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Five Reasons Why Instructional Design is NOT Obsolete

Updated on April 26, 2020
Carolyn M Fields profile image

Carolyn is a customer-centric instructional designer who is proficient at generating new content and improving upon existing materials.


Do We Need Instructional Design?

I recently ran across a discussion on LinkedIn which asked the thought-provoking question: Do we need Instructional Design? The author claims that it only takes a few hours to “throw together” a Flash-based application that is capable of training employees in a fraction of the time it would take to build a traditional training program. I think this assertion is dangerously misleading, for the following reasons:

1. An online User Guide is not a training class.

Too much of what passes for “training” today – particularly online training – is nothing more than a glorified user guide (i.e., reading step-by-step instructions in a “page turner” fashion). This is information, not training. To really learn something, trainees must be able to compare, contrast, analyze, synthesize, and integrate new information with their existing knowledge. Merely reading through a presentation does none of that. Instructional Designers analyze the training need, and create a learning intervention that meets that need in an efficient, effective manner.

2. Hours will be wasted.

One of the primary tasks of a good Instructional Designer is to separate out the “need to know” from the “nice to know.” Putting everything but the kitchen sink into an online presentation is a huge waste of resources, from the individual learner’s perspective, as well as the organization’s perspective.

3. The learner is disrespected.

Putting together “training” that considers only content, and neglects human motivation and variability is like cooking food without considering who is going to eat it. Instructional Designers consider learning style, and pre-requisite knowledge (among other things) when creating training.

4. Training is not the same as education.

When you go to college, you read broadly to expand your horizons and enrich your life. When you are employed, you are expected to fine tune your learning and development, and zero in on what benefits your job and company. I once had a Supervisor tell me, point blank, that my Master’s Degree (which my company was paying for with educational assistance) was good for me “personally,” but didn’t directly benefit the organization. Instructional Design tackles the learning gap, and organizes instruction in ways that directly benefit your job.

5. There is no measurement or accountability.

The fifth and final letter of the famous Instructional Design acronym ADDIE is “E” for Evaluation (see for the entire model). Instructional Designers evaluate everything (or at least they should). They evaluate the course design, they evaluate the instructional outcomes, they evaluate training delivery. If you just put together a quick eLearning intervention “on the fly,” you get none of this. None. In particular, no outcomes are ever evaluated, so you will never know if the training need has been met.


In short, Instructional Design is very relevant in today’s fast-paced, technology-laden business world. Perhaps now more than ever.

If you want to learn more, you can read my book, Instructional Design is NOT Obsolete, which is available on Amazon.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Carolyn Fields


Submit a Comment
  • markbush5150 profile image

    Mark Bush 

    6 years ago from Tampa, Florida 33609

    "An online User Guide is not a training class." Oh gosh, how true. I have spent my career as a Technical Writer mainly in software development and one thing that rubbed me wrong was when an ID (no offense) would come to me for our User Guides and such. I agree with you - "this is information, not training." This is why I am currently pursuing my MS in ID&T.

  • wrenchBiscuit profile image

    Ronnie wrenchBiscuit 

    7 years ago


    Obviously the entire article is important, but here are some of the phrases, or keywords that "hooked" me: ...a glorified user guide... The learner is disrespected... “training” that considers only content, and neglects human motivation and variability is like cooking food without considering who is going to eat it (wish I would have said that!)....Training is not the same as education.

    What is remarkable about this subject and how it is written, is that in offering how Instructional Design is important in the world of business, anyone should be able to deduce that your argument is applicable to moral technology, and social interaction as well.

    When looking at the public school system , we can see that Instructional Design, as applied to social skill, and interaction , could literally change the world in a few generations. For instance, when it comes to sex education , children have been primarily getting, as you have described, "a users guide". They are not being taught in depth, how to deal with the emotional aspects of sexual relationships. As far as I know, they receive no training at all when it comes to basic human interaction.

    The same can be said for the religious community. I attended a Christian church regularly as a child, and although I enjoyed it, and learned very much, it was still primarily a "user guide" that was reinforced every Sunday. Yes, the various churches I attended did good works for the poor, collecting food , and visiting the sick etc.. But for the average church goer, these were treated more as "electives". It would have been good for me as a child to wrestle with the reality of the sick, the homeless, and the downtrodden on a more regular basis, with a more specific instruction; just as it was mandatory for me to struggle with mathematics, and English, and science.

    Technology as related to business has exploded in the last 150 years. But moral technology has progressed very little. I believe that what you have argued in support of here, transcends the world of business. The concept of Instructional Design, far from being obsolete, may very well be our last, best hope.


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