Instructional Design Models in the Educational Industry

Even if you’re not required to construct your lessons or lesson plans, it’s a great idea to know the theory behind what’s involved with curriculum development. If you’re a fully certified teacher at the state level, you’ve probably come across many of these concepts before. However, if you have a Master’s degree in your field, you may not have been required to take any educational courses before accepting your teaching post, whether it be a fully online teaching job or a position at a bricks and mortar institution.

The following information focuses on two models of widely used instructional design – the ADDIE model and the Gradual Release Model.


One of the most popular and commonly used models of ID is the ADDIE model. ADDIE is an acronym which stands for Analysis, Develop, Design, Implement, and Evaluate.

  • Analysis– During this stage of the design process, the Instructional Designer should aim to assess the audience and its needs, define the outcomes and objectives of the training/lesson, and consider the logistics of how the training will be implemented.
  • Design – The design phase of this process asks the instructional designer to choose the structure of the training, solidify the training outcomes, decide what kind of activities and assessments will be used, and create all of the graphics and storyboards for activities used in the training.
  • Develop – After creating the storyboards and graphics for the learning activities and assessments, it’s time to actually create the training program by producing those deliverables.
  • Implement – When the training program is complete, it’s time to implement the training either online or in a classroom setting. If the training is completed online, it’s important to make sure the right equipment is available and that the website is available and fully function. If the training is done in person, an instructor’s manual and script may be necessary and should be addressed during the design stage.
  • Evaluate – During this final phase of the ADDIE model, it’s essential that the instructional designer analyze the data from the training exercises and participant surveys to determine how successful the training program was at meeting the previously determined training objectives.

Gradual Release Model

The Gradual Release Model is most often applied in the K-12 educational industry. Like ADDIE, the first step is to analyze the audience and objectives of the lesson. After defining the performance objectives, the lesson, activities, and assessments are created to target those goals.

The key difference between the ADDIE and GRM models is how the GRM model focuses on a particular lesson structure. The structure of the lesson guides the students from observing a demonstration, to instructor shared practice, to peer guided practice, to independent practice. The clear benefit of this lesson centered model is that it allows the student not only to comprehend an idea but to actually apply the concept independently. It should be noted that students may need to move back and forth between steps in the process in a non-linear fashion to achieve true mastery.

This table highlights some of the pros and cons of each of these types of Instructional Design:

ID ModelAdvantagesDisadvantages
Adaptable to different evaluation strategies
Widely Used
Linear Process
Time Consuming
Gradual Release Model (GRM)Teaches mastery and application
Students gain confidence
Instruction is individual
Teacher is solely responsible for assessments, which can lead to inaccuracy
Small groups are preferable
Too much time must be devoted to unlearning misconceptions


Opinion – Teaching Online at for-profit universities: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Every teacher’s experience of the online learning environment will be different, so this op-ed is only related to my experience as an online adjunct faculty member at for-profit universities. All of my courses were taught fully online, which also distinguishes them from a blended learning environment.

There are a few requirements to teaching university courses at an online school. Usually universities require:

  • At least 18 hours of graduate instruction in the course you are seeking to teach, but most require a Master’s degree or a PhD in the field.
  • A few years of traditional teaching experience.
  • Completion of an un-paid training course prior to assigning your first course.

So, after getting the first job, here are the bonuses and drawbacks of this kind of position.

The Good:

  • You have complete flexibility over when you teach or complete coursework as long as you fulfill the requirements as defined by the administration.
  • Employers normally offer some level of professional development to their adjunct faculty.
  • Some universities offer tuition assistance or stipends for research to their adjunct faculty.
  • Your work can be done fully online – from home, from Starbucks, from Timbuktu.

The Bad:

  • Instructors often have little control over course content or curriculum. They must craft announcements and lectures based on the given materials.
  • Course/curriculum updates occur frequently, meaning that instructors must continually update their announcements, lectures, etc. This can be time consuming, especially if the course is “in development” and needs to have revisions constantly.
  • Changes to administrative policies may come with little or no warning. At one of the universities that I worked for, administration eliminated the use of Teaching Assistants (who did the majority of the grading) with very little notice. Administration instructed faculty to absorb the grading of assignments, which significantly increased workload.

The Ugly:

  • The salary for most courses taught by adjunct faculty is fairly low. You can expect to earn between $1200 and $2000 for each 5-8 week course you teach, dependent upon previous experience and education. Considering the amount of work involved, this is a shockingly low rate of pay for someone who has, at the very least, a Master’s degree.
  • No benefits of any kind are offered to online adjunct faculty because they are considered part-time workers.
  • There is no established career path based on achievement, merit, or any other factor. Although there are sometimes job announcements for full time online faculty posted on the internal job boards, the chance of getting one of these coveted, full-time, benefitted positions is quite slim. Unless you’re well-connected, have worked there a long time, or are the most stellar instructor ever, it’s highly unlikely you will land one of these full-time positions even after years of service at a particular institution.

The Verdict:

Teaching as an online adjunct can be financially and personally rewarding, but that experience is completely dependent on your career goals. If you’re looking for something that will supplement your income either because you’re moonlighting or between jobs, this career path might be appropriate.  If you’re willing to take on several courses from multiple universities, that can be lucrative. However, if you’re looking for a career in which you can identify a solid career path to advancement, the online teaching field presents several challenges to this goal.

The Power of Potential

In most of my online Composition courses, students completed an introductory discussion activity introducing themselves and identifying their relationship to both reading and writing. Without fail, several students in each course would express sentiments such as:

  • I’m not good at writing.
  • I’ve never been good in my English courses.
  • I don’t understand grammar.
  • I never read books.
  • Reading has never appealed to me.
  • Citation is something I’ve never been able to comprehend.
  • Punctuation has always been a problem for me.
  • I’m not very good at __________.

These students entered the course with a fixed rather than a growth mindset. The difficulty with a fixed mindset is that it negates potential. As the renowned psychologist, Carol Dweck, has discovered

 “In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.”

The challenge with adult students is overcoming a lifetime of preconceived notions about their innate potential to learn. A brief look into the research about how and why these notions become so deeply ingrained reveals that we usually form these ideas during childhood. Numerous studies have concluded that girls do not excel in math and science because they are told repeatedly that girls are not as good at math and science. A study by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign confirmed this finding and exposed why there is a gender gap between males and females in the field of math and science.

But how do we overcome these obstacles and prove to our students that they do have the potential to learn a subject in which they already feel they are pre-disposed to being unsuccessful? Dweck gives us further insight into this subject. Her studies discovered that emphasizing students’ effort rather than innate ability improved students’ performance significantly. Students who were praised for their inherent talents surrendered easily to challenges in which they believed they might be unsuccessful. Students who were praised for their efforts improved significantly after further testing and even seemed to enjoy the challenge!

What we learn from this knowledge is that the way to unlock students’ potential is by encouraging their effort and emphasizing that it’s practice and repetition that form better skills. It’s also crucial to measure a single student’s success by their own progress rather than their proficiency as compared to other students. Small gains in achievement can be just as significant to a struggling student as larger ones can be for an over-achieving student. Instilling a growth mindset in students (of any age) means underscoring the idea that students can do better rather than focusing on the idea that the students did their best.

Check out a talk given by Carol Dweck at the “Authors at Google” conference:


Bronson, Po. (2007, August 3). “How Not to Talk to Your Kids.” New York Magazine. Retrieved from

Dweck, Carol. (2010). “What is Mindset.” Retrieved from

Severns, M. (2014, June 12). “Study Offers Possible Explanation for the Huge Gender Gap in Science and Math.” Slate. Retrieved from

Forming new memories, skills, and habits

Memory Formation

Understanding how our brains acquire skills can help an educator design and implement quality curriculum, and is of equal importance to catering to different learning styles and focusing on activities that help form lasting memories.

Our brain is an amazing piece of machinery! Even after decades of neuroscientific study, we still know very little about where memories are stored. We do, however, have some idea of how memories are made.

The amygdala is connected to emotional learning, and it’s thought that positive emotional experiences and environments produce better learning results. The amygdala receives data from some sort of external stimuli (auditory, visual, olfactory, tactile, gustatory) and sends a signal to the hippocampus to begin “recording” the event. The hippocampus then stimulates the neurons to “fire” or connect. Each time the same neural pathway is stimulated with the same information it becomes stronger.

As with most things, habits and knowledge are formed through study and repetition/practice. But how much repetition is enough to form a meaningful new memory or skill-set? According to the latest research

  • After 20 repetitions, a new neural pathway form
  • After 40 repetitions, a habit/skill forms
  • After 66 repetitions, the neurons along this neural pathway become thicker and more connected

Habit Formation

In addition to repetition, it’s best to associate a new skill with previous knowledge or an already established habit.

An already established skill, or schema, provides the groundwork to which you can add further skills. For example, when teaching a child to read, we first teach them the alphabet, then the phonetic sounds of each letter, then the phonetic sounds of the combination of letters, and so on. If we began by explaining what nouns and verbs were, we wouldn’t get very much farther than “gaa-gaa” with our little ones.

When trying to develop a new habit in our students’ routines, we should try to identify something that they already do well that relates to the habit we’d like to teach. A great example of this comes from when I was teaching online.

Most of my courses focused on Composition and Rhetoric. Universities usually divide the curriculum for this kind of foundational course into two levels. The first level usually focused on various writing styles, the writing process, and building an essay from start to finish. The essay was usually a personal narrative or some other sort of essay that doesn’t require outside sources. The second level of the course addressed how to incorporate outside research into a persuasive, expository, or other type of essay that requires documentation in order to build an argument. The second level built on knowledge established in the first course.

In the simplest terms, habits are usually formed on the path from cue to routine to reward. The most obvious example in online education is this: a student sees an announcement for a new assignment; the student completes the assignment; the student receives a score. An example from the real world would go something like this: a child is hungry, she asks for food, and his or her mother produces a snack. Neuroscientists and behaviorists have repeatedly proven that reward is a much better way to shape behavior as compared to punishment. Bearing this in mind as you craft lessons for your students or when you’re trying to form a new habit yourself can result in increased success.

Making Connections: Helping Students Remember Concepts

Helping students of different levels and learning styles connect to course concepts can be one of the most challenging obstacles any teacher faces, whether it be online or in the traditional classroom.  Here are some ways you can aid your students in remembering (and retaining!) important course concepts


In the simplest terms, metacognition simply means thinking about thinking. For example, if you’re teaching a literature course, as an icebreaking activity, you might ask your students to recount a positive reading experience that they’ve had previous to the course. This will get students to associate positive feelings with reading before you even assign something for them to read! If a student enters a course with negative feelings about the subject matter or their ability to achieve the course objectives, it’s incredibly difficult to overcome that negativity. Therefore, reminding students of a prior success in a certain area is an excellent way to get off on a positive footing.


One of the best ways to remember something is to use a mnemonic device or wordplay. No matter what walk of life you’re from, you most likely remember the following: “I before E except after C” and “30 days hath September, April, June, and November. All the rest have 31.”

Another example of a mnemonic device capitalizes on the first letter in each word. For example, in a biology class I once learned the way that species are organized by the following sentence: King Phillip Came Over For Good Soup, which stood for Kingdom-Phyla-Class-Order-Family-Genus-Species.


How many times have you heard the question “When will I ever use this in my career/the future?”? A personal connection with course material is essential to student assimilation of the information. If a student believes that the material has no value in their daily life, it will be difficult to get that student to fully participate in a course. Initiating an “aha” or “lightbulb” moment for a student will help them remember a concept.

Social Interaction

Social interaction reinforces a student’s acquisition of course materials. Participating in a discussion, interactive game, or peer review activity gets students to share their ideas with others. Even simply relaying the information learned to a colleague or family member can help solidify concepts.

Pair it with Music

Do you remember certain songs from childhood with absolute clarity? Music helps our minds create unique and lasting neural pathways. If it’s possible, use a song or rhyme to illuminate ideas you want students to remember easily.

References: (Producer). (2014). The Neuroscience of Learning [Video file]. Retrieved from


Catering to Different Learning Styles in the E-Learning Environment

Sometimes the e-learning or blended learning environment makes it easy to share things and communicate with your students. Almost all LMS (learning management systems) allow for the posting of announcements, lectures, and quizzes, etc. But this is not always enough to engage students of all the different learning types.

Caption: 7 Learning Styles – Verbal, Solitary, Visual, Aural, Social, Logical, Kinesthetic

Appealing to each of the seven learning styles has long been a challenge for educators, but never is it more challenging than in the online environment, which creates a distance between instructor and student that doesn’t occur in the traditional classroom. How can educators cater to all of these styles in the e-learning medium to provide the most enriching learning environment?


These types of students are usually the easiest to communicate with in the online environment. They’re usually self-starters that enjoy reading and figuring things out on their own, rather than being shown. For these reasons, verbal and solitary learners respond well to most activities in the e-learning environment. Downloadable documents, e-books, text lectures, discussion forums, group chats, etc. These types of students often excel at written assignments, which makes them ideally suited for learning online.


For visual and aural students, it’s a great idea to use instructional screencasts, videos, music or other auditory/visual stimuli. If you’re providing a text lecture, consider providing a screencast of the instructor pointing out the key points in the lecture or giving some thoughts on the material presented. This can really help learners who struggle to read all the material assigned. Try using Jing if you’d like a free application to work with. Jing limits you to a 5 minute recording.


Social learners like to feel like they are part of a community of learners, and it’s sometimes easy to feel like you’re on your own little island when you’re learning in the online environment. Discussion forums and peer review activities are a good way to get class members talking to each other. It’s also a great idea to schedule a time for a live group chat, if your LMS makes this possible.

Interactive games are also another great way to challenge students to connect and compete with each other in a fun way. One of the best sites I’ve found for constructing interactive games is Educaplay. You can make everything from interactive crosswords, matching sets, maps to label, etc. Educaplay makes it easy to either link or embed the games you make into your LMS interface.  Check out this example I made to help students learn the geography of the fifty states:

US States Map Identification Game


Reach your logical students by presenting information in graphs, diagrams, or charts. If using spreadsheets is appropriate, these are also an option.

If you want to engage your logical students on a more social level, try developing a class survey or poll. For example, if you were teaching an Introduction to Film Course, you might poll the class to find out which genre was the most popular among the student population. If your LMS doesn’t provide a way to integrate a poll, you should consider using a Google Apps Form to achieve the same end. Google Apps Forms are easily customized and embedded, just like this:

Visit the Google Forms App to check it out. You do have to log in to your Google account to access this app.


By far the most difficult type of learner to engage in the e-learning environment is the kinesthetic learner. Kinesthetic learners learn by physically doing things or doing things on a physical rather than a verbal or logical plane. It’s not impossible to have your online learners participate in physical activities, but you will most likely have to get creative and assign them things that lead them there. For example, if you were teaching a Composition course, you could assign your students to visit somewhere naturally beautiful, like a park, and write a description of something in great detail, such as a tree or a river. If you were teaching a Math course, you could ask your students to make simple observations about math in their daily lives. For example, ask students to tell you (in fractions or percentages) how much pizza/pie/etc. at their last family dinner. You could even have them provide pictures as a way to verify their calculations!


Interactive Games in the Digital Learning Environment

If you’re using technology in the classroom, use should definitely try incorporating some interactive games into your lesson plans. As all teachers know, it’s a challenge to appeal to so many different learning styles in one classroom. But what student doesn’t like a game?? These types of activities are especially helpful for learners that respond more quickly to audio or visual stimuli. After a while text-based activities can be a bit of a bore for anyone!

One of the best sites I’ve found for making games for almost any level of student is Educaplay. You can make interactive crosswords, word searches, word jumbles, matching, fill in the blanks, scrambled sentences, and many more. Each activity can be customized to align with your lesson objectives. You can also control other attributes, such as the length of the game, and how many times a student is allowed to choose the answer.

Here’s an example of an interactive map I made of the United States which asks the student to correctly identify each state. The ease with which this was created astounded me! I simply uploaded the map I wanted to use, and then input the correct answers. This kind of interactive map game has a number of applications in the sciences and social sciences, as well.

US States Map Identification Game

Unfortunately, there are a few advertisements when you use a free account to create games. But overall, the functionality is great and there are numerous applications for the games created at this site. Another awesome thing about Educaplay – thousands of other educators from around the world have created interactive games for their classes, and you can easily search and use these games in your own classroom. Why do the work if somebody’s already done it for you?!

As for method of delivery to your students, it really depends on how much technology you have available to you in the classroom. If you have your own class website that you update yourself, you probably already know how to use an embed tag to host the game. But if you’re not that technologically inclined, you can also just email a link to the game to your students that leads them it at the Educaplay site.


Finding Online Teaching Jobs

Teaching online can be a personally and financially fulfilling career. If you already have “on-the-ground” teaching experience, that’s certainly a plus, but it’s not impossible to find online teaching jobs with little or no teaching experience. The requirements vary widely amongst institutions, but most universities require that their adjunct faculty have completed at least 18 graduate level course hours in the subject they wish to teach.

Like most fields, competition for online teaching jobs can be fierce. These days, many people want the added benefits of telecommuting, which means that it may be even more difficult to get a job with an online university than it is to get a job teaching in a traditional classroom. Therefore, it’s incredibly important that your résumé and cover letter are up to date and reflect accurate information about your skills and work history.

Once you’ve updated your résumé, you can begin your job search online. Here are some of the first places you should visit:

  • HigherEdJobs – Whether teaching online or in the classroom, this is the “go to” website for the seasoned academic professional. This site lists hundreds of new positions each day and even has a special section for Online/Remote positions. You can create an account which allows you to develop an online résumé, create multiple job search agents that notify you via email of suitable positions, and upload pertinent documents, such as transcripts, etc.
  • The Chronicle of Higher Education – Although it seems more geared towards finding traditional teaching jobs, The Chronicle of Higher Education is a fabulous source of information on the educational industry in general and has an extensive job search database (Vitae) that lists thousands of adjunct positions.
  • FlexJobs – This site is useful for anyone who is looking for a telecommuting position. Although they do offer a free account, if you’re a serious jobseeker, it’s probably best to opt for the Premium account. In the Premium Account, you can build multiple résumés to apply to a variety of career fields. This is great if you have many different skills that don’t necessarily fall under the same umbrella. You can also set up alerts for specific jobs or industries so you can apply quickly if you feel you have the right qualifications. Finally, FlexJobs offers a testing service where you can showcase your skills by completing an online examination. This is a great way to highlight your proficiency in the skills you listed on your résumé.
  • LinkedIn – As with any other profession these days, it’s of crucial importance to your career that you network as much as possible! Fill in your LinkedIn profile with as much information about your education, experience, and skills as possible. Join groups related to your field of expertise, and don’t be afraid to ask other professionals in your field for advice about where to find the best online positions.

In addition to all of these sites, be sure to look at the individual websites of universities you might be interested in working with. Most schools have online programs of some sort, so it’s a great idea to check out the Human Resources section of a university’s website to see if they’re hiring online adjuncts in your field.

Happy job hunting!

~ Kendall

Video Screencasts – How to use them and why you should be

If you’re new to online teaching or work collaboratively in a digital environment, you may be searching for additional ways to make your classes more interactive for your students or help explain things to colleagues. Choosing to work or study online doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone wants to read a text-only lecture every week! In order to cater to a variety of learning  and working styles, you’ll need to include some “extras” to keep your audience engaged.

One of the best and easiest ways to explain a concept in the digital environment is to use a video screen capture. Screen captures can be used in many ways, but here are a few ideas:

  • Describing how to do something in an external program, such as MS Office (example: format a document using APA style)
  • Articulating your grading procedure more clearly (example: show how students are scored using a rubric; show students how grades are entered into the gradebook)
  • “Shout outs” to students who have done well on a task as an example for other students of how to “get it right”

This may all sound great! But how can it be accomplished? Well, if you have access to Adobe Creative Suite, then you’re all set. However, many teachers don’t have access to Adobe and simply can’t afford it. Here’s where a program called Jing steps in. Jing is a free program that creates screencasts of up to five minutes. Its produced by a company called TechSmith, which also produces many other paid-for software, such as Camtasia and Snagit.

Jing can be downloaded by clicking here. It’s easy to use, so creating your first few screencasts should be  a breeze. Check out the video below about making your first screen capture:

Hopefully this gets you started with video screen captures. Be sure to check out the Jing Tutorials at the TechSmith site for more tips and tricks!

~ Kendall






The posts in this area will mainly be focused on education, e-learning, funding for educational research/expansion, and how best to assimilate to the ever-increasing use of technology in both traditional and online university settings.

There will also be quite a few posts about writing. If you teach English Literature or Composition and Rhetoric, you may find these posts useful in your classroom or in a professional sense. It seems like today’s teachers are asked to be experts in a number of fields other than the one in which they’ve been educated.

I will also be using this space to chronicle some of the charity work I’ve been doing using my skills as an educator and writer. In just a few hours a week, it’s possible to make a genuine difference in the lives of many.

If you’re interested in using your skills in a charitable way, be sure to check out the website Catchafire. It’s a social media portal that connects charities with people willing to donate their time and effort.

~ Kendall