At DSA, we don’t just teach the processes of innovative instructional design,
we actually do it, day in and day out.

Tips Newsletter – June, 2012

Design Documents

Part 3: Effort, Detail, and Benefits

Do you have an upcoming project?

  • Sales training? Management training? Manufacturing process training?
  • For a description on how DSA has approached similar projects, contact us with a brief description of your upcoming project.  DSA can help!

Available 24/7-anytime! DSA’s UPDATED Course Developer Workshop Online

In this online workshop, you will learn a proven instructional development process with expert feedback on your own project. Check it out here…

Q. Would a DSA in-company workshop benefit my company or organization?

A.  Absolutely! Let’s talk!

Call or E-mail to help you decide which workshops are right for your team.

Back by Popular Demand! DSA’s Certificate Program with Training Magazine’s Live+Online starting November 6th (4 online sessions)

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:

Darryl SinkIn Parts 1 & 2 of this series on writing design documents, I described the elements to include, and provided some idea of when, in the instructional design process, design documents are prepared. In Part 1, I defined and described a high-level design document. In Part 2, on detailed design documents sometimes called blueprints, I offered an example of a design document and an annotated template.

You can still receive these by emailing me at Please include design document in the subject line.

In part 3 of this series on design documents, I will address various circumstances that would affect the amount of effort and detail provided in either the high-level design document or the blueprint. I will then end with the benefits of writing design documents.

How much effort and detail?

Cost, size, and significance of the project are the three most important factors that determine the effort and detail that should go into writing a design document.

Let’s take size for example. If the training development project is very small, let’s say one lesson or module, you would not need to make a detailed design document. Why? Because, you could write one module as quickly as you could write the detailed design document. So we usually just create a draft of the one lesson/module and review it with the stakeholders. The cost and effort to redesign the one lesson or module should be minimal if it is not on target.

There are exceptions, of course. Let’s say there is a costly video involved in the one module. Now you will want the video treatment and the final storyboards approved before production. For larger projects with more than one or two lesson/modules, we recommend at least a high-level design document.

Benefits of Using Design Documents

For large projects, the design documents allow you to divide up the labor to get the program developed in a timely manner. In addition each instructional designer and SME will know what part their lessons/modules play in the whole program (course).

Design documents provide:

  • a road map
  • a common vision for all project team members
  • a way to clearly articulate the vision of the project to sponsors and others
  • a coordinated effort

In addition they provide for:

  • consistency and compatibility
  • an integrated, whole curriculum
  • a review before you are too far along in a project

The bottom line is that design documents show all stakeholders what you’re going to do ahead of time so you can make sure you are aligned with the need for the program in the first place: i.e., the program is designed for the right audience, you have the right content, and you have the support of all concerned.

See you next time,


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