The Process of Bringing a Course to Life While Immersing Students in Their Learning

The Process of Bringing a Course to Life While Immersing Students in Their Learning - Featured Image

When I was asked to write a blog regarding Instructional Design, I had a moment of hesitation. What caused my hesitation? It was the mind-racing moment of trying to figure out how to put all the elements and components of Instructional Design into words and into one blog posting. Then the words hit me like a ton of bricks and to my surprise in one simple sentence. Instructional Design is the process of bringing a course to life while immersing students in their learning. Although there are many ingredients to a great course, no matter the mode of delivery, in the end, the success of a course hinges on one impactful question. Does the course and all of its components help the learner apply relevant skills and knowledge? If the answer to this question isn’t yes then the instructional design of the course got lost somewhere in the shuffle. Let’s dive a little deeper and break this down. 

First, let’s talk about how the instructional design process begins. There are many models that ID’s may use. At Indiana Online we use a combination of Understanding by Design (UBD) and the ADDIE model. UBD has three stages: Identify Desired Results, Determine Acceptable Evidence, and Plan Learning Experiences & Instruction. ADDIE has five stages: Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate. When we look at how Indiana Online applies these models we use the Analyze stage of ADDIE, then move to UBD, and then back to ADDIE. 

To begin, the Curriculum Manager analyzes the course catalog and prioritizes new courses and course revisions. This is the Analyze portion of ADDIE. Then we move to the UBD model (Phase 1). The first phase usually takes about a month, and the Subject Matter Expert (SME) along with the Instructional Designer (ID) and Curriculum Manager plan the vision of the course. SMEs are coached to start backwards. It is student-centered and shows the desired outcome of the course; listing objectives and final assessment (Identify Desired Results and Determine Acceptable Evidence). Then the SME moves on to create a curriculum map or scope and sequence of the course (Plan Learning Experience & Instruction). The learning objectives are carefully examined as well as the content, assessments, clarity, and flow of the course. In addition, the instructional goals and objectives are established, potential issues are analyzed, and resolution is found for known bugs.

The second phase takes on the ADDIE model of course development and usually takes four months. This is the Design and Development phase. Although phases can overlap, Phase 2 is by far the biggest phase. I call it my vision phase since it deals with a wide array of elements including the learning objectives, assessment types, content, types of engagement the learner encounters,  final storyboard polish, and ensuring that all components are suitable for the content and technology used. In education, there is a fair amount of debate about what exactly engagement means and how do you truly bring it to fruition. There are two types of engagement…passive and active. Both types have their place and are needed in the learning process. With passive engagement the learner may think to themselves, “This course has some really good information.” In active engagement the learner thinks, “What will happen if I push this button?” Although both are needed, active engagement allows the learner to take more responsibility for their learning.

The third phase usually takes about a month. This is the Evaluate, Implement, and Evaluate for a second time phase. The Instructional Designer (ID) creates and assembles all the elements and assets submitted by the SME. Many of these elements were visioned in Phases 1 and 2. Technologies are integrated and the course is reviewed and revised according to any feedback given. The total process from start to implementation is around six months and is full of twists and turns. Adaptability and flexibility are key to a successful course launch.

Students are our #1 priority and always will be. How can we have a heart for our students and the design process if design doesn’t have the heart as the beating center of it? Thankfully, at Indiana Online we call empathy and compassion our most important stage. A stage that is full of grace, empathy, compassion, care, and sprinkled through all stages. When you combine the heart in instructional design, you end up with a beautiful masterpiece. Numerical data and thoughts are wonderful and needed but the focus should always be on your audience with the love and desire to watch them succeed. 

As I close out this blog posting, I want to leave you with this thought. We are all human and as such we are wired to learn. That learning may be on different stages and may take on many forms, but we are always learning. If you think about it, there really is not a time we are not learning, it just approaches us differently. Most learning happens through our experiences and through the many things we see and hear on a daily basis. This may be during our quiet moments through reflection and peaceful wonder or have us actively pursuing information. Either way, we are on a path to growth. 

No matter how we learn, there is an Instructional Designer using some form of the Instructional Design process to bring the learning to you. Thinking outside the box to help learners get the most out of a course and support them through all the hills and valleys of their learning journey is our goal. 

For more information on the Indiana Online Instructional Design team, please visit the Indiana Online website. Thank you and happy learning!


Linville, D. L. (2022, July 5). Student Interest and Engagement in the Classroom: Relationships  with Student Personality and Developmental Variables. Retrieved November 2, 2022, from University of Florida. (2021, August 19). WHAT IS UNDERSTANDING BY DESIGN (UBD)? AEC659/WC322: What is understanding by design (UBD)? Retrieved November 2, 2022, from


  • Dr. Taunya Kline

    Taunya has 21 years of experience in K-12 and higher education. She has a Doctorate in Educational Leadership with a secondary in Educational Technology, a Master’s in Curriculum and Development, and a Bachelor’s in Education PK-8, with a minor in Child Psychology. She’s served as:

    - A second-grade teacher
    - A university professor
    - Assistant Director of Faculty Enrichment
    - Center Director for Sylvan Learning Center
    - Director of Education for Sylvan Learning Center
    - Instructional Designer

    “My greatest professional passion is engaging students in their learning and making the student and teacher experience dynamic. Indiana Online has and continues to provide me with the opportunity to not only sharpen my own skills and abilities but use them to create courses that increase the learning experience and provide top-notch education. I’m very blessed to be part of such a wonderful team,” says Taunya. Outside of work, Taunya is passionate about animal rights and humane treatment. She’s been on several mission trips to China, the Dominican Republic, and Zimbabwe.