About Instructional Design

What Is Instructional Design?

Instructional Design is "the systematic and reflective process of translating principles of learning and instruction into plans for instructional materials, activities, information resources, and evaluation" (Smith & Ragan, 2005, p. 4). Instructional design combines the art of creating engaging learning experiences with the science of how the brain works. Instructional design puts the focus on how students approach the class and how they can learn in a better way. 

Why Use Instructional Design Strategies?

The fields of education, psychology, neuroscience, sociology, gender studies, race and ethnic studies, and more have produced a rich body of research about how humans learn and how to remove barriers to learning. For instance, we know that human minds learn better and more effectively by using practices such as retrieval, predicting, interleaving, practicing, and self-explaining. We know that human minds respond better to materials presented in a variety of media that activates a range of our senses. We know that human minds can tolerate a "cognitive load" before it can no longer absorb new information. We can use the lessons from the science of learning to design courses in ways that are built for learning.

COURSE Design Considerations

Instructional design helps instructors to identify course activities and assessments and create instructional materials that engage students in ways that promote learning. Learning is promoted when

  • learners are engaged in solving real-world problems
  • existing knowledge is activated as a foundation for new knowledge
  • new knowledge is demonstrated to learners
  • new knowledge is applied by learners, and
  • new knowledge is integrated into the learners' world.

To begin using instructional design, instructors will identify their course learning outcomes and goals, the prior knowledge and experiences that their learners likely bring to the course content, and the real-world relevance and applications of the knowledge and skills learners will develop in the course. 


Contact academicinnovation@uscupstate.edu or complete the Consultation Request Form to begin working with USC Upstate's Learning Experience Designers on your course.