We continue to use early instructional design models to guide instructional design today. The new models build on the ones that came before. The programmed instruction movement in the mid-1950s through the mid-1960s was instrumental in developing the systems approach to education. The movement is based on developments in education and training that occurred as far back as the 1940s. By the mid-1960s, many of the current instructional design concepts were linked to create systematically designed instructional materials. Skinner and others used an empirical approach to develop programmed instruction using trial and revision of the materials (Lumsdaine & Glaser, 1960). Data was collected on the materials' effectiveness, identifying instructional weaknesses, and the materials were revised as needed. Today, we call this formative evaluation. Identifying the specific objectives students using the materials are expected to attain is the first step. Preparing objectives that include a description of desired behaviors, the conditions under which the behaviors are to be performed, and the criteria to judge the behaviors are still supported today in the instructional design process (Reiser & Dempsey, 2018). The focus on instructional design grew exponentially in the 1970s resulting in a large increase in the number of instructional design models based on previous models. Revised and updated versions of some of these systems-based models are still taught and used today in higher education.
There have been considerable changes to how we teach and learn since I graduated from college in 1985. I used an electric typewriter with memory to type my papers and make revisions and updates. I used a computer for the first time as a word processor through my employer in the late 1980s. Fast-forward to the present day, where personal electronic devices are used in every aspect of higher education. I am an administrator and adjunct professor in higher education. The classes I teach have always been virtual, so using a computer and electronic instructional materials is an integral part of teaching. Having experience with virtual learning platforms has helped me navigate the virtual world we are in today due to the pandemic.
As an administrator, I see how other professors struggle to migrate their in-person instruction to a virtual platform. Our students made the switch to virtual education pretty quickly. The struggles they have encountered are with professors who cannot navigate the virtual platforms to engage students in ways beyond lecturing through a computer screen. One of our professors with over 25 years of tenure preferred to use an overhead projector in his classroom and had no idea how to transfer his instructional material to accommodate virtual learning. Just as there was resistance from teachers to early new mediums of instructional practice, there was significant resistance to moving to virtual instruction in late 2020. As a result, I worked with the Office of Technology Services and Library Services to offer our faculty training and support. We started this training before our university moved to virtual learning to provide the training modules in-person. This was essential to ensuring educational instruction was seamless and remained robust in a virtual setting. We continue to offer training and support virtually to our faculty. Our campus provides the Adobe Creative Cloud free to all faculty, staff, and students. Students have always taken advantage of this opportunity, and we are finally getting professors beyond video production faculty to use the software to enhance their teaching and instruction. Unfortunately, some faculty are resistant to the necessary changes for virtual learning and are opting to take a semester off from teaching or retire. This is a trend that I think will be seen across higher education.
Instructional design began with the need for training materials during World War II. Psychologists and educators with experience in experimental research conducted research and developed training materials for the military. These materials were developed based on their research and theory on instruction, learning, and human behavior. Assessment and evaluation were used to determine who would be good candidates for specific programs to increase their success rate (Reiser et al., 2018). My father was an officer in the United States Marine Corps and would tell me stories of the testing he went through in Officer Candidate School. His goal was to become a fighter pilot, but the test results showed he would make a better commanding officer in combat. He ended up serving in the Korean War and lead his company in the Battle of Okinawa. This same design was used to address instructional education problems after the war. The Cold War and the space race caused a significant increase in funding for math and science education. I remember an influx of new math and science programs at my elementary school in the late 1960s. One of my classmates' fathers worked at NASA and spoke to my 5th-grade class about a new type of exercise developed for astronauts called aerobic conditioning. At the time, I had no idea this would become a fitness trend in the 1980s.
The human performance improvement movement in the 1990s has had a significant impact on instructional design. My university uses a performance review system that includes goal setting, self-assessment, and evaluation by the supervisor to address performance issues. The focus on real-world learning also increased in the 1990s. Applying what students were learning to real-world problems is still a priority today. Computers and other personal electronic devices have had a more significant impact on instructional design than any other medium. Students can learn virtually from anywhere in the world and interact with the instructor and peers via email, chat rooms, and social media. Information can be created and shared in a variety of formats. Some higher learning institutions were ahead of the curve with virtual learning and have not been affected much by the pandemic. My institution is moving forward on how to maintain a virtual learning presence and in-person learning when we are allowed to re-open our campus. I think there will be another increase in instruction design methods based on virtual learning.
Lumsdaine, A.A., & Glaser, R. (Eds.). (1960). Teaching machines and programmed learning: A
source book. Washington, DC: National Education Association.
Reiser, R.A. & Dempsey, J.V. (2018). Trends and issues in instructional design and technology
(4th ed.). Pearson.
I am a higher education administrator with over 15 years of experience in communications and operations. The views in my blog are my own.