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Tips Newsletter – March, 2012

Design Document: A Necessity or Just Another Hurdle to Jump?

Part 1 – What are they? When do we use them?

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The DSA Tips – 73 to date! If you haven’t visited the tips archives lately, check it out –http://dsink.com/dsa-tips-newsletters. Darryl’s tips are now conveniently organized not only by published date, but by these topics:

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New ONLINE program at Indiana University’s Instructional Systems Technology (IST) Department

Education Doctorate (Ed.D.) Online Program

The Instructional Systems Technology (IST) Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) degree program is designed for individuals seeking to be practitioners in instructional design and human performance improvement.

Indiana University (and the IST program) is Darryl’s Alma Mater.

Details can be found at: http://site.educ.indiana.edu/New


Darryl SinkDesign documents are like the architectural concepts, “plans” and “blueprints”. In the design and development of training and educational products, we often refer to these two concepts as High Level Design Documents (plans) and Detailed Design Documents (blueprints). The high-level design document is produced after, and as a result of, the analysis phase of instructional development. In part one of this tip, we will look at high-level design documents and in part two, we’ll take a look at detailed design documents. Part 3 will illustrate their benefits, when to use them and when they may not be needed.

High Level Design Documents

A high level design document is defined as an overview of the instructional program that shows how all the elements fit into the appropriate delivery system. The design document gives the big picture. It specifies the training materials you are about to develop to such an extent that others can determine the sequence of instruction and envision what the learner will experience in each component of your program.

The purpose of this document is to present the initial instructional analysis for a course or program. The aim of this analysis is to establish a shared set of principles and standards for the course or program. This analysis looks at the course or program from these three cascading perspectives:

  • Business/Organization Need – The business need describes why organizations send employees to a course, and why employees go to a course.
  • Course Goals – The course goals describe what members of the target audience want to be able to do on the job after completing the course.
  • Key Objectives – The key objectives describe the specific behaviors that learners will be able to perform upon conclusion of the course. Each key objective includes a list of enabling objectives that describe, in behavioral terms, the knowledge and skills required to achieve it.

Other items to include would be:

  • Learner characteristics and context considerations must also be accounted for in the high-level design document.
  • Learning Experience Description – Each unit/day or module of the course is described here in narrative form. These are high-level descriptions of the way the designer is translating the results of the analysis into a design for the learning experience.

Next time we will discuss how and when to use Detailed Design Documents in part 2 of this 3-part series.

Until next time,

Darryl