Pages in the Analysis Phase:

Related Resources

Learning Environment Design Framework
Instructional Design Toolkit

ISD Concept Map
ISD Concept Map

Selecting Media for Instructional Design

Selecting the Setting in Instructional Design

This step of the Analysis Phase selects the primary instructional setting for the learning platform. A few examples of instructional settings include performance aids, classrooms, or elearning.

Learning methods, strategies, and activities that help the learners gain new skills are normally selected first. This is because each media (instructional setting) has limitations on what type of content and context it can carry. For example, 1) print, such as a book or paper cannot carry video or audio; 2) it is often difficult in classroom environments to provide self-paced learning. Thus, the best media are normally chosen based on their ability to deliver the methods and activities effectively and efficiently (Clark, 2001).

However, most organizations place some limits on the choice of delivering methods. For example, 9/11 placed severe limitations on travel to classrooms in many corporations as they did not want their employees flying to distant classrooms. Budgeting is another factor. For example, when economies, take a downward spiral, such as in did in 1998, organizations look for the cheapest methods to deliver training.

Thus, the instructional setting or major media are often selected at this point so that the design and development of the learning platform can be planned for accordingly.

The instructional setting chosen in this step will normally have several minor media within it that can be selected on the their ability to carry the smaller chunks of learning activities or methods—think Blended Learning. These various blends of media are normally selected during the Development Phase, in the step, Choose Delivery System, after the various learning methods and activities are selected. This activity is only concerned with the primary medium or delivery solution.

One of the misconceptions of ISD is that it was created to only build classroom training environments.Yet, at least since 1984 (U.S. Army Field Artillery School), learning platforms built with ISD has several options. This picture of the 1984 manual shows the options:

Delivery Methods for ISD or ADDIE


The five options are listed below with a few notes about them:

  1. Job Performance Aid (JPA) - this would include today's EPSS (Electronic Performance Support System)

  2. Self-Teaching Exportable Package - the elearning we know today would fall under this category

  3. Formal On-the-Job-Training (OJT)

  4. Installation Support School (on or near the employees' workplace) - this is formal classroom training even though the training may be conducted outside in the field

  5. Resident Instruction (away from employees' workplace where travel and living expense have to be considered) - this is also formal classroom training.

Just as training designed for the classroom follows the ISD method, other options also need to follow the five phases of ISD to ensure they do what the are supposed to do. For example, even a simple JPA requires:

Guidelines for selecting the correct instructional setting include:

When selecting tasks to be trained, consider the following factors:

If you have successfully trained similar tasks in the past, then you probably have a pretty good idea of the required delivery system. If not, then there are several other options to consider when selecting the delivery system:

One of the fallacies that many trainers fall into is to build every training program the same way. For example, at one company I worked with, their favorite training model was to create a learning guide and then have the learners take turns reading the guides in a lockstep training session. While a friend of mine reported that her organization would not consider doing a training program unless they could turn it into a full scale multimedia elearning production. Designers often fall into these training traps—they have a one or two successes with a certain medium, so they do not consider other options in the future.

Although most learning objectives, concepts, and methods can be taught using almost any media, most have an ideal or best medium in a given learning situation. To help with the major media selection process, it often helps to run it through a flowchart:

delivery (instructional setting) selection flowchart
Click image to open in a larger window

The above Training Media Selection Flowchart is a tool to aid you in selecting the best medium for a training program. The flowchart should not be thought of as the final word in media selection, but rather a guide that shows the various options for communicating and transferring your learning objectives to others. It does not attempt to take it through every avenue of approach, as that would lead to a highly convoluted chart; but rather its goal is to lead you through the major media directions and choices in order to give you a few ideas.

When selecting training media, you have to consider your learners' needs, resources, experience, and training goals. Also, do not take a complete training program through the chart, but rather each module of your training program. The goal of a good training effort is to build a viable and efficient program, which normally means a blended learning solution. That is, it should provide the best learning environment at the lowest possible cost. Selecting the best medium for each module and incorporating it into your course allows you to build a Best-Of-Class (blended) program.

The guidelines for selecting the instructional setting are simple—you want the learners to master the new or existing technology in a professional, effective, and efficient manner.

Next Steps

Go to the next section: Estimating Training Time and Costs

Return to the Table of Contents

For a comprehensive list of media, go to the Media Dictionary

Analysis Templates (contains several analysis templates)


Clark, Richard (2001). Learning from Media: Arguments, Analysis, and Evidence. Greenwich, Connecticut: Information Age Publishing.

U.S. Army Field Artillery School (1984). A System Approach To Training. ST - 5K061FD92. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.