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Instructional Systems Design - ISD
Distance Education, Human Interaction, and ISD
Topic: 93- Distance Educ. & ISD


It goes without saying that distance education is gaining tremendous grounds and is very likely to become The Future of Education. Hence, it needs to be taken very seriously; researchers should team up to find the best ways to develop excellent distance education course materials. The ISD process is in itself an excellent system for the regular classroom. So, one would think that it would be a great idea to adapt it to distance education, just as Young & Young (2002) did. Indeed, their ISD-Web Conversion Process is very comprehensive and can easily be followed for the development of distance education course materials.


The approach to distance education/training that I would follow, based on Young & Young’s article (outlined below), is a combination of online self-study materials that would be very well presented and organized (with media rich simulations), virtual classrooms that “enable live audio AND video-based interactions”, and computer-mediated learning communities “in which learners meet asynchronously in online groups to debate, test, and exchange ideas, as well as receive expert advice.” Besides, since learners in general are so fascinated by Facebook and Twitter, we can make use of one of those two services to promote human interaction. In addition to all the aforementioned, I strongly recommend that the instructor require two class meetings per semester: one towards the beginning and another towards the end. This way, the “human” presence will not be sacrificed.


In order to go into more details, here is how, based on Young & Young’s article, I see the ID process being used for the development of distance education course materials: after re-analyzing the audience, the learning context, the existing materials, and the delivery system, we need to re-design that delivery system, the interface (the overall structure of the Web environment which fosters learners’ information processing—making it user-friendly), the instructional strategies (by cultivating a new view of learning, one that emphasizes how and why, as opposed to what—incorporating a lot of practice and feedback), and assessment (online scoring and security). Afterwards, we need to re-develop materials and make them very interesting and captivating, implement technical deployment and integration and, finally, formatively evaluate to ensure an error-free environment (there should be no errors or shortcomings in how the material is displayed or accessed) and incorporate online evaluations.


As for the instructor/teacher’s role in the design of distance education materials, I firmly believe that it should not be ignored or belittled. Just as no system can replace a mother, no matter how good or less good (not to say bad) she is to her children, no system should replace a teacher or instructor. The human interaction between an instructor and his/her students is invaluable, whether the instructor is good or less good. It is true that some learners have negative experiences with their instructors; it is also true that some children have negative experiences with their mother. Do we remove their mother from their lives?   I am a believer in the instructor’s positive impact on the learners who learn so much more from him/her than just the content of the subject matter. Why should we accept to lose that? So, in order for distance education (based on an adapted version of ISD) to be successful, it needs to give an appropriate role to the teacher/instructor so that the instructor and the students will still have this bond that is developed in regular classrooms.


Nada S.A.


On using the ISD Process for the Development of Distance Education Course Materials:


Based on the article by Andrea & James Young [2002] titled "Converting existing training products for the Web: a new look at the old ISD process" :



There are 4 types of e-learning:

  1. Online self-study materials
  2. Virtual classrooms
  3. Computer-mediated learning communities
  4. Knowledge bases and decision-support tool


  • is time-independent
  • has a more reference-oriented (less didactic) approach to training
  • has a different concept of how, where, and when learning takes place
  • has a different delivery medium: the Web

ISD-Web Conversion Process:

  1.  Re-Analyze:
    • audience
      • Entry-level knowledge and skills (prerequisites)

      • Computer and Internet literacy (Internet access? Same bandwidth?) 

      • Cultural diversity

      • Spoken language(s)

      • New learning application on the job (is it the same for new and original audience members?)

    • learning context
      • Place: where learners will access the training (the office, home, a computer lab)

      • Time: when learners will access the training (during the workday, at night, and/or on weekends)

      • Frequency: will learners use the training for short periods to solve work-related problems, and/or engage with the training for prolonged periods of intense study time?

      • Materials: hardware and software needed to complete the training (do any plug-ins or software applications need to be installed before users can receive the training?)

      • Internet speed: at what speed will users connect to access the training materials?

    • existing materials: not all existing materials can or should be converted for the web. Many interpersonal and problem solving skills associated with management development are difficult to achieve without some face-to-face interaction.

      Decisions about whether or not to convert, and what blend of e-learning solutions to select are influenced by several factors:

      • Types of learning outcomes

      • Budget and time constraints

      • Capabilities of the delivery system (which is supposed to support the delivery method).

    • delivery system: we need to know exactly what the system is or is not capable of before we begin to re-design training for the Web.
  2. Re-Design:
    • delivery system:
      • If you have decided to purchase a commercial delivery system, the features of the system you select will drive many of the delivery system design issues > your task is to choose which features you wish to enable.
      • If you have decided to develop a delivery system from scratch or perhaps customize an existing one > you are faced with a rather large design task. > what attributes and functionality can you afford given your timeline and budget?
    • interface:
      It refers to the overall structure of the Web environment, including patterns of navigation and organization of related groups of information and the graphical presentation and formatting conventions used on individual Web pages. The interface design fosters learners’ information processing.
    • instructional strategies:

      The instructional strategies that worked in the original training will not transfer to the new e-learning environment because modes of interaction, degree of learner control, access to information and learning resources, methods of organizing content, conceptions of time, and technology differ so profoundly in the new environment.
      When making decisions about how to redesign instructional strategies for e-learning, it is helpful to cultivate a new view of learning; one that emphasizes how and why, as opposed to what.

    • assessment:

      When designing assessments to be used in an e-learning environment, there are three primary issues we must address:

      • How to measure learning outcomes online

      • How to score the results of online assessments and provide learner feedback

      • How to maintain a secure online assessment environment

  3. Re-Develop Materials:
    • acquire and re-purpose existing materials:

      Issues to address in the revised copyright agreement include the following:

      • The size of the new audience

      • The use of a password-protected site to limit access to the materials

      • The layout and resolution of the materials in digital format

    • assemble courseware: Reduce file size and use templates
    • enable learning management
  4. Implement:
    • technical deployment: it involves installing the delivery system platform and courseware on servers, configuring the delivery system platform (for example, adding users and courses to the system), addressing firewall and network access issues, and, in some cases, configuring end-user computers to prepare for e-learning.
    • integration: it refers to the human or soft side of implementation.
  5. Formatively Evaluate:
    • quality assurance: an extensive review of the functionality of the course and delivery system is necessary to ensure an error-free environment (there should be no errors or shortcomings in how the material is displayed or accessed). In the software development world, this is referred to as quality assurance (QA).
    • test usability: additional data concerning the usability of the course delivery system should be collected (usability testing).
    • take evaluation online: by using an online form to gather input from learners, you can expect to increase access to geographically dispersed participants.

This retooled ISD process differs from the traditional ISD process in three respects.

  1. First, it envisions the learning as a dynamic and highly personalized event; one that can take place anytime, anywhere, and in any way.
  2. Second, it assumes the use of existing materials and thus has been tailored to meet the challenges of a conversion effort.
  3. Third, it presupposes the Web as the primary delivery media and attempts to take advantage of its unique capabilities to enable superior learning, and ultimately, superior performance on the job.

Relevant Article:


"The Future of Distance Learning: Defining and Sustaining Useful Results" by Kaufman, Watkins, & Guerra (2001)

Posted by Nada at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: 05/05/09 12:03 AM EDT

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