How Did the Pandemic Affect Learning and Instructional Design? Consider These Five Observations

One of the major stories of the COVID-19 pandemic is the virtual move that it spawned. Work, religious services, community events, city council meetings, exercise classes, and even STC conferences: they all moved online.

So did most higher education courses and workplace learning activities, and, in doing so, affected the instructional designers who prepare these courses and activities. To be fair, instructional designers have been preparing online instruction since the 1970s (yes, you read that correctly), with growing frequency since the dot-com era in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but never anything close to 100 percent of all higher education and workplace learning since March 2020.

Click here to read the rest of the article in Interom, the magazine of the Society for Technical Communication (subscription required).


eConcordia course Educational Communication receives top award in 2022 Canadian Network for Innovation in Education Awards of Excellence

Educational Communication, an all-online undergraduate course offered by eConcordia, received the top award in the Instructional Design category of the 2022 in Canadian Network for Innovation in Education Awards of Excellence.

Educational Communication is two asynchronous undergraduate courses in one.

  • Prepares students specializing in Education, to communicate instructional content in genres typical of work in the field, including definitions, concepts (descriptions), procedures, objectives, tests, and lesson plans.
  • Prepares students specializing in Professional Writing to communicate informational content in genres used in that line of work, including definitions, descriptions, procedures, references like catalogs, announcements like press releases, and how-to articles.

(See the overlap!)

  • The course also attracts students in other majors seeking to strengthen their professional writing skills.

Because of a significant overlap of content for the two groups of students, this course is designed as a single course with two paths through parts of it: one for Education students, another for Professional Writing students.

Unique characteristics of this course:

  • The two-path approach. Students take the first four lessons of the course together. They then choose to follow one of two paths for the fifth and sixth lessons to learn about writing objectives, tests, and lesson plans in the educational path, or about writing reference material and announcements on the professional communication path. Students converge again for the last two lessons. As noted earlier, each lesson also includes a style lesson; those are the same in every lesson, regardless of the path students choose.
  • A specially-written pair of open textbooks specifically tailored to this course: one focusing on the genres taught in the course and the other focusing on the matters of styles addressed in the course. Open texts are available at no cost to students.
  • Integrated self assessments and self-efficacy checks. The former let students assess their developing skills and receive feedback. The latter let students assess their feelings of confidence, which the instructor uses to determine whether intervention is needed.
  • Integrated live virtual sessions, which occur a week before each graded assignment is due and provide the instructor an opportunity to assess the extent to which students have familiarized themselves with the content and students with the opportunity to receive clarifications on the assignments. A special session with a working communicator occurs during the eighth lesson.
  • Peer-reviewed assignments. To provide students with additional opportunities to practice writing beyond the graded assignments, the course includes three peer-reviewed assignments, in which students write an assignment that two other students review (automatically assigned by the system) according to criteria provided. Students also receive training to ensure that they feel comfortable reviewing other students’ work. 
  • Assignment topics tailored to students’ majors (though students can choose topics outside of their major if they wish). 

Student response to the course has been positive, as measured by student surveys taken twice during the pilot course, and comments made subsequently, when others have taught the class.

The course was developed by Professor Saul Carliner (Department of Education),  and Instructional Designer Vanessa McCance and Project Manager Mathieu Guilbault from KnowledgeOne.

Previewing Chapter 5 of An Overview of Training and Development

How can you distinguish myth from reality in the advice given to training and development professionals?

Learn how usable learning expert Julie Dirksen, masters learning research and applies the resulting insights into the programs she designs. Check out Chapter 5 of the newly published book, An Overview of Training and Development: Why Training Matters

More Issues Addressed by the second edition of Training Design Basics

Besides guidance on how to design training programs, what else does the second edition of Training Design Basics, now available from the ATD Press, addresses questions like these:

  • What’s the difference between a format and a medium?
  • What are the basic instructional strategies used in training programs?
  • What options exist for performance without training?
  • What is the assertion-evidence approach for preparing slides and screens used in instructional programs?
  • What is the instructional designer’s role in the implementation of training programs?

To order and receive more information about Training Design Bascis (second edition), visit The book is also available from,,, and

What else does the second edition of Training Design Basics address?

Besides guidance on how to design training programs, what else does the second edition of Training Design Basics, now available from the ATD Press, address?

Among the other questions addressed are these:

  • How does the amount of time needed to develop an e-learning program differ from the time needed to develop a face-to-face classroom program?
  • How do you present a needs assessment to sponsors?
  • What roles do scenarios and personas play in assessing needs for a training program?
  • What comes first: the course or the test?

To order and receive more information about Training Design Bascis (second edition), visit The book is also available from,,, and

What does the second edition of Training Design Basics address?

What does the second edition of Training Design Basics, now available from the ATD Press, cover?

Among the many questions it addresses are these:

  • How do you design a training program, whether it’s live or self-study?
  • Do you really have to complete every last step in the phases of ADDIE when revising an instructional program?
  • How similar are the activities in designing face-to-face and live virtual courses? Face-to-face and self-study programs?

To order and receive more information about Training Design Bascis (second edition), visit The book is also available from,,, and

Second Edition of Popular Instructional Design Book Now Available


(Alexandria, Virginia) The second edition of best-selling book, Training Design Basics Basics, by Saul Carliner is now available from the ATD Press.

Like the first edition, this new edition of Training Design Basics guides new course developers and instructors, and Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and others who find themselves responsible for doing so, through the process of designing and developing their first training programs. In addition to explaining how to design face-to-face classroom and workbook-based courses, this new edition also addresses the design of two types of online courses: live virtual classroom and self-study tutorials. After introducing readers to guiding concepts of adult learning and human performance improvement and providing an overview training design projects, Training Design Basics explains how to analyze a project, then design, develop, implement, and evaluate the program resulting from the analysis. This edition of the book maintains the practical approach that made the first edition so popular, with additional insights arising from years of use of the first edition by practicing professionals. For example, unlike other instructional design books that primarily focus on the analysis and evaluation phases, this book continues to emphasize the design and development phases, along with practical guidance to course designers on the implementation of their courses. Worksheets for each phase of the process help readers apply the concepts in the book in their own instructional design projects, as does a companion website with other resources and advice.

Author Saul Carliner is an internationally-known expert on training and communication. He is an Associate Professor of Educational Technology and Provost’s Fellow for Digital Learning at Concordia University in Montreal. Also an industry consultant, Carliner provides strategic planning and instructional design services to organizations in Asia, Australia, Europe, and the Americas to clients such as Alltel Wireless, IBM, Lowe’s, Microsoft, ST Microelectronics, Turkish Management Centre, and several US and Canadian government agencies. His previous books include the award-winning Informal Learning Basics and e-Learning Handbook, and popular An Overview of Online Learning He has received the  Kenneth Rainey Award for Excellence in Research and Jay Gould Award for Teaching from the Society for Technical Communication, and the Alumni Teaching Award from his university.    He is a Fellow and past international president of the Society for Technical Communication, a past research fellow of ATD, and a past board member of the Canadian Society for Training and Development.

ATD Press is the publishing arm of the Association for Talent Development, the world’s largest association dedicated to workplace learning and development professionals. ATD’s members come from more than 100 countries and connect locally in more than 125 U.S. chapters and with more than 20 international partners. Members work in thousands of organizations of all sizes, in government, as independent consultants, and suppliers. Started in 1943, in recent years ATD has widened the profession’s focus to link learning and performance to individual and organizational results, and is a sought-after voice on critical public policy issues.

To order and receive more information about Training Design Bascis (second edition), visit The book is also available from,,, and

Even If It Feels Alright, It Might Not Be

In Learning Theories Gone Wild – Urban Myths that Hurt Your Learning Designs, Sharon Boller describes five common beliefs and practices that persist among instructional designers despite the fact that the research evidence contradicts it.  She also explains how to avert these practices.

Check them out at

Should Educators Place All of Their Learning Eggs in the Discovery Learning Basket?

The question is raised in the context of a major shift in the school curriculum in the context of Alberta in a recent article in the National Post. 

Among the concerns raised are two meta-analyses (studies of research studies) have shown that “unassisted discovery [learning] does not benefit learners.”

Unassisted discovery refers to learning that occurs without the intervention of teachers. This also plays a significant role in the informal learning that some people advocate for the workplace.

Unassisted discovery learning contrasts with assisted discovery learning, which includes scaffolding (providing various types of support so that learners can successfully achieve the learning objectives) and feedback, which provides learners with outside insights on their discovery processes.  Some assisted discovery learning also establishes a foundation of knowledge before sending students to discover.

Read more about the studies and the situation in Alberta at