Building a Certification Program, Step 8: Instructional design (Part 2)
Posted on
April 2, 2019

NOTE: This is an ongoing series. To view all articles in the series, click here.

As our journey to a functioning certification program continues, it's time to discuss five key questions that pertain to instructional design.

Having now shared with you a proven method for preparing a learning /assessment blueprint, which provided you with a solid foundation for a certification program, our next step will be to assimilate all the data from our earlier analyses along with the task analysis and blueprint. Based on those early analyses, we can begin designing and developing a learning intervention and assessment that follows our blueprint and that leads to certification. All of that led us to instructional design, also known as instructional systems design.

Those who are called instructional designers (IDs) or instructional system designers (ISDs) are the professionals who can make a certification program successful. Most of what we have discussed in the previous installments of this series falls under the purview of the ISD, including the occupational analysis, the task analysis, and (most importantly) the blueprinting process.

Understanding the importance of this role helps us to leverage these valuable resources to their fullest. For part one of this installment, what I did was provide an overview of each model used by ISDs to design and develop curriculum and offer some prescriptive guidance on where certification seems to apply. To conclude, I offered you a Level 1 Process/model that I have used for curriculum design and development in the certification programs I have managed.

What I did not do is address some of the fundamental questions that ISDs face daily. In this installment we examine five key questions that are involved in the instructional design processes. Questions such as:

Q1: Which curriculum model will be right for this training project?

Q2: What are the differences between a linear process, an iterative process, an incremental process, a waterfall process and an agile process?

Q3: Will the training be in-person, distance learning, eLearning, virtual ILT, or some blended mix?

Q4: What software is required for the development?

Q5: Will we need to train-the trainers?

Q1: Which curriculum model will be right for this training project?

A1: No matter which model you choose to leverage, or your organization has selected each of these educational models, as I tried to point out in the previous installment, has proponents and opponents based on need and preference. For example, if you prefer a simple process and you need an instructional process to teach other's how to create an instructional experience from scratch you might want to revisit the ADDIE model since it only has 5 defined steps and historically it has been used to create instructional content in a straight-forward fashion. Now, if you prefer SCID, or Smith and Ragans either of these models will work as well as long as you understand that neither of these models are by nature as simple as ADDIE, though they work well for those who prefer a step-by-step process.

Q2: What are the differences between a linear process, an iterative process, an incremental process, a waterfall process and an agile process?                                          

As our journey to a functioning certification program continues, it's time to discuss five key questions that pertain to instructional design.

A2: Agile is both incremental and iterative. It is iterative in that ISDs plan for the work of one iteration to be improved upon in subsequent iterations. In traditional, full waterfall development, a team does all of the analysis for the entire project first. This is an iterative waterfall process, not an agile process. Ideally, in an agile process, all types of work would finish at exactly the same time.

The incremental model is a method of instructional development where a course is designed, implemented and tested incrementally (a little more is added each time) until the course is finished. It involves both development and maintenance. The course is defined as finished when it satisfies all of its requirements.

An incremental process is one in which courseware is built and delivered in pieces. Each piece, or increment, represents a complete subset of instruction. The increment may be either small or large, perhaps ranging from just a system's login screen on the small end, to a highly flexible set of performance-based instruction. Each increment is fully coded and tested, and the common expectation is that the work of an iteration will not need to be revisited.

An incremental cabinet maker would pick one part of his work and focus entirely on it until it's finished. He may select small increments (first the face-frames, then the doors, then the finishes, and so on) or large increments (top cabinets, bottom cabinets, countertops etc). However, regardless of the increment size, the incremental cabinet maker would attempt to finish the work of that increment as completely as possible.

An incremental model recognizes the level of uncertainty in a situation and rather than attempting to develop detailed requirements for a project it uses an incremental approach to further define and extrapolate the requirements as the project is in progress based on customer feedback at the end of each increment. An incremental approach is more effective when there is a level of uncertainty associated with the solution and/or creativity and innovation in developing the solution is more important than predictability, planning, and control.

The iterative model is a design methodology based on a cyclic process of prototyping, testing, analyzing, and refining a course. Based on the results of testing the most recent iteration of a design, changes and refinements are made. This process is intended to ultimately improve the quality and functionality of a course. In iterative design, interaction with the designed system is used as a form of research for informing and evolving a project, as successive versions, or iterations of a design are implemented.

To better illustrate the differences between iterative and incremental, let's consider building a CDL eLearning course iteratively but not incrementally. To do this, the team would build a little of every part of the site�rules and standards, searching, ads, etc. The team would then revisit all parts, improving each.

The team would then revisit all parts again, making further improvements. In this purely iterative way, the entire site is getting a little better.

Next, consider developing the same site with a purely incremental, but not iterative process. If a CDL eLearning course were built incrementally, the team would build and perfect rules and standards module before starting on any other part of the site. They would then build and perfect a second module, say shifting patterns, before moving onto the third area. Each functional area would be made perfect before the next area was started.

The linear or waterfall model starts with detailed set of requirements for the project, it assumes that those requirements are correct, and attempts to deliver all of those requirements in a single overall project.

In an iterative waterfall model ISDs will have a feedback path to the preceding phases. If any issue or error is identified the feedback path will convey this information to the phase that needs a rework. Waterfall, done well, is incremental. The incremental approach changes in significant ways when we shrink the increments below a certain size, and then we have something like Agile.

While U.S. Armed Forces instructional designers have been using ADDIE or ISD as a dynamic concept since the mid-80s, it seems as if many of their civilian counterparts are still stuck on the notion that it is linear in nature. Many have tried to demonstrate that ADDIE is not a mechanical, algorithmic, step-by-step procedure, but rather a exploratory problem solving technique that uses evaluation and feedback, which in turn, makes it quite iterative (van Merriënboer, 1997).

Q3: Will the training be in-person, distance learning, eLearning, virtual ILT, or some blended mix?

A3: This question is primarily about the delivery of instruction and concerns both the students and the trainer. In-person also known as face-to-face training or instructor led training (ILT) will often dictate the format the instructional content will be developed in. For the most part when an ISD is creating an ILT course one of the add-ons that must be developed is either an instructor guide or a separate set of instructor notes.

The same is often also a development requirement for a course that will be delivered in real-time by a live instructor but is delivered over the wire. In other words, students will log into a site to engage their instructor. Because of the many possible distractions Virtual instructor led training (VILT) can be an issue for instructors and students. Consequently, these courses must be developed with minimizing distractions as a key requirement.

Distance learning is designed for remote students. This can be education that is done in real time or not. Often times students and teacher never meet face-to-face in a distance learning course. In these courses students complete an assignment and post their work to an learning management system (LMS) and interact with other students through posting chats on a message board. For distance learning courses, the ISD has to take into consideration how students will interact with their teacher and other students.

eLearning courses are self-contained courses that contain everything that a student needs to be able to master a concept. These often will contain excellent video and audio to keep the student engaged as well as embedded assessments. This is without a doubt the best way to keep a diverse, remote staff up to date on the latest updates for policy and products. For eLearning courses the ISD must be a good audio and video editor as well as a design professional who can engage students through assessments.

Q4: What software is required for the development?

A4: The delivery method you are planning, determines the software you will need to turn out a quality course. For example, if you are working on a team of ISDs who are charged with building out an ILT course then you might well want to use something that integrates well with a content management system (CMS) like Adobe FrameMaker (2019). A CMS like FrameMaker will offer a team of ISDs the capability to share documents and libraries of resources across business units in real time while maintaining data privacy and security.

Also, for ILT courses an ISD must be an expert using Adobe Acrobat and the latest version of Microsoft Office, e.g. Office 365. For graphics designers you must be an expert in a graphics program such as Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Paint.

For distance learning and eLearning courses, you must be an expert with at least two of the following: Adobe Captivate, TechSmith's Camtasia, and SnagIt; the latest versions of Articulate Storyline, Trivantis' Lectora, and Adobe's eLearning Suite. In addition, you must know how to develop and present dynamic Microsoft PowerPoint decks.

For video editing and audio editing Camtasia is my tool of choice. But having said that I must confess that I also use some third-party tools such as RecordPad and WavePad. For the courses I work on I prefer the following microphones: the Blue SnowBall and the Blue Yeti. The reason for my preference is that these microphones are reasonable in price and both can be used to record a conference room of narrators or a single narrator. Both microphones are USB based microphones while providing outstanding sound quality.

One other piece of software is critical if you are assessing a students' understanding and competence, especially if you have an LMS that your interfacing with. This software is an Assessment or a test development program. The program I have used for eLearning and ILT courses is Perception Questionmark. It has all the necessary features to assess students cognitively and in terms of performance-based.

Questionmark has the capability to exist on a server locally or in the cloud using their On-Demand option. It is a stable platform that is good for high stakes or low stakes exams. For an organization that is considering launching a certification program I would encourage you to give Questionmark a try-out. More to come on Questionmark in the next installment.

Q5: Will we need to train-the trainers?

As our journey to a functioning certification program continues, it's time to discuss five key questions that pertain to instructional design.

A5: Initially it has been my position that all trainers need to be trained so that a consistent organization message is communicated. If a trainer is new to the organization and does not bring an established credential with him/her then by all means the organization should provide performance-based training to ensure competence with the content and to validate that their presentation skills are what is expected. This is especially important for your ILT and most importantly your VILT courses.

What I have advocated in the past is to offer training that was in line with CompTIA's CTT+ credential. This can be a prepackaged course that covers all domains, or a homegrown course that covers those domains that are important to your organization.


These are only some of the questions decided during this step. Could some of these questions be discussed and decided earlier than step 7? Absolutely.

What I am sharing here is portrayed like a linear process. That is because my assumption is that most who are just looking to discover what it takes to lead a certification program will be using the Addie Curriculum Development Framework, which is the simplest to understand and manage because for many non-military ISDs it is a linear process.

But to be quite candid, the way I manage the nine steps of the certification program framework/ plan is far from linear. A lot of the order comes from the management and leadership questions during each certification effort. All of that is to say that the next step to be considered is the development and delivery of the certification assessments, tests, or exams.


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About the Author

Warren E. Wyrostek is a Solutions Oriented Educator and Leader, a Certified Trainer and Facilitator, an Experienced DACUM Enthusiast, and an innovative Certification and Assessment expert in demand. Warren holds a Doctorate in Education in Curriculum and Instruction. Currently Warren is an Adjunct at Valdosta State University and the owner of 3WsConsulting - Providing Efficient And Effective Top To Bottom Solutions To Learning Issues. Warren can be reached at

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