Intro to instructional design

A black and white image of a scaffold with overlaid text reading, "Intro to instructional design: What it is, how the library can help"
Background image by Ricardo Gomez Angel via Unsplash

What is instructional design?

Looking back at my interview for my position as UW Tacoma’s instructional design librarian, one question stands out: How do you explain instructional design to other people?

There is, of course, a short answer. Instructional design is an iterative process that guides the development and delivery of instruction, from the earliest stages of establishing goals and identifying gaps all the way until the final stages of assessing learning and planning for future improvements. As an instructional design librarian, I’m here to help my colleagues in the library and faculty and staff on campus at any point in this process, whether that’s working to scaffold an assignment or flip a classroom activity.

The truth is, instructional design means a lot of things to a lot of people. For some, it’s almost exclusively about classroom technology and Learning Management System expertise. Others may emphasize selecting course materials, structuring assignments, or developing pedagogy. None of these answers are wrong.

For me, it’s all about developing thoughtful, creative solutions to the challenges of teaching and learning on campus — whether that be in fully online, hybrid, or face-to-face environments. Sometimes that means incorporating new technology, or reevaluating pedagogical choices, or restructuring an assignment. Sometimes it doesn’t. My hope is to be a partner to help instructors make the right choices for whatever circumstances they find themselves in.

Instructional design consultations

So, how does that work? I’m happy to work collaboratively with faculty and staff to see their projects through from start to finish. Come with your ideas for an activity or an assignment, an instructional challenge to be addressed, or questions about what instructional design is and how you can use these services. We’ll talk about tools, techniques, and resources and create a plan to move the work forward.

Possible projects:

  • Design a new assignment or activity
  • Incorporate active learning
  • Plan a workshop
  • Integrate new technologies
  • Create an online learning object
  • Align learning objectives and assessments

Picture of instructional design librarian Marisa Petrich, a white woman with dark hair.Contact:

Marisa Petrich, Instructional Design Librarian
Book an appointment | 

Recommended links

  • What is instructional design? 
    This video provides some background about how the field came to be, summarizes the idea of alignment, and emphasizes using instructional design to move away from a focus on content and toward a focus on learning.
  • Instructional designers are teachers 
    From this Hybrid Pedagogy article by Sean Michael Morris: “Instructional designers are teachers … They know, or should know, what is possible, what isn’t possible, what stretches the boundaries of tradition, and what bends toward new and imaginative applications. But to define instructional designers as only this, as experts in content delivery, is reductive and incorrect … At the root of what they do is a maddening desire to create meaningful learning experiences in digital space.”
  • So what do you really mean by ‘instructional designer’?
    These Graphics from Salt Lake Community College and Arizona State University show the wide range of skills, services, and stages that fall under the ID umbrella.
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