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Instructional Design in Business Settings

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Instructional Design in Business Settings


     Instructional design is an extremely important aspect of the business world. Instructional design practices since the 1980’s have occurred primarily in business and industry settings. In the last 30 years, growth of corporate investment in employee education reflects an emphasis on producing a more knowledgeable workforce, improving performance, and solving organizational problems (Richey, Morrison, & Foxey, 2012).  



Roles of Corporate Instructional Designers



     The roles of instructional designers in the corporate sector are expanding and can vary significantly depending on the size and type of a company. The three very broad categories of roles instructional designers can take are: ID as sole designer, ID as a consultant, or ID as a team member or leader (Richey, Morrison, & Foxey, 2012).


     Sole designers have a large span of control and are best suited for smaller companies and projects. In this case, the subject matter expert (SME) may serve as an as-needed consultant, but the instructional designer carries the most responsibility for the success of a given project.


     Instructional designers can also serve as internal or external consultants to company training projects. Internal consultants may serve simply as advisers to a development team led by an instructor or SME. For example, the internal consultant may translate previously drafted materials from the company’s SME into effective instructional materials. Companies may also hire independent instructional design companies as external consultants for a project. In this case, the SME may be the only team member internal to the company.

    For many larger-scale projects, an instructional designer may serve as a team leader or even one of several instructional designers on a team. Responsibilities of an ID team member can vary greatly depending on the project and technologies used.

Three common types of work teams:

Virtual teams - Instructional designers working in larger organizations are more likely to work in virtual teams as opposed to colocated teams. This is largely due to the increased globalization and decentralization of organizations in recent years (Richey, Morrison, & Foxey, 2012).

Cross-functional teams - As workplace disciplines blur, instructional design teams may include a variety of specialists working together (Foxon, Richey, Roberts, & Spannaus, 2003). These cross-functional teams can consist of training specialists, members from human resources, and organizational development professionals, for example.

Contractor-led teams - Given the recent economic downturn, many companies see the financial advantage of outsourcing instructional design work to external contract designers. Many instructional designers working in these types of companies are now serving more as project managers, not designers (Richey, Morrison, & Foxey, 2012).


There are several main issues corporate instructional designers face that can constrain the design process.

Identifying the client - When starting a new project, it is important for the instructional designer to identify the client. Identifying the client in corporate ID settings can be especially difficult. For example, there is often more than one client for a given project and, therefore, more than one person to answer to.

Clients knowledge of ID process - Another potential problem for corporate instructional designers has to do with the client’s knowledge of the ID process. When a client lacks understanding of the importance of taking various steps, the design process can suffer.

Project management vs. instructional design - It is not uncommon for an instructional designer to serve as both designer and project manager (Richey, Morrison, & Foxey, 2012). This can be problematic when the instructional designer must choose between addressing design related responsibilities and project management tasks.

Legal issues and training - There are several common legal problems related to training that corporate instructional designers should be aware of.

  • The failure to perform government mandated training for employees
  • Injury while participating in training
  • Infringement on intellectual property rights in terms of instructional materials used
  • Discriminatory content in training
  • Injuries as a result of human error
  • Tests that prevent employee access to training


     Corporate instructional designers should be familiar with the laws governing training and develop their instructional materials accordingly (Richey, Morrison, & Foxey, 2012). Some companies may require additional knowledge of laws and regulations specific to their industry.


     In a study by Klimezak and Wedman (1997), instructional designers and trainers rated training strategies and tangible resources as the two most important factors for a successful training project. Though specifics will vary depending on the company and project, planning the implementation of a project should be the focus of corporate instructional designers (Richey, Morrison, & Foxey, 2012).


     Perhaps the most significant impact on the instructional design process has to do with information technology. The more information technology continues to advance, the more efficient the instructional design process can become. From pens and simple typewriters in the 1970’s to the much more advanced technologies available to instructional designers today, information technology has and will continue to facilitate the ID process (Richey, Morrison, & Foxey, 2012).


Trends in Corporate Design and Development

    Today, ID theorists and practitioners are in the process of responding to many changes in the training industry. The two most significant challenges for corporate instructional designers are reducing design cycle time and enhancing training effectiveness and efficiency (Richey, Morrison, & Foxey, 2012).

     Commonly used in software engineering, rapid prototyping methodologies have now been adapted for use on instructional design projects. The use of working models in the early stages of a project tends to eliminate time-consuming revisions later on and design tasks are completed concurrently throughout development (Richey, Morrison, & Foxey, 2012). Another benefit to rapid prototyping is an increased likelihood of a quality, well-received product. Customers tend to be satisfied with the end product because they have been involved that product’s evaluation throughout its design and development. (Jones & Richey, 2000). Rapid prototyping throughout the design process is an increasingly popular way to reduce design cycle time without having to sacrificing quality.

    To enhance training effectiveness and delivery, corporate instructional designers are using technology to reduce training time and costs and are also using more sophisticated evaluation techniques. The use of technology and internet-based training can decrease cost for a company as well as offer employees more convenient and effective instruction. Instructional designers in business settings should strive to evaluate training interventions at the higher levels in order to provide organizations with evidence that training has been effective (Richey, Morrison, & Foxey, 2012)

Globalization of Training




     As with instructional designers in other sectors, corporate IDers must address the issues associated with increased globalization. If a company has a branch in Japan, can they implement the same training materials used at home? The answer is obviously, no. Instructional designers in this case must use both the internationalization and localization processes in developing instructional materials for use in different cultures. Internationalization is the process of extracting any cultural context, where localization is the process of adapting internationalized material to the local culture (Richey, Morrison, & Foxey, 2012). Corporations are growing and expanding their reach across international borders, making it increasingly important for corporate instructional designers to adapt instructional materials for different cultures.





See also:


Instructional Design Careers

Instructional Design in Higher Ed

Instructional Design in Non-Profit Settings

Teaching Soft Skills in Business Settings


Foxon, M., Richey, R. C., Roberts, R., & Spannaus, T. (2003). Training manager competencies: The standards (3rd ed.). Syracuse, NY: ERIC Clearinghouse on Information and Technology.

Jones, T. S., & Richey, R. C. (2000). Rapid prototyping in action: A developmental study. Educational Technology, Research & Development, 48(2), 63-80.

Richey, R. C., Morrison, R. G., & Foxon, M. (2012). Instructional Design in Business and Industry. In R. Reiser & J. Demsey (Eds.), Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology (pp. 174-181). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon

What does an Instructional Designer do? (2012). Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2q-SYS2Kbc


Comments (4)

ffderakhshan@... said

at 1:44 pm on Apr 26, 2012

ffderakhshan@... said

at 1:49 pm on Apr 26, 2012

Hello Alyshia,

I added 1more image you need at least two, also added a link. You did a good job. it is well organized and nice.

ffderakhshan@... said

at 1:49 pm on Apr 26, 2012

ffderakhshan@... said

at 1:52 pm on Apr 26, 2012

Hello Alyshia ,
I am done with checking as the 2nd editor.


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