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Athabasca University


MDDE 619: Trends and Issues in Instructional Design

Delivery mode: Online course using Moodle

Credits: 3 - Elective

Prerequisites: MDDE 601, MDDE 602 for MEd program students only

Instructor: Avgoustos Tsinakos



The research literature pertaining to Instructional Design (ID) or Instructional Systems Design (ISD) theories is extensive and extend at least as far back as the 1970’s. In fact, the roots of ID can be traced back to the 1965 seminal work of Robert Gagné on the conditions of learning and early attempts to apply general systems theory and systems analysis. The 1970’s saw a proliferation of published ID models all based on the core of the ADDIE model of analysis, design, development, implementation and evaluation and, by 1980, as many as 60 such models were identified. The majority of these models, such as the Smith & Ragan model taught in MDDE 604, could be said to be process-based, that is, they stipulate the processes and procedures that instructional designers should follow in their practice. Earlier models described an expressly linear, systematic, prescriptive approach to instructional design and, although current models have moved away from strict linearity and are less explicitly prescriptive, they still are essentially ADDIE at the core. An examination of real life ID practice, however, shows that most models of instructional design are better considered as conceptual frameworks for practice. They are useful to designers and inform practice, but few instructional designers actually use models in an explicitly prescriptive manner that would confine their practice.

Moreover, relatively recently, instructional design has experienced the strong influence of constructivist learning theory and the field has seen the emergence of a number of ID models based on constructivist learning principles. This has, in turn, stirred a vigorous response from advocates of more traditional models. All in all, it is safe to say there is no lack of advice on how to do instructional design, but is the advice of either camp heeded? Do instructional designers actually use ID models? Are instructional design models grounded in practice?

This course examines a number of trends and issues relating to the actual, every day practice of instructional design. We will examine published ID competencies and consider how they match published ID job descriptions, as well as to debate these points with practicing instructional designers. In this regard, we will also consider the role of instructional designers as change agents in educational contexts. In addition, we will return to the traditionalist versus constructivist debate over what constitutes good ID practice and apply one or more current models to actual distance education development projects. As well, we will examine the application of Universal Design principles to design in the distance education context. The course will conclude with a debate about the future of Instructional Design.



MDDE 603, Foundations of Instructional Design: Systems Analysis and Learning Theory

MDDE 604, Instructional Design in Distance Education or the equivalent or permission of the instructor.


Course Objectives

After completing this course, you should be able to:

  1. Outline the components of selected instructional design theories and critically analyze their application in a variety of distance education situations.

  2. Discuss common criticisms and controversy related to the use of established instructional design models.

  3. Describe models or approaches that have been proposed as alternatives to traditional instructional design.

  4. Discuss future trends in instructional design.

  5. Synthesize a variety of instructional frameworks and describe their application in a variety of instructional design contexts.

  6. Recognize and explain the importance of creating supportive learning environments for effective student support in distance education applications.

  7. Analyse and evaluate moral and ethical implications of instructional stances and choices in the design and development of teaching and learning in distance education contexts.


Course Outline

The course consists of six units:

Unit 1: The Definition of Instructional Design

Unit 2: The Professional Practice of Instructional Design

Unit 3: Instructional Design Models and Approaches – Alternate Viewpoints

  1. Designing for Direct Instruction
  2. Holistic Design for Complex Learning
  3. Constructivist Models of Design
  4. Applying Learning Theory and Motivation in Instructional Design

Unit 4: Universal Instructional Design and Accessibility Issues

Unit 5: Instructional Design and Change Agency

  1. The Process of Change
  2. Instructional Design in Varying Contexts
  3. The Instructional Designer as a Change Agent

Unit 6: The Future of ISD


Student Assessment

Your final course mark will be based on three major assignments and on your participation in the computer conferences. The assignments for the course are briefly described below.

In Assignment 1, youwill write a short paper (2000 – 3000 words) describing how an instructional design job advertisement, written position description, or reported daily requirements of a practicing instructional designer compares with published instructional design competencies (e.g., IBSTPI competencies). You will conclude the paper with a revised position description.

Assignment 2 will be a collaborative group activity. You will apply a selected instructional design approach from the readings or other research to the development of an assigned Athabasca University case (or other course of your choice) and develop a set of instructional design recommendations and / or a blueprint for a technology-supported learning environment to solve the case design problem.  

In Assignment 3, you will write a paper (2000-3000 words) discussing the application of Universal Design principles and other accessibility issues associated with the design and delivery of DE learning materials. You will be asked to assess an Athabasca University course or other course with which you are familiar to illustrate the application of these principles.

Note: details of assignments are posted on-line at the commencement of the course.


Course Materials

Online Study Guide and readings.

Course texts include:

  • Council for Exceptional Children (2005). Universal design for learning: A guide for teachers and educational professionals. Arlington, VA: Pearson Education.

  • Reiser, R. A. & Dempsey, J. V. (2011). Trends and issues in instructional design and technology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, (eText).


Get Started Early

Early access to the Learning Management System, Moodle, begins a few days before the official start date of your course, at that time you will have limited access to the course. On the Official Start Date of the course, instructors will be available and the discussion forums will automatically become active.


Last updated by MM December 15, 2016

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