Friday, December 16, 2011

Three Angles of Approach for Instructional Design Reviews

In a world where most e-learning development is rapid e-learning development, one of the design process elements that could be easily overlooked is the design review. Instructional Designers and Course Developers who are challenged with getting new modules out the door as quickly as possible to meet a business need may be tempted to skip design reviews as they try to crunch their project timelines down by a few days. But this is a risky proposition. Experience shows that the chances the developer got everything right the first time are slim to none. Skipping design reviews might seem like a great way to save time, but pushing modules out without them may diminish learning and create rework.

Design reviews don’t have to cause project delays if they are planned properly. Anyone who is working to develop a course against a tight deadline will have a pretty good handle on what is going to be done by when. The key is to use this information to schedule design reviews as early on as possible. This will lock in the reviewers and also create additional incentives to keep the project on track. Don’t worry about unforeseen circumstances that might jeopardize readiness by the review date. Put a stake in the ground! The worst that could happen is that the review meetings will need to be postponed and rescheduled.

The bigger issue is: who needs to be involved in the design reviews? Ideally, as few people as possible but reviewers have to be able to cover all the necessary angles. There are three key ones to consider:

Content – Subject matter experts should weigh in on whether or not the content covered in the module is accurate. Since most instructional designers will work with subject matter experts while developing a course, this should be the easiest reviewer to secure.

Learners - Even if the content is accurate, it may not necessarily be relevant. A learning partner who is familiar with the target audience can help by answering questions such as: Is there content missing that the audience might need? Is there content included that could be dropped? Is the module coming across in a way that is clear and motivating to the target audience? Getting questions like these answered during the review process will help pilot tests go more smoothly.

Learning – There is more to learning than just communicating content. The module has to be instructionally sound. A peer review by another instructional designer will ensure the objectives are being met and the learning activities lead to intended outcomes.

And of course, any additional set of eyes is helpful for catching errors, typos or technical glitches.


  1. Another key angle is to assess validity of the assessment methodologies designed for each of the learning objectives. Peer reviews would help in ensuring the right methodology (test, simulation, case study etc.) has been adopted to capture effectiveness in terms of transfer of learning in the classroom

  2. B Rajkamal,

    You bring up a key point about learning methodology. The items you listed would be covered in the peer review checking for what I referred to as being "instructionally sound."

    Thanks for your comment.