EDUT 6209 – Instructional Design Models Comparison
Many definitions exist for instructional design and most have only the slightest nuances
of difference in them. The most detailed published definition of the facets of
instructional design was given by Carl Berger, Dean Emeritus of the School of
Education at the University of Michigan. He recognized that instructional design could
be looked at from multiple perspectives and defined it as a process, a discipline, a
science, and a reality. As a process, he defines it as the systematic development of
instructional specifications using learning and instructional theory to ensure the quality
of instruction, including analyzing learning needs/goals, developing the delivery system,
instructional materials, and evaluation of all activities. As a discipline, he sees that it is
a facet of knowledge focused on research and theory about the process for developing
and implementing strategies. As a science, he says instructional design is the science
of creating detailed specifications for the development, implementation, evaluation, and
maintenance of situations that facilitate the learning. And as a reality, he says that
instructional design can start at any point in the design process.
I believe that instructional design is the practice of presenting content to learners via
various media channels to help learners transfer knowledge effectively. In order to
achieve this, the instructional designer must examine the current state of the learner‟s
understanding, determine what the end result of the instruction has to be, and then
create media oriented tools to provide the vessel for the transition of the knowledge
needed by the learner. I found a quote from Aristotle on one of the many websites I
browsed for this assignment and I think it‟s a perfect mantra for instructional design –
“Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I will remember. Involve me and I will
Several items come to mind when questioning the usefulness of instructional design
models in today‟s society.
ID models provide the means for instructional designers to take a huge
issue and break it into smaller more manageable pieces.
They serve as a visual tool to give structure and meaning to help in the
management process of breaking down tasks from the issue.
ID models can speed up the planning process, help communication and
insure that no phase of instructional design will be forgotten.
It can be used to evaluate instruction currently in use by trying to match
the objectives of the instruction to the current content.
An ID model can also be a good tool for general planning. Basically,
before starting content plans keep the goals in mind.
When there are so many pressures on instructional designers to ensure that money is
well spent on their talents and expertise, design model usage helps to keep the
designer on track, as well as ensure that the information is truly meeting the needs of
the learner. They help both individuals and design teams work through the instruction
The models that I chose to explore all have their place in the business world, i.e.,
corporate training. Instructional design is crucial in the business realm for bringing new
employees up to speed, introducing new products and garnering employee support
quickly, and ensuring that different topics that are timely and have significant impact on
the business are presented in the most effective and efficient manner possible. Each of
these three models, Minimalist, Rapid Prototype, and ARCS, lend themselves to
success in the corporate world. Each focuses on meeting the needs of the learner in
the quickest, most efficient way possible. Subtle differences exist between them, but
each values what the learner brings to the table to push out the benefits of the
instruction in a timely way – and in the business world we all know that time equals
money, The less of each that is wasted is best for all.
The Minimalist approach assumes that a learner is in instruction because they have to
be in order to do their job – give them what they need, no more and no less – and send
them back to the job. Rapid prototyping gives the hands on employee the opportunity to
see the prototype and be ready to hit the ground running. Their feedback and input are
valued by the SME who is designing the instruction. The ARCS method focuses more
on the „feel good‟ side of corporate instruction as it focuses somewhat on Maslow‟s
hierarchical needs to help people feel their best. For some topics covered in the
corporate world, ARCS is highly appropriate.
Minimalist Model – John M. Carroll
Because my background is geared toward technology and learning in a business
environment, I find the most benefit for that role is in the Minimalist theory developed by
John M. Carroll. Carroll‟s minimalist instructional design model is very straightforward
in its basic concept that information use should drive the information presentation.
People look for information, read and listen to information, and even learn and
remember information mainly so that they can act. In a business setting, training exists
in order for people to take in the new information and then act on it relative to enhanced
It is an action design technique that:
orients information to facilitate user action;
anchors information in activity;
prevents, mitigates and leverages errors; and
develops user autonomy.
This supports the theory that all learning tasks should be meaningful and self-contained
activities, learners should be given realistic projects as quickly as possible, instruction
should permit self-directed reasoning and improvising by increasing the number of
active learning activities while minimizing passive tasks like manual reading, training
materials and activities should provide for error recognition and recovery, and there
should be a close linkage between the training and the actual system.
A key example is a training session Carroll developed for a word processor program.
He replaced a 94 page manual with a set of 25 cards. Each card corresponded to a
task and provided instruction not in a step by step way, but in a key concept way. It
also included error recognition and recovery information. The outcome was that
learners mastered the tasks in half the time by using a minimalist design approach.
Rapid Prototyping Model – Steven Tripp and Barbara Bichelmeyer
When time, budget, or environmental restraints are driving factors, designers may opt to
use Rapid Prototyping. In these scenarios, use of rapid prototyping can reduce
production time as working models of the final product early in a project tend to
eliminate revisions later. Steps are combined to reduce the time needed to develop
training and products - design and development are done concurrently rather than
sequentially and formative evaluation is done throughout the process.
Advantages of using rapid prototyping in instructional design are that:
it allows for better communication between the designer and users as
needs are clearly expressed from the beginning;
the user is able to offer immediate feedback which often results in a better
it‟s approach is more flexible and can catch problems early in the
users are involved in the development process therefore the system
produced is accurate for the designated users;and
it reduces development time and costs.
Traditionally, the rapid prototyping model is presented as a four level process intended
to create instruction for lessons as opposed to entire curricula. The traditional process
stages include performing a needs analysis, constructing a prototype, utilizing the
prototype to perform research and installing the final system. This model relies on
expert instructional designers to utilize educated guesses (their past experience and
intuition) to guide the design. A new version of the Rapid Prototype model involves a
spiral cycle that provides for continuous user evaluation and concept refinement, hence
the term „spiral‟.
Some believe rapid prototyping is not an effective model of instructional design because
it does not replicate the real thing. They think many important steps of instructional
design are omitted in the quest for faster, better, cheaper. However, Tripp and
Bichelmeyer argue that rapid prototyping is more in line with how people actually solve
Prototyping can be relevant to all kinds of training development projects, but its value is
most apparent in the design of computer-based systems. Rapid prototyping may be
done for a variety of reasons, including testing out a user interface; testing the database
structure and flow of information in a training system; testing the effectiveness of a
particular instructional strategy; developing a practice exercise to serve as a template
for others; giving clients a concrete model of the intended product; and getting user
feedback to competing approaches.
ARCS Model - John Keller
John Keller‟s ARCS Model of Motivational Design states that there are four key pieces
in the instructional design process - Attention, Relevance, Confidence, Satisfaction -
hence the acronym ARCS. A clear argument can be made that utilization of these four
key concepts is also a benefit in instructional design in a business setting.
The major problem faced by all instructors is how to get and keep the learners attention.
Keller puts forth that there are two ways to get someone‟s attention – use surprise to
gain perceptual arousal or stimulate the curiosity by posing challenging scenarios to
achieve inquiry arousal.
With regard to relevance, Keller proposes six strategies to help the learner see why
what they are learning should be important to them. These strategies involve telling the
learners how the new knowledge builds on their existing skills and thereby showing
value in their current experience, presenting to the students how this instruction will
benefit them right now, how it will benefit them in the future, how it meets their need to
achieve, it presents a model of what you want them to do, and gives them a choice to
use different methods to pursue their work or in how they organize it.
Key to Keller‟s confidence segment is that the instructor must allow the learner to
succeed in order to raise their confidence but it must be meaningful success. The
provide clear learning objectives and prerequisites for success;
provide increasing levels of difficulty while ensuring that learners remain
motivated by allowing them to achieve small successes throughout the
set realistic expectations that learners will take away skill that correlates
directly to the effort they put into the instruction;
allow the learners to feel in control over their learning and assessment
because their success is a direct result of the amount of effort they put
provide opportunities for learners to practice new knowledge and skills in a
controlled environment before placing them in more.
The last piece of the ARCS model is satisfaction. If learners feel good about learning
results, they will be motivated to learn. Keller provides three major strategies for
designers to ensure learner satisfaction. The first strategy is to provide the learner with
realistic situations that require successful usage of the newly-learned skill. Second,
provide adequate and appropriate rewards and feedback to encourage the learner to
continue the new skill/behavior. And third, design feedback that is consistent and fair
and make expectations clear so as not to disappoint or discourage learners.