Tools for Automating Instructional Design. ERIC
by Kasowitz, Abby
Instructional design (ID) is the systematic process of planning events
to facilitate learning. The ID process encompasses a set of interdependent
phases including analysis of learners, contexts and goals; design of objectives,
strategies and assessment tools; production of instructional materials;
and evaluation of learner performance and overall instructional design
effort (Gagne, Briggs, and Wager, 1992).
PURPOSE OF AUTOMATED INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGN TOOLS
Automated instructional design (AID) tools assist instructional designers
and others in creating instructional products to improve learning. AID
systems aid in the production of courseware (Gros & Spector, 1994),
or in the development of computer-based instruction (CBI), although some
tools guide users in general decision-making that can apply to a range
of instructional products and solutions.
AID tools may eliminate some physical ID tasks such as storyboarding
and test generation (Muraida & Spector, 1993). However, the strength
of AID tools lies in their ability to guide novices and non-ID professionals
through the process of creating effective instruction (Tennyson & Barron,
1995; Chapman, 1995). AID tools are especially useful in situations where
instructional design expertise is lacking and subject-matter experts and
others are responsible for developing instruction [as seen in military
courseware development (Muraida & Spector 1993)].
TYPES OF AID TOOLS
This Digest focuses on four types of tools that guide users through
the ID process: expert systems, advisory systems, information management
systems, and electronic performance support systems. Authoring tools are
also mentioned as popular mechanisms for supporting the production of computer-based
instruction. Some tools contain features representing more than one type
--Expert Systems: An expert system contains a domain-specific knowledge-base
and performs decision-making and analysis functions for the designer using
natural language queries (Schwier & Misanchuk, 1993). Expert systems
for instructional design have been developed to provide advice to novice
instructional designers (Locatis & Park, 1992) and to facilitate the
development process for experienced designers.
ID Expert from the ID2 Research Group (Cline & Merrill, 1995) was
created to develop and deliver computer-based instruction more efficiently.
ID Expert is based on Instructional Transaction Theory, a "second generation"
theory of instructional design (Cline & Merrill, 1995; Merrill et al,
1996; Locatis & Park, 1992). According to Instructional Transaction
Theory, instruction is based on transactions (sets of interactions) between
the system and the learner in order to accomplish a given task. ID Expert
assists designers in creating transactions by presenting a set of decision-making
steps involving instructional components, formatting, resources, etc. ID
Expert is considered a prototype system and has not yet been released commercially
The United States Air Force Armstrong Laboratory proposed two AID approaches
that use expert system technology to provide expertise to novice instructional
designers and subject matter experts in the design, production, and implementation
of courseware used in Air Force training (Spector & Song, 1995). Guided
Approach to Instructional Design Advising (GAIDA) uses tutorials and context-specific
advice and examples. Experimental Advanced Instructional Design Advisor
(XAIDA) uses the Instructional Transaction Theory framework to encapsulate
context-specific knowledge. Both of these environments are results of the
Advanced Instructional Design Advisor (AIDA) research project (Muraida
& Spector, 1993; Spector et al, 1991).
Reactions to Expert Systems: While expert systems for instructional
design can teach theory validation and function as authoring tools, they
are limited by their inability to support analysis and design tasks (Paquette
et al, 1994). ID expert systems attempt to control the instructional design
process, a process involving a large number of interrelated elements, and
so must rely heavily on the knowledge and experience of the individual
practitioner (Duchastel, 1990). Several instructional technologists have
proposed systems that more subtly advise the instructional designer, rather
than prescribe a set of solutions. Some examples are described below.
Duchastel (1990) challenges the expert system model by providing an
advisory system model. Instead of controlling the problem-solving process
with expert knowledge, advisory systems assist or coach users in accomplishing
a given task. A prototype for the advisory system approach is the Instructional
Design Advanced Workbench, an architecture for a computer-based workbench
that supports the cognitive tasks of instructional design without constraining
--Information Management Systems:
Instructional Design Environment (IDE) from the Institute for Research
on Learning (Russell & Pirolli, 1992) is a computer-aided design environment
that supports an ID methodology for teaching the use of software in real-life
problem-solving contexts. IDE helps document design and development options
(Locatis & Park, 1992). It is intended for experienced instructional
designers (Muraida & Spector, 1993).
--Electronic Performance Support Systems:
Electronic performance support systems (EPSS) are self-instructional
electronic environments that provide access to "software, guidance, advice,
data, tools, and assessment with minimum support and intervention by others"
(Milheim, 1997, p.103). EPSS have become popular in the 1990s for business
and educational contexts that require "just-in-time" learning and a high
level of a particular skill (Milheim, 1997; Leighton, 1996). Some examples
of EPSS are listed below.
Building on Duschastel's "workbench," Paquette et al (1994) introduced
a performance support system called AGD (a French acronym meaning Didactic
Engineering Workbench). AGD provides procedural instructional design information
to guide users in defining the learning system (e.g., analyzing training
needs, designing pedagogical structures). AGD includes a rules-based advisory
component that offers advice regarding specific design decisions made by
users (e.g., amount and nature of objectives).
Other performance support systems tools include Designer's Edge from
Allen Communication (Chapman, 1995) and Instructional DesignWare from Langevin
Learning Services (Langevin Learning Services). Like AGD, these tools support
the planning phases of instructional design, but contain a much more general
advisory component (e.g., context-specific online help, wizards, and tutorials).
In contrast to AGD, Designer's Edge and Instructional DesignWare lead
designers through all tasks involved in instructional design, but place
more emphasis on the ultimate production phase. Both tools provide a graphical
representation of the instructional systems design model, thus leading
to additional support for completing each step of the model. Data entered
by users are cross-referenced with all steps to enhance continuity between
phases. Usable reports and documents such as evaluation instruments, content
outlines, lesson plans, and checklists can be generated by the users.
The primary difference between the two products lies in their intended
audiences and purposes. Designer's Edge is for both novice and experienced
instructional designers planning computer-based instruction. The product
includes support for scripts, storyboards and other CBI production needs.
Integration with external software applications is also supported (Allen
Communication, 1997). Instructional DesignWare is intended for course designers
and trainers interested in producing either computer-based or classroom
training. For this reason, more support is provided for decisions regarding
media selection and course and presentation materials (Langevin Learning
Although they do not necessarily support the preliminary planning stages
of instructional design, instructional designers use authoring tools in
the development phase to produce computer-based instruction (Paquette et
al, 1994; Locatis & Park, 1992; Merrill, 1997). Some authoring tools
take advantage of the World Wide Web by providing features that integrate
Web content into computer-based instruction and deliver instruction over
the Web (e.g., WebCT).
According to Merrill (1997), authoring tools simplify the programming
process and allow experienced users to create effective and visually-appealing
instruction, but require a steep learning curve in order to take full advantage
of their features. Current popular authoring tools include Macromedia Authorware
4.0, Aim Tech IconAuthor, WBT Systems TopClass, and Asymetrix Toolbook.
Some AID tools support instructional design by focusing on the cognitive
aspects of instructional design (e.g., ID Expert, AGD, etc.). Some highlight
the procedural steps of ID (e.g., Designer's Edge, Instructional DesignWare).
Others support the production phase only (i.e., authoring tools for computer-based
In general, AID tools that support the planning and evaluation phases
of ID are not as widely used by practitioners as tools that focus on the
authoring and media production phases (Chapman, 1995). One exception may
be Designer's Edge which has been cited as one of the most popular CBT
authoring tools despite its intended purpose as a pre-authoring system
(Kemske, 1997). Regardless of its strength or approach, the value of a
particular tool or type of system is measured by how well it can support
a particular designer's task (Gros & Spector, 1994).
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