The instructional design process in 11 simple steps


Explore an instructional design process step by step

The field of instructional design has grown a lot in recent years, and many people have decided to move from education to instructional design. There are some similarities between the roles, but not much, and that is why before the transition it is important to:

  1. Read some recommended books (examples of some of the most important ones: Design the way people learn, Map it, Accidental Instructional Designetc.)
  2. Install free trial tools to create short eLearning courses and video montages to practice at least the basics of Articulate Storyline, Rise 360, Adobe Captivate, Adobe Premiere Pro, Camtasia, Filmora, and Canva.
  3. Understand the main identification methodologies: ADDIES, SAM, Gagné’s nine instruction events and Bloom’s taxonomy.
  4. Take an ID certificate exam or a master’s degree (time permitting).

That being said, if you have made the decision to move to an ID role, or if you have started the ID role even if you have not moved from another field, it is important to be aware of the standard process of instructional design to always do the right thing. Maybe sometimes the instructional design process can be difficult to put into practice due to business constraints, time and SME availability, but, if it is possible, you will definitely have a clear path.

A detailed overview of the instructional design process

Let’s get started!

1. Meet subject matter experts

Start with a kick-off meeting with SMEs to understand the needs of the course. Also, be sure to prepare your questions. These questions will help you ensure that you cover all of your topic needs and resources for your course.

2. Resources

Request all the resources necessary for your training from the kick-off meeting or in a follow-up email sent to your SMEs.

3. Create an outline

Review the resources and create the plan based on the course requirements (remember to make adjustments and proposal ideas for your course content). I suggest the following topics, headings and subheadings for the plan:

  • Course Name
  • The purpose of the document
  • Estimated course duration
  • Resources

The content part must include: course name, module names, section names, resources and comments.

4. Review

Make your first assessment call or send the first assessment email to your SME, based on a “Content Assessment Guide” which should include:

  • Precision
    Content accuracy/structure, grammar/style, objectives and typos.
  • Design
    Practices/assessments, fonts, broken links, WWL accessibility and compliance.
  • Media and models
    Visuals, navigation, screenshots, images, authoring tool templates, and other templates.

5. Implement feedback

Implement the feedback received into your plan from your SMEs and make sure you are clear on what needs to be changed and added so you can start with a clear outline of what needs to be in the course.

6. Design the course content document

Once the content of the plan is agreed and approved, you can begin collaborating with the technical writers on the design of the first course content document. This document allows you to have the course written in order to use it as a resource for your eLearning course.

7. Collaboration between SMEs and technical writers

Make sure your experts also work with the technical writers to review the course design document to have a final version of the course story before you start with the authoring tool.

8. Author course content

If the course design document is finally approved, it is now time to work on the course design with the authoring tool. Here, there are a few important things to consider:

  • Use colors based on your branding.
  • Avoid too much text.
  • Combine text and visuals.
  • Use videos in your presentation.
  • Use animations for your slides.
  • Create a story from your presentation.

9. Target audience

During the course design process, always start by thinking about your audience and use the welcome portion to include the introduction, course objectives, estimated duration, and feedback. Add the course sections/modules, activities within the modules and the final assessment. At the end, make sure to incorporate the closing/summary part with the congratulations part, key takeaways, and what’s next.


Don’t forget to send your course for feedback to your SMEs and peers as well. Usually, experts will review the content for accuracy and your peers (other instructional designers) will review the design, materials, and templates.

11. Publish

Once you have the final feedback and have implemented it, you can now send it to be published in the LMS. Or depending on the case, you can publish it yourself in the LMS.

Small note!
There may be tools to create the course directly in the LMS. This means that once final approval is made, all you need to do is set your course as open to your audience.


For me, it has always been important to have a standardized process for doing my work because it makes my activities easier, more structured and with better visibility of my goals and what I need to do. I hope this article can help you too, with this proposed structure and an overview of how an instructional designer should ideally work.


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