Educational Design, Learning Design, or Instructional Design?


So, what’s the deal with Educational Design, Learning Design, and Instructional Design?

Aren’t they all just fancy ways of saying the same thing?

Well, not exactly. While these terms often get tossed around interchangeably, there are some nuances to each. An Instructional Designer might find it tricky to step into the shoes of an Educational Designer, but they could probably handle a Learning Design gig with ease. See, Learning Designers typically need some formal training in the Learning Sciences to rock their role, whereas Educational Designers sit at the top of the knowledge tree, needing both formal training in teaching and learning plus a solid grasp of the Learning Sciences.

In university settings, the distinctions become clearer.

Educational Design

Educational Designers are like Swiss Army knives, tackling a bunch of different projects across various subjects. So, Educational Designers need a wider skill set to juggle their diverse workload.

Learning Design

Learning Designers usually zero in on one subject or course, diving deep into content and requiring serious attention to detail.

Fun fact: Aussies seem to be all about Instructional Design, based on Google searches. It’s like they’re the MVP (minimum viable product) of the eLearning world Down Under!

Speaking of eLearning, all three roles can flex their muscles in the digital realm. Whether it’s whipping up interactive modules or hosting virtual lectures, eLearning covers the whole shebang of digital learning and teaching. It’s like Information and Communication Technologies are the superhero sidekicks helping these designers save the day for learners everywhere.

On the hunt for a side-gig or full role as an Instructional Designer or Learning Designer in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, or Perth?

Well, you’re in luck! We’re on the lookout for top-notch instructional designers to team up with us on projects in these awesome Aussie cities. Whether you’re up for a freelance gig or looking to hop on board as a casual employee, we’ve got opportunities aplenty.

Our projects come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from short sprints to longer-term collaborations spanning up to 12 weeks. Plus, we’re all about flexibility. So, if you’ve got other commitments or prefer to work from the comfort of your own home, we’re totally cool with that. We’re all about making it work for you, whether it’s adjusting your schedule or dialing in those work-from-home vibes.

Specifically... we focus on instructional design!

Curious why some learning experiences feel like a walk in the park, while others leave you feeling drained, or worse – lost and confused? Say hello to instructional design – the magic sauce behind those “Aha!” moments in learning!

Instructional design is all about weaving together the perfect blend of art and science to create learning experiences that hit the mark. It’s like being an architect, but instead of buildings, we’re building pathways to knowledge. We take what you already know and guide you seamlessly toward what you need to learn.

Here’s how the magic unfolds:

  1. Analyse: It all begins with a Sherlock Holmes moment! We dive deep, uncovering what the learners know and what they’re yearning to grasp.
  2. Design: What’s the endgame? We paint a crystal-clear picture of the learning goals, ensuring they’re sharp, achievable, and measurable. Every great structure needs a plan. Here, we sketch out the learning journey, selecting the best strategies, tools, and activities for the task.
  3. Develop: This is where thoughts become things! Whether it’s penning riveting course content, shooting engaging videos, or designing immersive online modules, we bring our plans to life.
  4. Implement: Lights, camera, learn! Our crafted experiences meet the learners, setting the stage for transformative insights.
  5. Evaluate: No masterpiece is ever complete without a touch of refinement. We measure, analyse, and refine, ensuring our instruction not only meets but exceeds expectations.

Whether it’s shaping young minds in K-12, forging future leaders in higher education, or fine-tuning skills in the corporate arena, instructional design is the hidden force making learning memorable, enjoyable, and above all, effective.

So, the next time you find yourself engrossed in a learning experience, remember the unsung heroes behind the scenes, crafting your educational journey!


FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions

The purpose of learning design is to make learning effective, efficient and engaging. It ensures the structure and sequence of experiences scaffold learning, building on learners’ current understanding and skills to increase capability.

Learning design is:

1. Learner-centred: it focuses on the learner’s knowledge, skills and behaviours.

2. Goal-oriented: it aims to achieve specific learning outcomes.

3. Theory-driven: it is underpinned by learning theories (including andragogy) and instructional design principles.

4. Focused on creating meaningful experiences: learning experiences are engaging, effective and relevant to the real-world.

5. Data-driven: it targets the learning needs identified through the learning needs analysis (LNA), and includes a program evaluation to determine the strategy’s effectiveness and how it can be improved.

There are four common learning design models:

1. The ADDIE Model

2. Merrill’s First Principles of Instruction

3. Bloom’s Taxonomy

4. Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction


The ADDIE Model guides Instructional Designers through the instructional design process. ADDIE stands for Analyse, Design, Develop, Implement and Evaluate.


Merrill collated numerous learning theories and models to establish the First Principles of Instruction, which Instructional Designers use to ensure their learning strategies reflect best practices.


Bloom’s Taxonomy is a hierarchical model of six levels of cognitive skills: Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation. Instructional Designers use it to define learning objectives and design activities that build higher-order thinking.


Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction is a list of sequential actions used to structure learning sessions. They are:

  1. Gain the attention of the students.

  2. Inform the learner of the objective.

  3. Stimulate recall of prior learning.

  4. Present the content.

  5. Provide learning guidance.

  6. Elicit the performance.

  7. Provide feedback.

  8. Assess the performance.

  9. Enhance retention and transfer.

The ADDIE Model is a five-step process used to create an impactful learning design. ADDIE is an acronym for: Analyse, Design, Develop, Implement and Evaluate.


To prepare a good learning design, firstly complete a learning needs analysis (LNA). The information gathered will help to identify the learning needs. These are used to determine the learning outcomes the program aims to achieve. You’ll then be able to recommend (and design) an appropriate learning solution.

You can see some great examples in our case studies section. However, in general terms, a learning design is a blueprint for an educational experience. Consider an online course on “Digital Photography Basics.” The design starts by identifying learners’ needs—perhaps novices eager to master their new cameras. Clear objectives are set, like understanding camera settings or composing a shot. The course might be structured into modules, including video demonstrations, interactive quizzes, and assignments like photo challenges. Feedback is integrated through peer reviews and instructor comments. The design also includes assessments—perhaps a final project where learners capture a series of photos. Throughout, the course incorporates multimedia, interactive elements, and community engagement to ensure a rich, effective learning journey.

Learning design revolves around six foundational principles:

Learner-Centeredness: Prioritize learners’ needs, knowledge, and contexts for relevant content.

Clarity of Objectives: Clearly define and communicate desired learning outcomes.

Alignment: Ensure content, activities, and assessments consistently support learning objectives.

Engagement and Interaction: Actively involve learners with interactive methods to enhance understanding.

Feedback and Reflection: Provide timely responses, letting learners gauge progress and introspect.

Flexibility: Offer varied approaches and choices, catering to individual learner differences.

These principles ensure that learning experiences are effective, engaging, and tailored to individual needs.

The 7 Cs of Learning Design is a framework developed by Professor Gráinne Conole. It offers a structured approach to the design process, helping educators create high-quality and effective learning experiences.


The 7 Cs are:

Conceptualise: Begin by considering the big picture. Understand the subject, audience, and desired outcomes.

Capture: Gather and organize existing content, resources, and materials that can be repurposed or used as a basis for the new design.

Create: Develop new content, activities, and assessments. This step involves designing specific learning tasks and activities.

Communicate: Establish ways for learners to communicate with one another and with instructors. This often involves setting up discussion forums, collaborative tools, or other communication methods.

Collaborate: Design activities that foster collaboration among learners, encouraging peer-to-peer learning and group work.

Consider: Reflect on the design’s potential effectiveness. This involves thinking about the assessment strategies and how to evaluate the success of the learning experience.

Consolidate: Bring everything together into a coherent whole. Review, refine, and finalize the design, ensuring alignment and flow between components.


The 7 Cs framework is particularly useful for those new to learning design, offering a structured approach that covers the essential aspects of creating meaningful and engaging learning experiences.

A learning design framework provides a structured approach to creating educational experiences. It offers guidelines, strategies, and tools that help educators and instructional designers systematically plan, develop, and deliver learning experiences, whether in traditional classroom settings, online environments, or blended formats.

A well-constructed learning design framework can:

  1. Guide the Design Process: It provides a step-by-step roadmap, ensuring that designers consider all critical aspects of the learning experience.

  2. Ensure Alignment: By following the framework, designers can make sure that learning objectives, content, instructional strategies, and assessments are aligned and work cohesively.

  3. Promote Best Practices: Frameworks often embed pedagogical best practices, ensuring that the learning experiences are effective and grounded in research.

  4. Facilitate Consistency: Especially within larger institutions or organisations, a shared framework can lead to more consistent course design across various subjects or departments.

  5. Support Scalability and Reproducibility: With a standard framework in place, it’s easier to replicate successful designs across different courses or even institutions.

Several learning design frameworks are widely recognised in the field of education. Some popular ones include:

ADDIE (Analyse, Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate): A linear approach to course design and development.

The 7 Cs of Learning Design: A holistic approach that covers the entire design process, from conceptualization to consolidation.

SAM (Successive Approximation Model): An agile model for instructional design that emphasises iterative design and development.

Each framework has its strengths and is suited to different contexts, but all aim to assist in the creation of effective and engaging learning experiences.

The five types of learning based on modalities are:

  1. Visual (Spatial): Learners grasp concepts best through images, diagrams, and charts.

  2. Aural (Auditory-Musical): These individuals prefer listening to lectures, discussions, or audio recordings.

  3. Verbal (Linguistic): Verbal learners excel with reading, writing, and spoken content.

  4. Physical (Kinesthetic): They benefit from hands-on activities, movement, and tactile experiences.

  5. Logical (Mathematical): They thrive on logic, reasoning, and systematic approaches.

It’s essential to recognise that many people combine multiple learning styles, and blending various modalities can often yield the best educational results.

The purpose of learning design is to create effective, engaging, and efficient educational experiences that facilitate the acquisition of knowledge and skills. Specifically, learning design aims to:

  1. Ensure Alignment: Properly align learning objectives, content, instructional strategies, and assessments to ensure cohesive and comprehensive instruction.

  2. Meet Learners’ Needs: Tailor educational experiences to the diverse needs, backgrounds, and abilities of learners, maximising accessibility and inclusion.

  3. Promote Engagement: Design interactive and stimulating activities that capture learners’ interest and motivate them to participate actively.

  4. Enhance Retention: Use evidence-based strategies that facilitate the retention and application of learned information.

  5. Facilitate Assessment: Incorporate methods to evaluate and measure learners’ progress and attainment of objectives.

  6. Maximise Efficiency: Optimize resources and time, delivering content in a manner that respects both the educators’ and learners’ constraints and capacities.

  7. Encourage Lifelong Learning: Instill skills and mindsets that drive learners to continuously seek knowledge and growth beyond the immediate learning experience.

In essence, learning design ensures that educational experiences are not just informative but also transformative, enabling learners to apply and benefit from their new knowledge and skills in real-world contexts.

More insights

What is Instructional Design?

As we navigate the intricate dance between digital and traditional pedagogies, we're drawn to a beacon of modern education: blended learning.

What do Instructional Designers do?

As we navigate the intricate dance between digital and traditional pedagogies, we're drawn to a beacon of modern education: blended learning.

What are the First Principles of Instruction?

As we navigate the intricate dance between digital and traditional pedagogies, we're drawn to a beacon of modern education: blended learning.