Lesson 1

Lesson 2

Lesson 3

Lesson 4

Lesson 5



Creating Distance Learning Courses

Lesson Two
Part 1: The Instructional Design Process


In this lesson you will learn about two different approaches to the organization of instruction—behaviorism and constructivism - and the effects of adopting one of these approaches on the content and structure of a distance learning course. You will also explore how the instructional design process for developing distance learning courses differs from the process of developing instruction for the classroom. And you will experience a short, online multimedia lecture.


Book Icon Required Reading
  • Read through the following lesson, keeping in mind your particular topic area and potential learner population. Your understanding of these concepts will be assessed as part of the examination in Lesson Five.

At the end of this lesson, you will be able to:

  • name the main features of the two main approaches to instructional design;
  • enumerate the advantages and disadvantages of each approach;
  • describe how the approach adopted affects course content and structure;
  • list the four ways the instructional design process for a distance learning course differs from the design process for classroom-based courses; and
  • use a media player to access an online lecture.

The Rationale for Instructional Design

"Good instructional design is at the core of any quality distance education course. It is virtually impossible to create a distance education course without knowing and understanding instructional design…Higher education faculty in the US and elsewhere rarely take classes in graduate school that teach them how to design instruction. Their focus has been and will continue to be on the content they teach and research that supports it. Although this is what higher education has dictated to be the central theme of university teaching, and faculty often do quite well in the traditional classroom, the move to distance delivery presents a new set of issues that require some knowledge of instructional design. And, although faculty may be resistant to change in designing instruction, most will admit they are better classroom teachers as a result of the design processes they learn in developing a distance learning course." Distance Education: A Primer, Instructional Issues, University of Texas

Two Main Approaches

There are at least two main approaches to designing distance learning curriculum. Each has developed from a major school of thought on how people learn—behaviorism and constructivism. Although these approaches are sometimes presented as mutually exclusive, each has its value for particular times and places, and each has specific application in particular distance learning environments. In both cases there is a common interest in outcomes - what will learners be able to do or think at the end of a unit of instruction that is different from what they were able to do at the start?
(narrative and examples are adapted from UWEO course DLDD 100, Teaching and Learning at a Distance,
authored by Dr. Stephen Kerr, University of Washington College of Education)

The Behavioral Approach

The Constructivist Approach

Effect of the Design Approach on Course Structure

Deciding which of these instructional design approaches to take depends on the needs and inclinations of your learners, the content to be communicated, and your preference as an instructor. The kind of approach you adopt will affect how the course is structured, including the relationship between instructor and learners, the range and type of activities, and the assessment methods. These differences can be briefly summarized in a table.

Go on to Lesson Two: Page 2
Go on to Lesson 2, Part 2