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7 Principles of Rapid Instructional Design

Created in the military during World War II, the Instructional Systems Design (ISD) model, otherwise known as ADDIE, has dominated curriculum design for the last 40 years. It is still taught in universities and by most train-the-trainer firms.

However, according to Dave Meier, in The Accelerated Learning Handbook, the ISD model is “too slow, cumbersome, stiff, linear, and emotionally dull…to get the job done today.” Meier says its weakness reflects a male-dominated point of view and a behavioristic approach to learning. Its origin in the military explains why it is overly linear, analytical, verbal, left-brained, academic, top-down, and prescriptive.

Here are reasons he believes it should be scrapped:

  • It is too time-consuming
  • It is overly cognitive, verbal, and rationalistic
  • It is top-down and controlling
  • It treats learners as consumers, not creators
  • It is often materials- and presentation-based rather than activity-based.

According to Meier, there needs to be a new approach to instructional design that replaces the outdated ISD. The approach should proceed from a new understanding of the learning process, be in tune with today’s rapid-fire environment, and provide better learning and performance for all types of learners. His solution is the Accelerated Learning Rapid Instructional Design model.

What Is Accelerated Learning Rapid Instructional Design?

The Accelerated Learning Rapid Instructional Design (RID) model is based on the concept that people learn more from experience with feedback than from training materials and presentations. The model replaces traditional media-heavy courses with activity-based courses that put the learners in charge of their own learning and enable them to learn with and from each other.

Designing learner-centered activities means thinking about what “people actually have to do and be” on the job to be successful. The training program should move the learners through a series of experiences from simple to complex, with each experience followed by feedback, reflection, and retrial, as appropriate. The activities allow learners to work with each other in real world settings.

7 Principles of Rapid Instructional Design

Here are seven princicples of RID you can use to accelerate the design process and develop more effective learning programs.

1. Design using the Four-Phase Learning Cycle

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The RID model is built on the four phases of the human learning process:

Preparation (arousing interest)
Presentation (encountering the new knowledge or skills)
Practice (integrating the new knowledge or skills)
Performance (applying the new knowledge or skills)

All phases must be present and in balance for learning to occur. Although 80% of instructional designs focus on presentation, this phase only contributes 20% of the actual learning.

2. Appeal to All Learning Styles

Make certain that the learning design appeals to all learning styles and sensory modes. Basing the design on the SAVI  (Somatic, Auditory, Visual, and Intellectual) model will improve everyone's learning:

Somatic: Learning by moving and doing
Auditory: Learning by talking and hearing
Visual: Learning by observing and picturing
Intellectual: Learning by problem solving and reflecting

Varying combinations of these four elements may be used. However, using all four enhances learning by addressing all learning styles.

3. Make Your Designs Activity Based

When designing a training program, don’t start with the materials and presentations you need to create. Instead, determine the new activities the learners will need to engage in to be able to quickly pick up the new knowledge and skill. Learners gain far more from active experiences than they ever learn from presentations and materials, no matter how technologically sophisticated.

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4. Create a Learning Community

Rather than designing training programs for isolated individuals, create your programs for communities of learners. The more the interconnectivity there is, the more intelligence. Linking is the essence of intelligence, whether between neurons in the brain or learners in a learning community.

There is extensive research indicating that peer teaching is superior to any other form of instruction. Create learning designs that let everyone in the community be a learner and teacher at the same time. When people take responsibility for each other’s learning success, everyone benefits.

5. Alternate Between Physically Active and Passive Learning Activities

Studies have shown that getting up, moving, and doing something physical improves circulation to the brain. And when brain circulation improves, so does learning. Designs are best when they do not keep people either physically passive or physically active for long stretches of time but alternate between the two.

Physical learning activities: standing and talking, manipulating physical objects, acting out processes, creating models or pictograms, putting on demonstrations, or engaging in a hands-on activity.
Physically passive learning activity: observing, thinking, reflecting, building mental models, listening to presentations, or interacting with computers.

The constant back and forth rhythm between the physically active and the physically passive modes tends to sustain people’s energy and improve their learning.

6. Follow the 30/70 Rule

Accelerated Learning design tends to treat learners as creators of their own knowledge, meaning, and skill. Make sure you design so that 30% or less is devoted to instructor or media presentations; and 70% or more, to learner practice and integration activities.

Learning is not a spectator sport; it is a highly participative one. A good design gets the ball in the learner’s court as often and for as long as possible.

7. Create a Flexible, Open-ended Design

Learning programs designed with the traditional ISD model can be rigid, prescriptive, and set in stone. Packaged eLearning programs are often designed to be replicated over and over again. Because of this inflexibility, it is difficult to modify them.

Accelerated Learning design is a better fit for this ever-changing world. In today’s world, nothing stays the same for very long. Accelerated Learning programs are open-ended and responsive to change. With accelerated design, you can create flexible learning programs that are always works in progress and that are intended to continually evolve and improve.

Rapid Instructional Design reduces the development time, resulting in reduced training time, a higher level of learner involvement, and better learning. The guiding principal for Meier is, “Never do for learners what they can do for themselves and for each other.” RID works because it doesn’t try to do everything for the learner or totally control the learning process. It makes learners responsible for their own learning.

Performance Improvement Roadmap