Posted by Lora Boiago on Mar 22, 2013 5:19:00 PM

Course Development Tips –How to Build a Good Design Plan

"Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works." - Steve Jobs

It seems like a logical progression - design your corporate training program, then develop it.  But often, a good upfront corporate design plan – if it exists at all - is pushed aside as we rush to develop the course first.  This results in the content being written and forced to fit into the course development schedule as opposed to the course development emerging from a good design plan.

To some, this may happen all too often.  It is not unusual for us to be encouraged by clients to 'jump right in' to the content.  The client justifies the position for many reasons that might include: deadlines are looming, timelines won't allow for analysis and design, 'we know what we want' or it is not in the budget.

Unfortunately, not taking the time to produce a good solid plan can often lead to costly delays and unfulfilled expectations - exactly what the client thought they were going to avoid.

Having a good design plan in place before starting the course development ensures that there will be less detours, backtracks or sidetracks from the training project objectives.  A sound design plan will serve as an effective roadmap as it will ensure that everyone is clear on the project right from the start.

Everyone - clients, instructional designers, training developers, project managers and anyone else who might have a stake in the project, benefits when starting with a good course design plan:

  • Purpose and final deliverables are clear to everyone from the start 

  • Getting it right in the course design plan means less 'do-over's during course development 

  • Approvals and feedback at this stage avoids disappointment and perhaps failure at the end 


A+ Tips for Building a Good Course Development Design Plan

How do we achieve a good course design plan?

  • Perform a learning analysis 

  • Understand the business purpose and what the stakeholder would like to achieve 

  • Identify the audience, what their needs are and how they learn 

  • Appreciate that a good course design does not equal more cost and may in fact save costs in time and effort later 

  • Accept that taking the time to create a good course design at the beginning of a corporate training program will save time at the end of the project 

  • 'Flashy' or complicated design doesn't always equal good design - sometimes good design is as basic as being consistent with structure, format, and branding



A great course development design plan is built upon a solid foundation.  Don't skip the analysis stage - you might miss some crucial information.  For example, it is essential when designing to be thoroughly familiar with your learning audience.  Say, as an instructional designer, you began a course development on an on-line learning module without proper analysis.

You later discover that fewer than 10% of the learners had completed the course.  As it turns out, the program was for an international audience with only 20% of the learners having English as a first language and fewer than 10% with the ability to read English.  Instead of using the simple 'Next' or 'Back' navigation options, the design could have included internationally recognized icons that transcend the need for words.

Armed with the knowledge gained through a proper analysis stage, instructional designers can incorporate pertinent information into the course design plan.


Ask Questions and Listen to the Answers

A great course development design plan starts with listening to the subject matter experts, knowing the learners, asking questions and presenting new ideas.  A collaborative effort can achieve more than just great ideas.  Asking questions early and often can build rapport with all members of the project team and the learners.  Everyone wants to be heard - even if their ideas may not be part of the final outcome, having been a part of the process goes a long way to overcoming any adoption issues later.


Align Course Design with Achievements

When a great course design aligns with what the corporate training program needs to achieve, it helps to ensure that outcomes and expectations are met.  No matter what you are designing, whether a bridge over a river or a corporate training program to bridge a learning gap - the one thing it must achieve is the end result you desire.

This brings us full circle: How can you achieve what you desire without having a good design plan in place?


Topics: Instructional design, corporate training, corporate training program, instructional designers, instructional designer, corporate training consultants, corporate training programs, course development, course design, how to hire instructional designer

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