Assessing the Design of a Learning Program: Part 1

As an instructional designer why would you want to assess the design of a learning program? It could be as straightforward as wanting to know if you have done a good job on the program design you just completed. It could be more complex. For example, you might want to identify which of the existing learning activities and materials have weak designs and would benefit from some updating. In some situations, organizations have standardized their instructional design methodology and want to confirm all the designers and developers are producing learning materials that adhere to the new standards.

The challenge with assessing the design of a learning program is to figure out to which standards you are going to compare it. Over the years FKA has recognized there are foundational elements that inform the design of a learning program and strongly correlate with successful learning programs. During our assessment, we ask:

  • Does the program adhere to Adult Learning Principles?
  • Does it have enough interactivity to keep learners engaged?
  • Does it follow the Systematic Learning Process model and ratios?
  • Have both types of motivation been incorporated into the design?
  • Are there solid realistic and achievable learning objectives?
  • Is the learning content well structured?

If the reviewer can answer “Yes” to all these questions, we can say with confidence that the design is “effective”.
In other words, FKA’s Systematic Learning Process, Adult Learning Principles and Lesson Structure (see table below) are used to establish a framework for assessing the effectiveness of the program design.</p?

Assessing the Design of a Learning Program with Tools and Processes

To reinforce the design standards, FKA created a set of checklists and guidelines for instructional designers to use as they work. The intent of these tools is to focus your attention on each aspect of the course. Even if you have been conscientious and used the checklists and followed the guidelines as you worked, at the end of the process you still need to consider if the new design—in its entirety—is an “effective” design? (For many designers, the importance of this question has led them to ask FKA to assess or evaluate the design of their courses.)

The proposed assessment framework described above should be reviewed with the client to ensure it reflects their expectations of how the “effectiveness” of their program will be judged. This step provides an opportunity to assign a weighting to each element. This weighting will reflect the client’s specific needs and will be used in Step 2. This allows designers to confirm that they have a clear understanding of their clients’ expectations.

Two-Step Process

To ensure a consistent and objective evaluation, FKA uses a two-step approach in reviewing and evaluating learning programs.

Step 1

FKA has developed a Learning Evaluation form, (see excerpt in Figure 1) that is the foundation for assessing the effectiveness of the course design. The form brings together the questions from our various checklists and guidelines and provides a framework for collecting the observations made by the reviewer. There is the potential to record the assessment of over 40 specific design elements.

Figure 1 – Learning Evaluation Form
assessing the design of a learning program with this evaluation form.

Assessing the Design of a Learning Program: Part 2

In next week’s blog we will take a close look at the second step in the two-step process and FKA’s Learning Evaluation Scoring spreadsheet.

Jim Sweezie
VP Research and Product Development