Selecting the Instructional 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:
The five options are listed below with a few notes about them:
- Job Performance Aid (JPA) - this would include today's EPSS (Electronic Performance Support System)
- Self-Teaching Exportable Package - the elearning we know today would fall under this category
- Formal On-the-Job-Training (OJT)
- 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
- 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:
- Analyzing the various settings and media to determine if it is the most approximate method.
- Designing it so it performs as intended.
- Developing it into a real product.
- Delivering (implementing) it to the workers who need it.
- Evaluating it to ensure it does the job it was intended to do. This also shows the business units that you care about the solutions you deliver (if it ain't worth following up on then it probably ain't worth doing). In addition, you might learn something new! Note the evaluation may be complex or as simple as checking with a few managers and employees to ensure it is doing what it is supposed to do.
Guidelines for selecting the correct instructional setting include:
- Job Performance Aid
- close supervision not required
- task follows a set procedure
- JPA can be followed while performing the task
- do not use if:
- consequence of inadequate performance is high
- employee lacks prerequisite skill
- task requires high psychomotor skills
- Self-Teaching Exportable Package (such as elearning)
- close supervision not required
- task can be self-learned by individual or groups
- material required for training can be adequate packaged
- do not use if:
- task failure would result in injury or damage
- special facilities or equipment required
- Formal On-the-Job-Training
- close supervision is required
- task can be self-learned by individual or groups in the workplace
- task decay rate is very high
- do not use if:
- sufficient equipment is not available for learners to practice on
- workplace cannot absorb the learners adequately
- training would be disruptive to normal operations
- large group must be taught the same thing
- task difficulty requires a high state of training (task is difficult and requires time to acquire skills)
- learner interaction is required (such as team training)
- material required for training cannot economically be placed in the field
- essential the employee be able to perform upon job entry (high consequence if employees are inadequate performers)
- do not use if:
- task may be adequately trained elsewhere
When selecting tasks to be trained, consider the following factors:
- What will happen if we do not train this task?
- What will be the benefits if we do train this task?
- If we don't train it, how will the employees learn it?
- How will the learning platform help to achieve our goals?
- Is the training mandated by the Occupational Safety and Health Act?
- Is training needed to ensure their behavior does not compromise the company's legal position, i.e., Equal Employment Opportunity, labor relations laws, or state laws?
- Can people be hired that have already been trained?
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:
- Feedback: Simple, yet effective, and often overlooked with today's high technology! Sometimes your job is not to train the workers who cannot perform the task, but to train their supervisors or managers in effective coaching and supervision methods.
- Lockstep: This is normally viewed as the traditional (classroom) type of training. It is best used when you have learning activities that must be performed in groups or team training when the teams need to practice and perform as a single entity. Its main disadvantage is that people do not normally learn at the same pace.
- Self-Paced: This allows the learners to proceed at their own pace but it requires more development time and coordination during the implementation or delivery.
- Job: This includes Job Performance Aids (JPA) such as decals and manuals and On-the-Job training (OJT). JPA are normally the cheapest method to implement while OJT can provide high quality, cost effective training. The disadvantages are the interruptions that take place in the workplace with OJT, while JPA provide no supervision or coaching.
- Blended: A Best-Of-Class Model (hybrid or modular) includes a combination of various media that provides the learners with the best type of instruction—this should be the goal of any training program.
- Informal Learning: Can the learners master the needed knowledge and skills on their own?
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:
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 simpleyou want the learners to master the new or existing technology in a professional, effective, and efficient manner.
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.