New Instructional Paradigm: Is the pandemic changing the instructional design theory?


None of us would have predicted how our lives would change so drastically in 2020 when we celebrated the end of 2019. For some countries, they’ve opened up and it may seem like life has returned.  For other countries, borders are slammed shut and people are in lockdown.  Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic plagued our lives, people worldwide are seen with face shields on, staying away from each other at all times, fighting over tissues, toilet paper and hand sanitizers. With all these changes to stay safe from the fast-spreading virus, the instructional design theory changed its dynamics too.

Learners were accustomed to working every day, sitting through long conference meetings in their offices, and taking in-person training and development programs. However, ever since the start of the pandemic, when there was a frenzy and “work from home” became popular, learners were forced to sit at home and complete their training courses.

In a world that is heavily dominated by technology, the shift to virtual services was not as bad as many anticipated it to be. However, with every aspect of our lives going virtual, so did the instructional design theory.

Challenges Faced by the Instructional Designers During the Pandemic

Virtual learning has been around for quite some time now, with the year 2020 making it famous worldwide. There is no doubt about how effective virtual learning can be. However, it does not require just a trainer sitting in from of a camera, delivering the training program to the learners. The instructional designers must consider the changing needs of the students, accessing the material at any time from anywhere, and the flexibility learners need in such challenging times.

For us, at the ID9 Faculty, we’ve been conducting programs virtually since 2006.  When the pandemic struck, people turned to us for our guidance and support.  The first thing we advised them was that vILT (Virtual Instructor Led Training) was as much like ILT (Instructor Led Training) as it was making refrigerators!  There’s little similarity between the two.

Let’s explore some of the challenges.

Following is some of the many instructional design challenges the designers and trainers faced due to the prevalent COVID-19 pandemic:

  • How can the instructional design theory be changed to make it more engaging for the learners?
  • Can online communication be used to mimic an actual workplace and foster friendship and teamwork?
  • How can the instructional design theory promote communication and social skills?
  • How can the trainers and instructors command authority in remote work?
  • Which courses and learning modules can be amended to be more flexible for virtual learning?
  • How can the organization use the instructional design theory to make the transition to online, virtual, blended or hybrid models easier for the learners/employees?

Instructional Design Theory Accommodated to the Changes Brought by the Pandemic

Sometimes it’s difficult for learning and design teams to communicate to their senior leaders the impact of ‘going virtual’ or ‘going online.’  Those without experience, think it’s as easy as taking existing materials and showing up on a Zoom or Microsoft Teams call.  Nothing could be further from the truth!

Following is a list of trends that surfaced in the world of instructional design theory due to the changes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic:

1.      Content Curation

Content being curated from various sources to create comprehensive and practical training and development course material has become increasingly popular. Rather than choosing books, instructional designers can tailor topics according to the curriculum to create more efficient learning experiences for the learner. These personal learning pathways create an opportunity for personalized learning.

Furthermore, curating content from various, high-quality sources allow the instructional designers to add more perspectives to the training program. An excellent way to create a meaningful learning experience is by adding instructional videos, images, and infographics to the training program’s content.

2.      Personalized Learning

Learning experiences are becoming increasingly personalized based on the learner’s performance and interests. Personal Learning Pathways (PLP) is a term that is now frequently used.  While many instructional designers still do not use individualized learning experience driven by artificial intelligence, they create many personalized quizzes and computer-generated feedback portals.

Instructional designers can include review activities throughout the virtual training course that motivate the learners to go back and refine their learning outcomes.

3.      Video

Some learners spend hours every day streaming video content on YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and other video platforms. Instructional design quickly adopted the new trend of video to deliver content during the pandemic.

Although delivering training content through video is not a new concept, its delivery has changed drastically. For example, mobile phones are used by almost everyone in recent years. Instructional designers can create short, bite-sized videos that deliver the training program’s content which the learners can view on their mobile phones.

Indeed, the high-quality videos streaming on smartphones have changed the instructional design theory significantly.

4.      New Learning Realities

Virtual learning is dominated by Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) experiences. Virtual reality provides an immersive digital experience and requires a high-tech headset, so it is not as popular as augmented reality.

Augmented reality provides instructional designers with the ability to add a layer of digital information to a live view of the world in the training program’s material. Although augmented reality does not work with every topic, it does act as an information-rich lens that the learners can use to be aware of the real world and apply their newly acquired knowledge and skills to.

5.      Interactive Learning

Interactive learning includes embedded quizzes, drag and drop activities, and more features that help learners engage more freely and deeply with the training program’s content.

6.      Social Learning

Ever since the start of the pandemic, people around the world have been deprived of socializing significantly. However, with the Instructional Design theory leaning towards the virtual world, social learning has become possible in these challenging times as well. Leaners can learn more effectively when they are provided with the opportunity to interact and discuss what they have learnt so far.

For example, instructional designers can include discussion boards or forums or class-wide chats in the training program to encourage collaboration and sharing amongst the learners.

7.      Gamification

Gamification adds game-like elements to the learning experience created by instructional designers. Through gamification, the training program enhances the motivation and engagement of learners.

For example, the instructional designers can add a points system, badges, leaderboards, and learning-focused games to the training program.


The pandemic has changed the instructional design methods considerably. Because of safety measures, the world shifted to virtual learning, which meant the content created by instructional designers needed to be delivered through online platforms. The points mentioned above are some new additions to the instructional design theory, which helps trainers provide learners with enhanced training programs.

 If you wish to enhance your training programs, virtual learning, and eLearning methods, using a methodology, system and digital toolbox is the best option. ID9 Intelligent Design’s solution can help increase your corporate’s training programs and create more meaningful experiences for the employees.

Contact us now if you wish to find out more about ID9 Intelligent Design. Without a doubt, this learning platform by ID9 Intelligent Design is beneficial for your training programs!