HPSI clients

Karen L. Medsker, Ph.D.

What is ISD?

by Karen L. Medsker, Ph.D.

Instructional Systems Design:
ISD Models

The process of designing and developing training can be viewed as a system, enabling us to identify different functions in that process and how they interact with each other. Many such models have been developed, and they are often called Instructional Systems Design (ISD), Instructional Systems Development (ISD), or Instructional Systems Design and Development (ISDD). (While design and development are separable activities, the overall process that includes both activities has been variously named.) Andrews and Goodson (1980) reviewed over 60 such models. Many large organizations, including the U.S. military services and large corporations, have developed their own ISD models, tailored to their particular requirements. To date, no other approach has been shown to be more effective than ISD.

A Simplified ISD Model

A generic and simplified ISD model is sometimes known as ADDIE (analyze, design, develop, implement, and evaluate). At HPSI, we use the ADDIE model, adapting it, as needed, to our clients' specific project requirements.

In the analysis phase, we analyze the performance requirements of the job or task and the needs and characteristics of the learners. We specify the performance gap (difference between actual performance and mastery performance), so that all necessary but no excess content can be selected. In addition, we identify solutions other than training, such as job aids, performance support systems, personnel selection, and motivational strategies.

During the design phase, we break down tasks into skill and knowledge components, identifying all necessary learning components to ensure complete instruction; and, to ensure lean instruction, we exclude extraneous components. We develop specific instructional objectives and test items to measure learner achievement of the objectives. Instructional strategies are designed and media choices are made for each objective, according to research-based principles, such as the events of instruction and conditions of learning discussed in The Conditions of Learning: Training Applications (Harcourt Brace, 1996).

In the development phase, we develop materials to match the specifications derived during the design phase. Depending upon the media and delivery systems selected, we produce courseware for live classroom training and for computer-based and Web-based instruction.

We strongly believe in the power of formative evaluation, in which we pilot test draft instructional materials with representative members of the learner population. Formative evaluation yields data to inform revision decisions, to improve the instruction. Summative evaluation assesses the overall value of the training or compares new training with alternatives.

The ISD process is iterative, rather than linear. All activities are goal-driven, and all phases of the process feed information to the other phases.

ISD "ADDIE" Steps and Outputs

Medsker version of the ADDIE model of ISD

This is the "Medsker" version of the ISD model, also known as the “ADDIE” model (Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate).  Most organizations that use ISD have their own models, but generally they follow this same generic pattern.  The items beneath the boxes (red bullets) are the OUTPUTS of various steps within the five main phases of ISD.

The Benefits of ISD

The systems approach to training and the associated ISD models grew out of a need to increase drastically the effectiveness and efficiency of instruction. The critical need to train large numbers of people quickly during World War II led to research and development efforts that gradually came together as ISD. The Interservice Procedures for Instructional Systems Development (IPISD) model (Branson, Rayner, Cox, Furman, King, & Hannum, 1975) is a well-known example of an ISD model. The IPISD model was constructed to address primarily procedural tasks in military training contexts (Branson & Grow, 1987). Many other ISD models have been constructed to satisfy specific organizational requirements.

Early applications of ISD brought about measurable and often dramatic increases in the effectiveness and efficiency of training efforts. Mager (1977) describes an AT&T study of a 45-day course in the fundamentals of long-distance telephony. Use of task analysis increased job relevance; individualization of the instruction increased learning efficiency; these techniques along with try-outs and revision cut the course length to 9 days, improved job performance, and saved AT&T $37,000,000 in the first five years. These and other early successes led to wide acceptance of ISD.

Training developed according to ISD principles is generally recognized to be job relevant, effective, and time efficient. However, ISD may not be appropriate to all training development efforts. Because the initial costs of an ISD project are relatively high, ISD is most practical and cost effective when the following conditions obtain: