The Rapid Elearning Blog

In an earlier post, we looked at how to build better courses by trimming out some of the content.  Many of the follow-up comments and questions speak to your role as an instructional designer.  In fact, it’s a question I was asked in a recent email:

What is the role of the instructional designer?  And how do I convey that to my clients and subject matter experts?

As I was contemplating a response, I stumbled upon this video that does a great job illustrating the value of instructional design.  Watch the video first and then I’ve got a few observations.  If you don’t have access to YouTube, click the link below the video.

Articulate Rapid E-learning blog- bear instructional design example

Click here to watch video.

As humans, we’re wired to learn and we’re always learning.  There’s really not a time where we’re not learning.  Learning is just what we do.  And we have a natural way of learning that is not dependent on taking a formal course.

Learning happens through our experiences and through the things we see and hear.  We learn in our quiet moments as we reflect on life.  And we learn in our social interactions and conversations with others.  And sometimes we even learn through elearning courses. 🙂

A formal course intrudes on the learner’s natural learning path.  This intrusion is neither good nor bad.  Essentially, we’re just circumventing the natural learning process by not waiting for the learner to stumble upon what we need them to know or do.  So we manufacture a learning experience.  And in that sense, the role of the instructional designer is to help the learners make sense of the new information they get.

The video above is an excellent illustration of some key points concerning instructional design.  Imagine the video was the content of an elearning course.  There’s a lot of information and a lot going.  If you sat the learner down in front of the video and offered no guidance, who knows what they’d focus on?

Some might try to understand the big picture and spend time figuring out where they’re at and why they’re in two teams.  Some might just observe the basketball skills.  Still others might try to pick up clues listening in on the conversations.

There’s a lot going on and if you just left it up to the learner to figure out, you’d waste a lot of time and probably won’t get the results you need.  So, instructional design is more than just an information dump.  Instead it’s about helping the learners make sense of the information.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - Instructional design is more than just putting information in front of the learners.

Fortunately, as you watch the video, the narrator does offer some guidance.  He provides a basic objective: “This is an awareness test.”  And he gives some direction to look for passes by the team in white.  That’s easy enough to do.

For the moment, let’s discount the bear and just look at what happened.  There’s so much activity and information that without clear instructions you’d focus on the wrong things.  Because he gives clear instructions, you’re able to answer his question.  In fact, while the moonwalking bear is obviously intended to catch you off guard, the reality is that the clarity of the instructions helped you see past the bear and focus on the goal of counting the passes.  You were able to do what he asked despite the distractions of all of the other activity.

And that’s one of the critical pieces of instructional design.  Because you’re manufacturing a learning experience, you don’t want the learners focused on twenty things.  Instead, you’re trying to get them focused on very specific pieces of information.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - Instructional design has clear goals and gets you learners focused on the right things.

Now let’s flip it around a little.  Admit it.  Unless you already saw this video, it was kind of shocking to think that something as obvious as a moonwalking bear could have passed before your eyes with you completely unaware.

There’s a lesson in there for us all.  We can become so intently focused on our perspective that we miss the “moonwalking bear.”  This is true of our clients, our managers, our subject matter experts, and even us.  We don’t know what we don’t know.

This is why collaboration and good analysis comes in handy.  It helps expose us to multiple perspectives and keeps us from counting passes, when the critical information is walking right passed us.  And we’re able to pass that on to our learners.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - Instructional design provides context and perspective. 

Make a mental list of everything that is going on in the scene.  How many people are there?  How many teams?  What type of ball?  What are the people saying?  What is the ethnic makeup of the people? Is that a police siren or ambulance? Which team has the best ball handling skills?  The list could go on.  And as you can see, there’s really a lot of information to collect and process.

Without instructional design, the learner might or might not get the information they need.  Because of instructional design, you can get the learners to cut through a lot of extraneous information and get right to the important stuff.

What you do as an instructional designer is take the information and expertise of a tenured subject matter expert and deliver it to the learner.  And in doing so, you compress the learning process saving time and money.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - Instructional design compresses the learning process.

Now let’s look at the video in its entirety.  It’s clever.  I’ve watched it a few times and I’ve shared it with others.  I’ve reflected on how to use the video as an illustration for this post.  I’ve also used it in conversations with my kids and some friends.  So the video makers have done a great job engaging me.

There something for us to learn here: good design engages us.  When we’re mentally engaged, we’re more apt to remember and learn.  And as you can see from the video, it’s not interactive.  Yet it is effective.

Not all of our content can be cleverly packaged like this video.  In fact, most people would rather have clarity than cleverness to start.  And that is the first step in engaging your learners.  The information needs to be clear and have real meaning and purpose for the learners.  Once they understand why it’s important to them, they’ll
be more apt to have a meaningful learning experience.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - Instructional design engages learners with clear and meaningful content.

Learning is a complex process and there’s a lot more to be said about instructional design.  The key point is that instructional designers provide value when they’re able to pull the content together to craft courses that are focused and meaningful.  What do you think?  Feel free to add your ideas by clicking on the comments link.


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137 responses to “What Everybody Ought to Know About Instructional Design”

Hi Tom,

The video example is really good. I did miss out the bear the first time i viewed the video. Anyway, i found the bear when the “propmt” mentioned it.

This video is an example to show how objectives alone are not sufficient in a course. Even though the initial focus is provided by the objectives, every page should have meaningful prompts and directions such as – “Click here to view the germination demo” or “Mouse-over the accounts form to know the key parameters” etc.

Typically, in a problem-based learning scenario or case study there are a lot of graphic and text components in a single page. The instructional design should clearly lay down the purpose of the case study, how to go about accessing and using every componenet of the case study, and also provide adequate feedback.

The efforts put in while storyboarding reach the learner only if the learner is properly guided through each page or screen of the course. Ofcourse, you need to take care that you do not overdo the directions stuff and hence design appropriately. I feel this is more important or as important as the help/demo that teaches you how to navigate the course layout/menu!!!


Wow! This is really a very interesting article about what is Instructional Design and yes I loved the video and your observations on it.

You have loads and loads of information on the web. Yet an e-learning course does make a difference by specifically focusing on what the learner wants to learn and by helping the learner learn in a way he or she wants to.

Unless and until the learner makes sense of the information you give in an e-learning course, there is no meaning to the course at all.

Thanks for such a wonderful post!

[…] Instructional Design – An Interesting Read Posted on July 22, 2008 by Rupa I just read an excellent post by Tom Kuhlmann on the value of Instructional […]

I’ve never liked when a course begins with “The objectives for this course are X, Y, and Z.” I guess as a learner I don’t like to feel like I’m being led by the nose – I consider myself a semi-intelligent adult, after all. If the content is designed correctly, the objectives should become obvious.

Or am I violating some carved-in-granite instructional design commandment by not wanting to spell out the course objectives?

As always, great stuff Tom. I’m embarassed (but happy…considering it validates my job!) to say that I missed the bear not only the first time through, but the second time through….I was so focused on the damn ball!

July 22nd, 2008

Hi everyone!
I had seen the video before. My 12 year old kid had shown it to me!
The moment I saw it I realised its power as an educational tool (I am a teacher). In fact, you made very good use of it to get your message across!

However, I tend to disagree with my colleague’s comment on being “led by the nose” when course objectives are made explicit to the learner. We must bear in mind that not all learners will be able to realize what our instructional objetives are so easily. I teach online an even when things are made explicit, they write to me asking the “silliest” questions you can imagine!
I believe setting the objectives help you (the designer) and the learner see what you want to achieve by the end of the course. Besides, it is an element that helps you decide on taking up a course or not. It is the first thing I look for: what am I going to learn here?
If the objectives meet my expectations, I go on.
So far, the posts here have!
Doris Soares-Brazil

July 22nd, 2008

Super post, Tom.
The gamelike video is a great example of the power of interactivity. I don’t remember the last time I watched a youtube video all the way through, much less watching it a second time. But you had me willingly rewinding and re-viewing with this one.

Also, I loved the way you role-modelled good instructional design in this post. You caught my attention, motivated me to learn, positioned my thinking, provided good content, then debriefed it and gave me a number of ways to apply it. Beautiful.

Well done Tom!!

I remember once hearing that setting the stage for a learning experience is like creating an all-you-can-eat buffet. Different learners will gravitate to different types of foods, some will like the pastas, others will prefer the fish. The designer needs to make sure its available for them (or they won’t be interested in going to the table) and to not also over-do it.

I think, the difficulty that I’ve found in e-learning is how to create that buffet without too much information, slides are too busy, or like Anitha said – avoid the “click here to see…” buttons.

This article you wrote opens the doors to a whole new buffet dinner using audio, video and animation (flash).

This is an awesome example! And great description of what ID is.

July 22nd, 2008

Wow, that was great visualiztion to drive home the point.

I think there’s at least one other way in which instructional design adds value. Compare what we do the what an investigative reporter does: we go out there and gather information that might not otherwise be available to the learner. You might compare us to the reporters who venture into war zones, or have access to “unnamed sources” at high levels of government.

In some cases, the learner just doesn’t have the ability to tap into the same sources we have. For example, suppose you were asked to interview a Subject Matter Expert about a highly complex, new process. That SME wouldn’t have the time to talk with every individual who needs to be trained. And, more than likely, the SME wouldn’t have the skills to explain it clearly to every kind of learner!

So I’d add, “Instructional Design provides access to information that the learner might not otherwise encounter.”

Thoughts anyone?

Hi Tom,
Thanks for this great post!
I saw this video last year on a conference. 300 teachers, a huge screeen… nobody saw the moonwalker bear!
Greetings from Uruguay!

I’m glad you like the video. It’s very powerful and short. Which is probably another point.

I really appreciate all of the insight and great comments and feedback.

@Mark: I missed the bear the second time because I figured they put it in on the edges. I definitely didn’t expect something so obvious.

@Chris: I agree…somewhat. Objectives are critical in the sense that the learner needs to understand what this is supposed to accomplish. However, that doesn’t mean that objectives need to be laid out as a series of bullet points or the standard, “at the end of this course you will….”

@Rissa: Good point. That’s kind of what I was getting at with the time compression. If you followed a process where you allowed the learner to “discover” information in a more natural manner they might not get what they need (your point) or it might take forever for them to get there. Thus, ID helps compress that time and guides the learner to discovery.

Liked the post.
And found the last one on cutting/ condensing content very useful.
Thanks a lot.

This was definitely a great video – both on its on and as a way to illustrate the point about the role of ID. Just as the bear was unexpected, this isn’t the type of video I expected when Tom said it illustrates the ID role. So, I was immmediately hooked into the video itself, while also wondering what the heck this has to do with instructional design. Subsequently, it made the points of the post clear. And started an engaging conversation. That is darn good design!

I have to disagree with you Tom. The video is exactly the wrong approach to learning. It is an overused ‘gotcha’ trick. I’ve seen one similar for business strategy.

To satisfy the unstated objective, the viewer has to likely fail the stated objective. One question, one objective only.

I still don’t really know the message the video is trying to convey.


You’re awesome! Once again, what a wonderful article. I’m going to print this information out and use it as a checklist. My experience as an Instructional Designer (6 years) is I always have to remind some clients what the purpose of an Instructional Designer is. I believe the role oftentimes gets confuse with the following: Content Developer, Learning Development Support Specialist, Instructional Development Specialist and etc. Instructional Designer’s (as you mentioned) “help learners make sense of new information”. Therefore, IDs come with specific skill set such as: understanding of the ADDIE module, how to write objectives, how to chuck content for learning, how to conduct a needs assessments, how to design evaluation tools how to develop instructional strategies and more.

My question is, how do you articulate(briefly) this to a client who may confuse the role with Course Developer? Please share (anyone).

July 22nd, 2008

Chris, I agree that as a learner, focusing on objectives gets things started on a “lead them by the nose” approach. But I find many learners (Jeff, above, you may be one of them!) can’t jumpstart their attention without seeing them.

In trainings, I show objectives, but don’t speak to them directly.

However, objectives are CRITICAL for discussing content with the learners’ managers. That’s what they care about, above all else.

Hey Jeff,

I half agree with you. It’s a gimmick. But I do think that there is a point there that can be extrapolated into our craft space. And that point is that most human beings, when challenged and focused, will not notice anything peripheral to that goal.

The converse application of this observation is that if you don’t provide focus or a goal, then the activity is pretty much a waste of time and the human won’t notice anything at all.

So there’s a balance. And the ISD’s job is to strike that balance between focus (and how tight that focus is) and providing supporting information to meet the goals.

I tend to believe that we over process, over structure, analyze, and formalize our real goals (human goals) nearly into oblivion. The establishment of a three part objective clearly articulates ‘a’ goal. But, I often question the methods and roads we take to arrive at these blessed three part artifacts. Have we assembled something that fits the academic model just to completely drop the essence of what’s really important? And are people not sophisticated enough to draw their own conclusions about the goal with a high rate of accuracy without a lab perfect objective statement?

I believe there’s a way to have your cake and eat it too. I am a HUGE fan of performance narrative setup. Leading off with a real world challenge, story, question. Putting the learner in a ‘solve’ mode up front. I like to use this type of Objective setup with a natural / simple language ‘you’ll know what to do in this situation when you get this lesson wrapped up’.

I also understand that there are more types of folks than I in this world and some appreciate (in their own misguided way:)) the establishment of a clinical objective in bullet style just like every goofy course they’ve ever taken. There is no reason that the learner can’t have access to both.

In fact, having some way to access the strength of objective completion as gaged by the learning product at any time in the experience would be nearly perfect. An objectives menu item, button, or pull-out that shows what the objectives are. Or a simple printed handout for reference as the learner takes the course would suffice (the computer makes great checkmarks, but given a pencil – so do I).

Oh, BTW: I did missed the moon walking bear the first time. Great video, I’ll have to share this with my son.

I have been working with educational objectives for most of my life and after 84 years am finding the least gobbledegook in your latest blog. I am persuaded that someday in the future teachers can become obsolete and more and more excellent material will be available online. At best the teacher will only be a guider.
Thanks ever so much for the blogs and posts.
I am currently trying to convert some of the lectures given to our Master Gardeners to a concentrated “Powerpoint course” available to anyone who wants to learn,
thanks again,
+ Yes, I am 84 years old and still able to do things that are worthwhile.

Great article, Tom. That was an excellent way to model using a novel or unique activity to gain learner attention.

Here is a response to Kathie’s question, “how do you articulate(briefly) this to a client who may confuse the role with Course Developer?”

In my experience (depending upon job roles), the Course Developer decides WHAT will be studied while the Instructional Designer determines HOW to go about studying that material. The ID does all the things you mentioned, while working closely with the Course Developer to ensure everything is being covered to the appropriate extent.

Mr. D,

Well said, this is a very way of articulating the role of Instructional Designer versus Course Developer.

Thank you!

Another terrific post. That was a great way to simply explain what Instructional Designers do. I may have to quote you on a few things in my design plan documents! Thanks.

Good stuff, Tom. Thanks for making these great points.

July 22nd, 2008

Hey Tom,

Great stuff. This is the first time that I have seen this video and yes I missed the bear. I even rewound the video to prove it was actually there the first time. I completely get that your points on instructional design have nothing to do with the gimmick of the video but with providing instruction for the learner and that it is really easy to miss an objective if it is “unstated” (Jeff). For someone as new as me to learning generally this has provided further insights into how best to design and create my courses.


[…] » What Everybody Ought to Know About Instructional Design The Rapid eLearning Blog […]

July 22nd, 2008

Great post and a very good learning experiance too. Instructional Designing is not a subject taught in any University in India but many are trying to be IDs here through learning from these types of blogs. If Ruth is 84 , I am 70 and I always look forward to learn from your posting Tom. Thanks lot.

its great piece of example, indicating importance of Instructional designer role in learning industry.

Good information….thanks for sharing!!


I liked the video and the post. I wish that I had a video like that to use in all of my courses. I successfully counted the number of passes by the white team and missed the bear. I did have to go back to prove to myself that it was the same video both times. I decided to listed again to the sounds and missed the dancing bear again.

I think that sometimes student feel they already know everything they need to know and that the course is just a waste of time. Being able to begin with a video like this could make the student more receptive because they may realize they don’t know everything. But you need to be careful. Just as a few people said it was just a trick, some students may be turned off from the training. I have seen students become more concerned with finding the spelling and grammar mistakes in a course than reviewing the actual content.

Help the student focus on the right content. Don’t let them become distracted by extra details they don’t need to know in order to be successful. Your courses will be more successful when you can attract and keep the student engaged.

Terrific article, Tom — excellent points and superb example. Thanks! I do, however, have a nitpick disagreement with one point you made. You say that the video is not interactive. But you’re defining “interactivity” too narrowly. Actually, the video is highly interactive. Interactivity isn’t limited to mouse-clicks or keyboard usage. By asking the viewer to count the number of passes made by the team in white, the video essentially demands a high degree of user engagement and mental activity. The viewer must do something more than merely watch. One might call it “passive interaction” (if I may coin a seemingly oxymoronic term), but it’s interaction nonetheless.

@Wayne: Good point about the interactivity. I should have been more clear. Essentially, I meant that you didn’t have to build a bunch of click and drag interactivity or the type of interactivity we typically look for in an elearning course. I actually wrote a post on passive engagement that speaks to your point.

July 23rd, 2008

Tom – As always, great material! I’ve forwarded the Blog link to many of my authors.

I’ll echo Chris’s comments about course objectives. They need to be known (and followed!) by the course developers. Students who know them can use them to decide if the course that will meet their needs – so course objectives are important to students for different reasons than they are important to course developers.

I feel that objectives ought to be part of the course catalog description, rather than part of the class material itself, but the published objectives should be exactly what was laid out for the course developers – no more, no less.

July 24th, 2008

Hi Tom,

The video is great.

But then, the moon walking bear is the “NICE TO KNOW” info.It is always there floating about around us but we do not tend to look at it.

Say, the atomic structure.
You start with the history of the discovery of the Atomic structure, the initial work , the experiments and the inferences.
We deliver the goods.Fine.
I prefer to look at this moon walking bear as the contemporary advances I’d expect my students to look for, beyond the objectives speified.
The AFM (Atomic Force Microscope),an innovative tool for the nanoscience Research,actually gives us the picture of an atom just by one glance through it.
This would motivate them to excel.

We only need to point at this moonwalking bear
Your video is one real tool for me to let my student know his /her duty also to look beyond the objectives set by the instructor.

Thank you and best wishes.

July 24th, 2008

What is the role of the instructional designer and why have one on board?

This is a question that seems to come back at regular intervals. Here’s my attempt at an answer.

Few managers would seriously consider letting someone from accounting design the new computer network for their company. Fewer and fewer car owners repair their own cars: they prefer trusting a specialist for that. Most of us rely on an architect rather than a dentist to design a new home. So why are managers often content to let someone other than a specialist handle instructional design?

Two basic reasons come to mind. First, managers typically don’t understand what learning involves, i.e. how it happens and how best to support it (you don’t learn this during your MBA…). Nor do they understand the impact of good or bad training on the organization. Managers not held accountable for how they handle training will likely continue using quick fixes.

Second, workplace learning is still dominated by the myth that subject matter experts can best handle instructional design even though in many cases that’s like getting the accountant to set up the computer network. As long as instructional design is associated with content selection rather than problem solving, managers will continnue to rely on subject matter experts.

Here’s what I believe is an instructional designer: someone who through education and practical experience has developed the ability to investigate situations, understand problems and identify solutions that stress effectiveness and efficiency (for the organization and for learners). It is the person that sets directions and finds how best to utilize resources to achieve meaningful, and measurable, results. Instructional designers help ensure problems involving human learning are correctly solved the first time around.

This leads to what may be the most basic questions we should ask ourselves: how many instructional designers truly see themselves, and understand their role, as problem solvers? How mnany can explain that to management? If you can comfortably answer these questions, you may be well on your way to showing your organization what is the true value of an instructional designer.


I think the underlying issue is that a lot of folks don’t have much respect for our profession as they feel they can do it better, or feel they have the qualifications. And for good reason – we tend to forget that, unlike any other profession, ours is one in which our students have been subject to YEARS of observation of it in practice. Now, before I get flamed – yes, I know and believe there is a distinct difference between the garbage teaching methods I (and I suspect most of you) were subjected to in elementary, seconday, and undergraduate classes. But our trainees think a teacher is a teacher. And a teacher to them is only as credible as their perceived knowledge.

If you were stuck for 7+ hours a day sitting in a chair watching computer programmers program, you’d probably feel like you were an expert on the subject too after listening to it for 16 years or so.

So…what point am I making? Simply this – I believe this is the reason we have to justify our roles to other employees. 99% of their ‘training’ has been lecture, so what skills exactly do we bring? 99% of our cohorts are still lecturing away in their ILT ‘designs’, so what exactly differentiates us from the old-timer without training experience but who is a decent speaker and writing skills, who is asked to be the instructional designer and trainer? I can think of one major difference: he’s probably had years of on-the-job experience in the subject matter, so he’ll have instant credibility. The cards are stacked against us from the start : )

I agree with Mark that our customers feel (sometimes wrongly so, other times not) they are qualified to denigrate our work. That said, we haven’t done ourselves any favors by churning out a *lot* of horrible eLearning over the years.

Yes, I had some bad instructors in public school and in college. But I learned far more from the *good* instructors I had than I’ve gotten from 99% of the eLearning I’ve been subjected to.

The only way we can change minds is with our products. Until we can excite them about online learning with the quality of our products, they will continue to perceive that we offer nothing of value to them. And rightfully so.

And I’m sad to say, based on my own experience as a learner, that being professionally trained as an instructional designer in no way assures a worthwhile eLearning product.

Chris and Mark point out issues that have been in my mind as well.


There is the comparison that denigrates the ‘new kid on the block’ by comparing it blindly with what came before. In this comparison, we tend to forget about the misgivings preceding intervention.

How common is this example. A four day resident training course is attended five times a year by ten students per class. 4x5x10 = 200 students annually. The pent up demand for some of the competencies in this course (revealed through analysis) is ten times this number. There isn’t budget for the additional quotas. More investigation of the resident course reveals that the extent of the evaluation is level 1. Quiz results aren’t recorded, though there is a brief 15 minute lab activity that gates completion. Noone ever fails the course. The analysis reveals that 60% of the students like the course because (1) the instructor is entertaining (2) it allows them a short period to escape work (3) it provides an opportunity for them to connect with peers that they don’t normally connect with. The other 40% of the students think the training was a waste of time.

There is so much evidence there that we are looking at an imperfect existing solution. But when folks mention displacing the existing solution with eLearning the force fields go up to protect the old one. This is a tame example, I’ve seen plenty where there is evidence that the existing solution is horrid and simply doesn’t meet the goals of the program – yet there are plenty of folks that will stand up and bash in a proposed replacement with a solid business case.

Chris’ comment about a good instructor being pure magic is spot on. That’s the essence of the argument about the quality of the learning experience. We aren’t talking about anything new with the new medium. The same comparisons can be made in every domain of solution type.


There are a LOT of pieces to most of these puzzles we attack and attempt to solve. These details require pretty specialized input and the application of pretty specialized skills if we are to have any expectation of precision and success. It takes both a subject matter expert and an expert in instructional systems (someone who knows how to build the paths and establish the guide methods). Most ISD’s I know will spend a lot of time attempting to become SME’s on certain systems and performances. There is a degree of this that is critical. On the other hand, in many cases, it might be impossible for the designer to gain the level of competence required to make a worthwhile product.

I sat down with an ISD nearly ten years ago and sketched out a concept for a tool that would empower SME’s to build and maintain their own content. The response I received was ‘That’ll never work’. I think we are evolving, the pendulum is swinging towards the end of the SME taking on some of these tasks.

To me, it’s a matter of balancing risk. The risk of making the SME completely reliant on outside services to update content is that the content will rot on the vine and eventually grow out of use. The flip side of that is that organizations will have such a backlog of maintenance requirements that they will never catch up – and this has the same results.

If we attempt to design a product independant of the SME, without making the SME an integral part of EVERY stage we risk pushing out something that is out of touch.

If we attempt to design a product that doesn’t investigate beyond the SME, we risk overfeeding our learners with things that they really don’t need to know.

And then there are the creative output risks. Put tools in the hands of those who don’t know how to use them, folks will take a really long time to accomplish tasks that specialists can do much faster with a higher quality output. Tools like Articulate remove some of those risks – sure you can still screw up the navigation styles. But those things are set and modular. Tools that remove risks are the stage we are developing to.

The next stage, IMO, are tools that help the instructional systems types get it right more often. Assistants that help organize, structure, and constantly evaluate activities and content have to be the next wave of enablers. The rapid eLearning trend seems to me to be nothing more than a streamlining of processes. We have categorized it as a type of output that’s the wrong way to view it in my opinion.

There are a lot of gapped areas in the process. But it takes all kinds, and without that balance there is little hope of success.

[…] quote from the latest article, titled What Everybody Ought to Know About Instructional Design: So, instructional design is more than just an information dump.

Hey Tom,
AWESOME! One of your best Blog entries to date. Very informative and insightful information!

July 30th, 2008

I like the video . I was counting the the way the ball was pass. I think that the way they were dress, the color has something to do with it to.Focus in color is a way to grab attention.The human being has sense very well define.5 that most of us don’t use as we should,The thinking has to be use all ways and has to be motivate by other input. Every body has different kind of knowledge. The problem stand , how this knowledge will reinforce what we already have o don’t have?In what way this will help me ? You are right the learning has to be motivate with our daily life.

[…] Watch the video and then read what Tom has to say about it on his blog! […]

August 6th, 2008

This blog is absolutely great, and I gravitated towards this particular post as I am getting ready to start my Master’s in Education in Instructional Design. I’m really looking forward to starting the program and this blog will definitely help give me tips along the way.

Keep up the good work!!!

Excellent content and presentation of the point, I agree with the most comments…
But here is something that I still don’t understand: what about the impacts of a particular subject matter, and contents selected, prepared and revised accordingly by a content developer, as I understood his role, to the principles of instructional design?
And what about mutual interaction and communication among the trinity of a content developer, an instructional designer and a subject matter expert, if principles of instructional design are dependent on (in some extent are specific to) a particular subject being taught (I think they are)?
Then, how much should an instructional designer be a subject matter expert to design instruction efficiently (to choose proper learning activities and methods and to extract the most relevant pieces of information on a subject to make learning easier to learners, for instance)?
And if he should be a subject matter expert in a considerable extent (I think he should), how would he be instructed on the particular subject matter by a recognized subject matter or by anyone else?
Thus the whole eLearning development process seems to be doable as an one-man project only (Mr Know-All himself only!)
Perhaps instead of answering each question, one (preferably Tom in one of the next blog topics) could give an illustrative case-study on an example of a course designed on the specific subject matter, following the whole course design process, how all people having these three roles cooperate together, what exactly each one should do and how he/she provides the skills needed, emphasizing the specifics of their mutual communication during the course design process…
Thank you all in advance for your kindness in posting responses.

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[…] read a great blog post titled What Everbody Ought to Know About Instructional Design in the The Rapid eLearning Blog by Tom Kuhlmann.

Hi Tom,

I attended a workshop where i saw this video and I really liked it. And i liked the way you have explained what is ID. However i would like to know what do you have to say about Jeff’s comments.

@Atul: On the surface I don’t agree with Jeff. However, in fairness it is a quick comment where he doesn’t get to fully explain his position. I think that the video is a clever way to remind people that you don’t always see what you see, which makes sense for the context of watching riders.

I think Jeff does bring up a good point about cleverness over clarity. The goal isn’t to be clever or deliver a “gotcha” moment.

i am just about to finish my graduation & i wish to get into this field.however i had very little knowledge about it.but the video & the blog was a great help. i want to know where can i study this course. thanks.

[…] What Everybody Ought to Know About Instructional Design […]

January 9th, 2009

Great and smart points to describe the role of an ID to others…..

I enjoyed this article. I’m looking for more information related to posting these types of videos. Information on file size, type, pixels etc. Can you provide additional information on posting or embedding a youtube video?

[…] What Everybody Ought to Know About Instructional Design […]

I’ve been an instructional designer for 20 years.

Most of what I learned about the art of instructional design, I learned in the first 3 years.

Most of what I do, I’ve done many times before.

What everyone ought to know is that there are many barriers to actual performance improvement. Breakin down these barriers is extremely hard.

Very few clients I’ve had over the years actually attempt to induce behavior changes in their charges. There are too many reasons for this to even go into, but the end result is that most training follows the Push model Tom covered in another post. Designers, their clients, and their managers follows this model like sheep.

I’ve found it ironic but also instructive that in 20 years, I’ve never been encouraged by my employers to actually “take” any training myself, except for a Flash course. After 4 days of training by an inexperienced instructor, my company was $750 poorer and for the most part, I lost 4 evenings that could have been spent doing something productive or just enjoying family time.

Some clients insist that I participate in their current classes before redesigning their courses, but for the most part, I’m expected to immerse myself in the content, become competent in the skills if possible, then translate that to designing the training events.

I long to break out of this mold and I think eventually we will. I think we will see break-throughs in multimedia enhanced on-line reference systems. Some current models include You Tube, Wikipedia, and How Stuff Works. I currently rely heavily on these resources when doing research for the next project.

I want to be able to go a web site and find the information I want almost immediately. When I find it, I would love to see good illustrations, animations or video that explain key concepts.

Since I will probably not retain the information very long, I need to be able to go back, find it again quickly, and then apply it to whatever task I’m doing.

We have a long way to go to make this happen. Operating systems, search engines, and content organization models are still in their infancy from a usability standpoint.

I see a day where actual “training” events hardly happen at all.

June 1st, 2009

I was convinced there wasn’t even a bear there the first time around. I went back to be sure you didn’t try to fool us. LOL! I was so convinced you tried to trick us that it was a joke. I guess it’s all true.

The video and text is a good example of the strengths of learning objectives and instructional design. I believe for some learners learning objectives can have the opposite effect. If a learner believes the learning objective is too hard for them or worthless, then learning objectives can get in the way. With these types of unmotivated learners, the job of the instructional designer becomes even more important.

July 24th, 2009

Hi Tom,
Great article, however, I feel interactivity is a very broad term and can’t be used just to describe your mouse movements. Can we have something on interactivity?

@Yogesh: Here are a couple of posts that might interest you.

Go beyond information sharing and Create courses you can be proud of.

[…] The Rapid E-Learning Blog What Everybody Ought to Know About Instructional […]

I am especially fond of one of your descriptions of Instructional Design as a professional whom “creates a manufactured learning experience” inclusive of our natural learning abilities. I agree that we are here “to help e learners make sense of what they are learning”. While watching the video I found myself struggling to watch the white teams passes when the bear caught my attention. What happened next speaks volumes. I intentionally ignored this added stimuli in order to “focus”. Therefore I find with e learning concentration is also manufactured by the directions given, by getting learners to focus on specific information.

By providing “context and perspective we compress learning time and bypass” erroneous information and hopefully provide focused goal oriented learning. Also, you add to the ability for the student to retrieve information, through concentrated referencing students can index situations that are relative to the lesson and apply it.

Instructional Designers have to engage or immerse students in the subject matter relatively quickly and easily. Here is when clear objectives should be stated and the directions with the video should have included in addition to counting the number of passes made by the white team to look for anything that does not belong. Blog author Cammy Bean also discusses effective engagement of e learners. Another blog by Clive Sheppard offers its reader another site where you can register and find tools for creating stunning and effective e lessons. I requested membership and took the tour. Would you recommend ID professionals use this site? I found loads of useful tools and templates to choose from and it was all for free.
Since we all aim to be the best Instructional Designers we can be in our field I stumbled onto a website which I found useful for ID students which lists principles for creating focused yet engaging material. I especially enjoyed principle number 5 their description of e learning establishing a strong foundation having each lesson act as “scaffolding to support and guide learners through their learning experience”. What are your thoughts?

@Ama: good resources. You can’t go wrong with them.

Well, I viewed it, my younger son viewed it – (same response as everyone here) and then older son came home from school, watched it and said ’13 – but what was that thing moving across the screen?


March 2nd, 2010

Hello Tom,

It is true, everyone does have a capacity to learn, however, most people seem to want to learn things that either interest them or their brain is “wired” toward. For example, some people have a greater capacity to learn mathematics while others may be inclined towards social studies. The person who has a difficult time learning math will usually tend to not have a great interest in the subject no matter how much they are “instructed.” In your article, you mentioned that as an instructional designer, we are to take the important stuff, ‘the big picture’ so to speak, and in doing so, “time and money” are saved. However, sometimes a learner might get tripped up with the ‘small stuff;’ the devil might be in the detail. If this happens, more time and money will either end up getting spent or wasted. It is important to know what the learners are looking for and to spend time on their concerns as they crop up. I would say, start with the big picture but pay close attention to the small stuff.

Joseph W. Humes

@Joseph: thanks for the comment. The challenge with ID is being a bridge that takes a client’s goals and creates a learning process relevant to the learner. In many ways, the course is an intrusion on the learner’s “natural” learning process.


I have just started an online course on how to create an online course. I have you bookmarked and expect with your help to survive this learning curve. Visit my website…you’ll like it…

May 16th, 2010

Hi there,

This is a great way to demonstrate the need for instructional design. I can’t even begin to count the number of times that I have been faced with solving a question, and not even know where to start. Guiding the learner in a clear and concise way not only helps the learner achieve the desired results, but also helps the instructor reach their goal of having success in their teaching. When I first viewed the video, the instruction was to count the number of times the ball was passed. I will admit, that this was hard to do, as I was quickly overwhelmed by the speed and lost track of the number. In the next video, when the instruction was to look out for the moonwalking bear, I was able to spot him right away. Perhaps, because my brain was told to focus on one moving task versus multiple ones, I was able to point out the bear.

Overall, this was a useful exercise to demonstrate how important it is to provide clear instruction to the learner. I strongly believe that the mere success of a learner, comes with a set of straightforward instructions. If I wasn’t told what to look for, I definitely would have missed the moonwalking bear.

Thanks for demonstrating this strategy via a fun video exercise 🙂 It’s amazing what multimedia can do to help us understand a concept.

“The information needs to be clear and have real meaning and purpose for the learners. Once they understand why it’s important to them, they’ll be more apt to have a meaningful learning experience.”

How true…

My experience of the video? I did not buy into what was asked of me almost immediately. Call me a rebel.. but I couldn’t see the point of counting passes.. so I just waited.. intrigued by the topic but nothing more. What happened instead was how I caught the guy dressed in the bear costume about half way through his jaunt through the group. Likely unconsciously, I knew that I could go back to review the video again .. should I read or hear something afterwords if I later changed my mind and judged it to be important.

The key point for me.. is “my” empowerment as a learner now. The technology and the design of this activity both allow me to quickly opt in and out of this as a I see fit… even become playful in my attitude towards it all. I think we need to be aware of that possibility now with “learners” . Thus effective instructional design becomes more and more focused on the “needs” but also the “interests” of the learner .. and it applies to both f2f and online contexts.

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Hi Tom,
As a newbie to the world of ID, I am intrigued with the idea of directional learning. Learning is an active process that requires motivation from the learner. Effective IDs spark that motivation in the learner and hopefully move the student from seeing and repeating the information presented. The goal is learning and how to get material from STM (short term memory) to LTM (long term memory).

Your quote, “What you do as an instructional designer is take the information and expertise of a tenured subject matter expert and deliver it to the learner. And in doing so, you compress the learning process saving time and money” is a road map for both the new and old ID.

Very Good! I saw a blob in the center of the basketball court, but could not make out it was a bear the first time I viewed it. This video makes a very good point one that was recently made in an article I read for my Instructional design class I’m taking. The article basically stated that it’s not just the Level of the learner that you need to consider but it is also the Requirements of the Task. You need both to “see” and understand both of these in order to effectively design instruction for the learner. If you are not watching carefully, you could miss a requirement.

My Dad always tells me another set of eyes doesn’t hurt a thing. I believe that collaborating with other instructional designers and/or working as a team so there are many eyes on a design project only helps to insure the desired outcome is accomplished.

I also like the fact that from a short 1 min. video, we learned a complex cognitive skill.


My first thought when seeing the bear is, “If they had made the bear white, I would have noticed it.”

But, if they would have made the bear white, I would never have counted how many passes the white team made.

It’s amazing how many little things are very important to remember in instructional design!

That was truly an eye opening experience! Like you mentioned, Who would have truly believed that a moonwalking bear would be completely overlooked due to the focus of the learner on the objectives at hand? However, if the objectives hadn’t been put out there clearly, it would have been completely easy to miss all of the valuable information the video was intended to show as an example. I am new to the instructional design field, but websites such as yours are making it much more clear what it is I need to focus on as I move through my coursework. It’s not just a matter of putting the information out there in front of the learner, anyone can do that. Unfortunately that would yield very limited results, and probably not fulfill the objectives. The focus of an instructional designer needs to be in the way the information is presented, and engage as many of the learner’s senses as possible. Thank you for such a fantastic and informative blog!

@Noelle: the first tiem I watched the video and found out there was a bear, I watched again thinking they must have snuck it in on the fringes. Needless to say I didn’t see the bear until the third time. 🙂

You are absolutely correct, it is so important as instructional designers to give clear and concise instructions so that our students know where their focus should be. I missed the dancing bear the first time I watched the video and was so focused on counting the number of passes that I almost missed the bear the second time I watched the video. I can remember that when I first started instructing classes I failed to give proper instruction to the students as to where they should put their focus. Needless to say, most of the students did not retain what I needed them to retain. I learned first hand that giving clear instructions is critical to engaging the student and having them retain the information that you want them to retain. Now when I begin my classes I always give clear focus as to where their attention should be. I like to say where their focus should be, write down where their focus should be, and if applicable, show them where their focus should be. I find that the more ways I portray this information; the more diverse my message is so that it can connect with all types of learners. I feel that it is important to connect to as many of the multiple intelligences (MI) as possible as each person’s compilation of MI strengths is different. Some learners may be verbal-linguistic so they will be able to connect with the verbal instructions. Those that are more spatial will connect with the written instructions and those that are more bodily-kinesthetic will connect when I show them what I want them to learn. I feel that it is very important for us as instructional designers to try and utilize as many of the MI’s as possible to diversify our instruction and as I learned we must always give clear instruction so our students know where to focus.

Hi Tom,

The video clip was wonderful. I cannot believe that I did not see the “moon walking” bear even after knowing it was there. I was so involved in completing the task that was given to me, to count the number of passes. Before being given the task of counting the passes by the white team, I was focused on observing as much information as possible. How many teams were there? How many players on each team? How many females are on each team? After watching the video for the fourth time I finally saw the “moon walking bear” and that’s only because I was now looking for it.
I find it interesting that once being given the task of counting the passes, my attention was focused solely on completing that task. Therefore any other information or distractions were completely ignored, so much so that I didn’t notice any sirens until the fourth view as well.
For me the clip just reiterates that as instructional designers we must create instructional design that engages the learners as well as offers little or no distractions within the nature of the design. When I say this I’m reminded of teaching younger students to solve word problems. Certain problems always have additional information that is not needed to solve the given problem. This information is included to distract the learner. Therefore, when designing instruction one should include only that which is necessary for the audience at their particular stage in leaning and offer as little or no instructional distractions if possible. Instruction should be focused and engaging and yes it takes a lot of time and collaboration to achieve this.

You’re correct that instructional design is largely about making designs that are easy to follow, navigate, use, and learn from. But of course, making sure essential points are covered and illustrated and ‘learned’ by the student is largely the doing of the professor or faculty member with perhaps some assistance from the instructional designer.

I enjoyed this illustration! It is a great example of keeping the most important information in the line of focus. I’d like to share this with the faculty I work with as they assemble their courses and develop their student learning outcomes.

March 6th, 2011

The resource sites that I have located provided contents for multiple e-learning strategies. The first site, IDEAS: Instructional Design for Elearning Approaches (, contained links to several blogs that provided Communities of Practices, Educational Tech Weblogs, Research Blogs, elearnspace, EdTech Post, and Learning Commons. It also provided several categories for Educational Technology, Elearning Delivery Strategies, Faculty Development, Instructional Design, Instructional Technology, Learning Objects, and Teaching Online. The second site, The Rapid E-Learning Blog (, provides information and links from visual graphic design, understanding how to design the right course, building scenarios for E-learning, to Audio and Video tips. The third site, Langevin Blog, (, has resources on advanced Instructional Design and Techniques, blended learning techniques, understanding how adults learn, ways to influence people and events, making training stick, and writing skills for trainers.

As an instructional designer I find it will be important to stay in tune with not only the latest technology but to have a complete understanding of how technology can be incorporated in the learning process will be just as important. My ultimate goal is to change my career field and find work as an instructional designer. These sites will serve as resources that can help to provide me with a better insight into this career field. I can utilize these resources to gain more knowledge about learning theories as they relate to the systematic design, development, and validation of instructional material. I can use them to research information on Instructional design practices to further understand the principles and techniques used in designing training programs and applying design methods to improve instructional effectiveness. Within the site, The Rapid E-Learning Blog, it provides resources that will be very useful for understanding how to effectively use visual and graphic designs. This site also provides tips on learning to communicate properly with good visual designs and ways to make the lessons look interesting with the proper graphics. I am looking to learn how to better use computers in the education process and further explore the ideas of selecting appropriate computer software to aid in that process. During my time as an Instructor on active duty, I was the first to incorporate electronic testing within the course. I can use these blog sites to explore the techniques for developing written and performance tests material and survey instruments. The career field as an Instructional designer is not something that I have ever considered, but during my time as an Instructor it has opened my eyes to a whole new world of adult leaning.

March 13th, 2011

I’d first like to say, that was an awesome video and I was only able to spot the bear the third time, which brings me to my point. It’s not a good idea for Instructional Designers to get over zealous while creating. I think designers should have a goal and remain focused on that goal, which should be learning a specific or specific thing. If too much is going on, learners just might miss something and that something can be very important. I liked the comment Tom made “And that’s one of the critical pieces of instructional design. Because you’re manufacturing a learning experience, you don’t want the learners focused on twenty things. Instead, you’re trying to get them focused on very specific pieces of information”. He said it better than I ever could.
There are other websites, blogs and information about e-learning and instructional design I’d like to share with this community


take a look at these as well and maybe they can help further your understanding of this subject.

I am new to instructional design. This post crystallized the role of the instructional designer. If were to have the liberty to give my interpretation of the instructional designer’s role I would say we are framers of the learning experience. We are to provide all the necessary materials in order to optimize learning. I am especially pleased that you chose to provide your video illustration. It was a reminder of the importance of having clearly defined learning objective that both the designer and the learner are aware of. You also discussed the idea of compressing the learning process. You have skillfully illustrated this by compressing the main ideas of the blog post into five points which, truth be told, will be what I remember. Compressing the learning content may help the learner avoid being overwhelmed by the amount of course content and help the designer focus the learner on the main ideas.

As someone who is new to instructional design I would be curious about the extent to learning theory guides the ID process outside of academia. It appears from your post that although there are no formal references to learning theory the idea of organization which is referenced in learning theory is very much a part of the design of the online course. You thoughts on the latter would be very helpful to a beginner.


@Carlos: good question. From my experience some semblance of learning theory is baked into the course design. It’s not always labeled learning theory, but it’s there.

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Great post and very interesting video! It really shows the role of an instructional designer. With the right direction (count the number of passes) I was right on. When asked if I saw the bear though I couldn’t believe it. My first thought it was a small animation in the corner of the video. So much for that! It was a 6 foot bear dancing through the middle of the screen!

Other than the bear itself, the video does a great job portraying the job of an instructional designer. The bear did a good job intriguing the audience and I was hooked from the beginning. Instructional designers have an important job of clearly explaining what is expected to their audience. Without them students could be lost and guessing as to what information they need to look for.

I really liked Gene’s post above and found it very informative. I’m a teacher working on a masters in instructional design and sometimes feel the same way. I’m sure I have more training than most designers because we have days set aside solely for professional development, but at times I need to research changes (such a a new history curriculum) on my own and have my questions answered. It’s a whole lot easier if you can find this info easily and be able to refer to it whenever its needed.

August Ost

Excellent article. A note about objectives… The objective was stated at the start of the video in the form of the question: “How many passes does team in white make?” So, to Jeff’s point about not stating objectives, I disagree. The objective of counting the passes, at least for me, was achieved. However, the objective did cause me to lose sight of something that should have been obvious, but perhaps unnecessary to the learning module. So, the real, unstated objective was a diversion to “miss the moon walking bear”. But the stated objective caused me to focus on the ball passes and thus miss the bear. Conclusion: even though the video was a jumble of action, the stated objective caused me, the learner, to focus on said objective and miss the bear. Make sense? Sorry for rambling…

@Zach: right…a key point is that you as the ID can direct the flow of the learner’s attention in how you state the objectives

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Hello Tom,

Very insightful blog on ‘What Everybody Ought to Know About Instructional Design’. The information provided on Instructional Design is very educational and knowledgeable.

Instructional Design objectives are to specify exactly what a learner must master. I appreciate the examples of an ID by the awareness test. I was unaware of the moon walking bear and it really did shock me because i didn’t notice the bear at all while watching the players pass the ball. I’m very astonished that focusing on a task wouldn’t actually eliminate the objects you aren’t expected to see. I guess that will actually be selective vision as well.

It is of importance to be aware and have a perspective of what is being shown to you as a learner. I agree that ID is designed to help the learners make sense of the new information they receive.

Also, Instructional design is more than exposing or presenting information to learners, but presenting the information and making sure the instructions are understood.

Great images and statements used throughout your blog and once again, interesting video on Instructional Design.

Hi there. I am currently going to Walden University for my Master’s degree in Instructional Design and Technology. As part of one of our assignments, we had to search for blogs that contribute to the content of our class, and I found yours very relevant. The part that especially stood out to me was when you said how important it was for the learners to make sense of the new information they get. So far, we have learned about different learning styles, and now we are moving into how the brain functions.

All of the information in this blog is extremely applicable to the program so far. The video is especially helpful so that you can identify the specific content that you are wanting your students to learn. It is so important to get to the “meat” of the matter, and save time in and effort.

I am currently a fifth grade teacher, and that concept helps tremendously when planning my instruction so that I do not waste time with unnecessary information or content that is not meaningful to the student. Picking out the important information also helps in the problem solving process when the student has to ask what is the important and unimportant information in the problem so they can come to a solution quicker.

Finally, I enjoyed the part where you focus on engaging the learner. We learned this week that a student will remember the content better if it is interesting and relevant to them. I appreciate having a blog like this to refer to so that I know I am on the right path to making the change to an instructional designer in the future.

@Sue: thanks for the comment and good luck with your program.

October 23rd, 2011

Like Sue, I’m currently completing an M.Ed. in Learning and Technology at Western Governors University. It’s an online program and for the most part is meeting my needs for learning how to be an instructional designer. However, without blogs like this I would not be adequately be prepared for how to create effective e-learning in general. I haven’t had the opportunity to work with Articulate yet, but what you’re providing in all of your blog articles is hugely beneficial for any tool being used. In fact, by learning what can be done with PowerPoint, if you’re creative and really think it all through, it can be applied in so many learning situations–even instructor-led scenarios. Thank you Tom for all the tips you provide throughout this wonderful blog.

How do I prepare for an instructional designer internship?…

Read some blogs about elearning and instructional design and get involved in conversations on social networks! I’ve answered a few Quora questions about keeping-up-to-date in the sector: * What are the most influential elearning blogs? * What are the …

Hi Tom
My name is Tabitha and I’m attending Walden University. I’m currently an elementary Physical Education teacher, so IDT is taking me into a whole new world. I’m in my second class for ID&T. I’m really enjoying your blog. You provide a great amount of information that I will refer to throughout this entire program. Your article is right on point. I have been learning about the brain and learning, information processing theory, and problem solving methods during the learning process this week. As you mentioned, a learner learns best when goals are clear, when you engage learners with meaningful content, and when you provide context and perspective to new material. Instructional Design is not just about putting information in front of a learner. Throughout my resources I had to read this week, I learned that most successful learners learn by audio and visual aids. Dr. Jeanne Ormrod also provided a perspective that people learn through emotional overtones as well. The video was a great example of pointing what an Instructional Designer should create to promote and encourage learning. A learner must have directions of what you want them to learn from the lesson. A learner must have clear goals and objectives so they can stay focused on the right things. A learner must feel engaged and take the important components with them and make it relevant in their learning. I hope I can implement these Instructional Design pointers one day. Again, I really enjoy your blog and keep up the good work!!!

Very useful information. And cleverly transferred to beginners like myself. Thank you.

May 13th, 2012

I missed the bear and only counted 12 passes not 13. A good example of a motivated learner needing guidance. I agree that without the directions given at the start of the video someone could spend hours studying what is going on. Many things could be learned but with good instructional design the desired outcome could happen.
I am a new instructional design and technology student. We have lots of resources each week. Thank you for presenting something rather complex, simply.

May 28th, 2012


For a beginner in instructional design, this blog was extremely helpful. I have some informal experience in creating learning material but I have decided this year to actually invest in my interests by enrolling in a graduate program in instructional design and technology. Upon reading this, I became more aware of my task as an instructional designer and the process of creating effective learning experiences. After reading through a few of the comments on the post, I have much to learn and must be a more deliberate practitioner of the design process. With the basic foundation of learning theory, I plan to better assess my learners’ needs and hopefully with a little help from your postings, I will improve upon the skill set that has placed me in the position I am within my organization today.

Great post!

@Phoebe: good luck on your school. Just take it one project at a time. With each project try to do something different so you can practice some new skills.

June 1st, 2012

Thanks for the great post! As an instructional designer, I have not seen a better way to convey what I do.

June 3rd, 2012

This video is a great demonstration of the “blind spot of the common sense attitude”, something magicians use extensively. Great demonstration of how easy it is for us, to miss something right in front of our eyes (yet in the blind spot of common sense), when we are too focused on another aspect of the phenomenon.

The Instructional Designer is responsible for taking all the information the client and the SME want to convey to audiences (trainees, students, employees) and delivering that information to the audience in a meaningful, contextual way that is accessible. The ID takes into account who the audience and applies the principles of adult learning theory or pedagogy so the material is received and is meaningful and useful for the audience.

This is a nice post! Thanks. However, the video does not work. Can you share an alternate way to run this video.

@Kuljit: the video is a youtube link. Here’s the source link:

[…] that is very relevant to the topic of my current graduate class, Learning Theories and Instruction: What Everybody Ought to Know About Instructional Design written by Kuhlmann (2008). In this article, Kuhlmann (2008) states that “the role of the […]

Hi Tom,

I’m especially interested in this blog post, because the way you use video to make your point is both simple and effective. As an instructional design and technology student, my ultimate goal is to learn how to use more than just my words to teach.

Sometimes I feel like I’m watching that video without my speakers on, so I can’t hear the narrator. With all the different reading I do for my class, it’s hard for me to figure out what I should be focusing on in my instructional design and technology class. My most reliable guide is always the questions in my assignments. Without guiding questions, I miss the moon walking bear.

So, when I don’t know what to focus on, I tend to socialize, which I realize is the point. 🙂 I’m glad I found this post. It has helped me understand my goal for this week, after all. Thanks!


[…] What Everybody Ought to Know About Instructional Design PowerPoint-Tastic! | Fast Track Tools by Ken Revenaugh Each week, the Fast Track Tools training company and the Cubicle Ninjas design firm work together to publish a template that makes it easier for you to communicate your ideas. The PowerPoint-Tastic series of templates are available for your use with no copyright limitations. Collect them all and you will have a slide library that really WOWs your audience. When you use our templates, we only ask that you spread the word and tell others about our services. Voici un petit article sur <b>le syllabaire </b> que je compte utiliser à la rentrée avec mes CP. Je remercie Stéphane qui m'en a donné l'idée. Si le principe du syllabaire est bien connu, j'ai accroché avec cette proposition de mise en page. Ce syllabaire est donc en <b>format A5 </b>, coupé au milieu dans le sens de la hauteur, de manière à pouvoir tourner les pages de gauche indépendamment de celles de droite. L'élève peut ainsi créer diverses combinaisons de manière à former un très grand nombre de syllabes. […]

[…] Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted on November 1, 2012, in Helpful Instructional Design sites. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment […]

I found your article very informative. As an Instructional Design grad student I’m looking for blogs and sites that will help me learn more about Instructional Design. I also get a lot of friends asking me what I’ll do when I get my degree. I’ll be able to pull up the video for them to watch then explain what you discussed about the video and how I would help focus the learner to what is important.


[…] If you want to know or just want something fun to read please go to Tom Kuhlman’s blog at  I think you will find it as informative and fun to read as I did. Share […]

November 15th, 2012

I chose this blog, What Everybody Ought to Know About Instructional Design, July 22nd, 2008 by Tom Kuhlmann to comment about because as an Instructional Designer, you have to be specific and you want to get the results you want fast and quick. I you do not give specific instruction for a task, the students will get nowhere and you, the instructor, will not get the answer your looking for. If there is no direction or specific instruction, things can get out of hand and frustrating on both sides. Instructional designers determine the need for the student outcome and then from there create the best way to get the end result. This blog is very informative and has lots of information I will be using and referencing throughout my journey. Thank you.

[…] I was conducting research on instructional design and I came across this website which explores the value of instructional design through a pretty clever YouTube video. […]

[…] with Pinterest and learning about Delicious. I also discovered some neat blogs in my research like Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted in […]

Tom. Iam a graduate student.I completed an online teacher certification last quarter. i have found that instructional design is an access to the profession. You have provided some thoughtful information and guidance.

@Brenda: thanks for the kind words re: the blog. Glad that you find it helpful. Good luck with your ongoing studies. 🙂

March 20th, 2013

Tom, is instructional design and content developing are same?

@Titus: I think the terms are synonymous in some ways depending on your role in the organization.

I am a student and are busy with a project on Instructional Design. I need to find some information about the different role players in ID, as well as the responsibilities of everyone included in the process. Can you help with some idea’s on where I can find such information?

@Jojo: I’d jump into the community and ask for some feedback. You’ll get lots of answers.

May 30th, 2013

This is definitely “Can’t see the forest for the trees” kind of situation. I am very green at teaching, and have to realize very quickly how important designing our instruction to meet specific needs can be. I am constantly amazed at the human brain and how easily it is to be manipulated. Thus teaching is a powerful tool if designed correctly.

You have some seriously important info written here. Wonderful job and maintain posting terrific stuff.

I agree with you Doris. Students want to know what they are learning or supposed to be learning when taking a course. The objectives provide clear expectations for the students. The problem or dilemma is how much information do you put in your objectives as an instructional designer. You want to put an adequate amount to where all the information is provided, however, if you put too much in the objectives, it may be overwhelming to the students and they won’t be able to focus on the appropriate material. The video makes a great example of this because if you told students to just watch this video, 20 different students are going to see 20 different things, such as how many basketballs, how many people on each team, etc. This will waste a lot of time and you won’t get what you’re looking for. However, if you state one clear objective, say “What does the bear do in the middle?” I would like to think that all 20 of those students would answer ‘dance’. Clear objectives work well for both teachers and students but they have to be simplified. Does anyone have any suggestions how to reduce an abundant amount of information into simplified objectives?

Too much information can confuse learners, so pare it down.

1. Define one or two changes in behavior that will occur as the result of the course. These are your objectives.

2. Remove all information that does not contribute to the desired objective(s).

3. If that information is vital, put it in its own course, with objectives that define the changes in behavior that will occur.

Eliminating extraneous “stuff” sharpens focus.