint for learning design can help remove much of the pain of course development later on. Sticking to the blueprint with a disciplined approach — while also accounting for variables — will ensure learning project success.
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