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  • Writer's pictureHayley Sayre

A Strategic Approach: Instructional Design Documentation

Updated: Jan 23, 2022

Anyone can open up a PowerPoint, fill the slides with information, and call it "training", but creating eLearning that's truly effective requires careful planning and evidence-based design!

As instructional designers, our goal is to create courses that are engaging and effective, leading to relevant learning and high levels of retention. While there are many steps to producing a great product, two that cannot be overlooked are design document templates and documentation.

If you set out to build a house, you would not begin by picking up a hammer, but instead by picking up a pencil and sitting down to create a blueprint. My background in K-12 education involved creating a vast variety of design templates, for curriculum maps, student work portfolios, and how-to guides for teachers. Documentation of learning and course design takes a big chunk of time for teachers too, as team members and stakeholders need to understand the scope and purpose of classroom activities, assessment, and feedback.

Just like teachers, instructional designers can save time and create consistent courses by using design templates and will undoubtedly need to present stakeholders and team members with a sound design plan. Regardless of who will be taking your course, before picking up a hammer (or opening Articulate, in this case), it is important to first create a design document. A thorough design document can help to... [2]

  • Iron out critical details regarding assessment, interface, interactive elements, etc.

  • Keep everyone working on the project on the same page

  • Spark conversation and eliminate disagreements before project development starts

  • Provides a framework for the developer to adhere to throughout the project

Let's take a look at an eLearning course example and see what elements can often be included in a design document. The course we'll look at is a new employee orientation; Blue Beta Facilities Orientation. This is a great example of straightforward directive training, where learners are presented with information in a linear fashion and then tasked with answering multiple-choice knowledge questions as an assessment. This type of training is particularly appropriate for learners without background knowledge - such as new employees [1].

Feel free to explore the course with the link above, and then in my slides below see the breakdown of some of the design elements that the instructional designer considered before creating this training.


[1] Clark, R. C., & Mayer, R. E. (2012). Scenario-based e-learning: Evidence-based guidelines for online workforce learning (1st ed.). Pfeiffer.

[2] Omer, A. H., PhD. (2021, May 12). An Outline For Creating An Instructional Design Document. ELearning Industry. Retrieved January 20, 2022, from

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