Interaction design versus Instructional Design

22 Jul 2009 - 6:58pm
5 years ago
14 replies
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missu
2009

Hi Byran :-),

I have never heard the phrase or title "Instructional Design"
before today. But from a quick glance, it looks like the difference
maybe the perspective. Instructional Design maybe looking at it from
a perspective of how well the person will learn or understand
something, and how to train a person. Where as interaction design is
about the intuitiveness of something and how easy is it to use
without any instructions.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
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Comments

23 Jul 2009 - 3:26am
Adam Korman
2004

I haven't read anything about the relationship of the fields, but I
did get my start working as an Instructional Designer for about 3
years before getting into Interaction Design, so I've thought about
this a little bit.

There are definitely similarities and parallels in the work,
especially the up-front process of doing contextual research to
understand what people are trying to achieve and identifying patterns
of behavior. That's ultimately done to help devise solutions that help
people achieve their goals. This very high-level description of
activities and aims applies equally to both fields.

My own experience as an instructional designer (which I didn't have
any formal education in) was that I didn't have a good process for
explicitly synthesizing the results of the research into something
like personas or illustrated mental models, but the approach and
intent of that up-front work was roughly the same as it is in product
design. Knowing what I do now about mental models and personas, I can
see how these would have been incredibly valuable tools in
instructional design. The little bit of coursework and reading I did
as an instructional designer focused mostly on task analysis and
documentation (as well as pedagogy and the psychology of learning). Of
course, all of these things are also useful and applicable in
interaction design.

As for the artifacts or end products we create, although they are
quite different (training materials that indirectly help people
achieve their goals in one case, and products that more directly help
achieve goals in the other), there are again many parallels related to
figuring out how to best facilitate the success of your audience/
users. In both cases you are creating mediated experiences and tools
that rely heavily on clear communication to achieve an end.

-Adam

On Jul 22, 2009, at 11:02 AM, Bryan Clover wrote:

> These two fields seem very related. In fact, one could argue that
> instructional design is really the precursor to interaction design.
> Both involve in-depth needs analysis, both are focused on defining
> user's needs and goals, both involve gathering user feedback via
> usability testing. In my eyes, Interaction design is nothing more
> than the Instructional design process without the need for creating
> content that can actually teach and train people. Has anyone come
> across any good articles for comparing these two?

23 Jul 2009 - 8:59am
Ian Chan
2005

In a past life I developed educational curricula both in print,
online, and using cdroms and laser discs. At that time instructional
design had almost nothing to do with interaction design, besides the
unfortunate use of "ID" as a self-ascribed moniker -- one shared also
with Industrial Design.

Instructional design takes the idea that there are steps, sequences,
dependencies (learn this before trying that), hierarchies (of
concepts, of learning), examples, and much more in the process of
learning -- and therefore in the process of teaching. That in the
design of content used in teaching, the "design" of pedagogical
materials should reflect a cogent methodology and approach. One that
reflects a pedagogical framework (critical thinking, multiple
perspectives, pro-social), educational discipline (science, math,
etc), and which facilitates use of the educational materials used.

something like that

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On Jul 22, 2009, at 4:58 PM, missu wrote:

> Hi Byran :-),
>
> I have never heard the phrase or title "Instructional Design"
> before today. But from a quick glance, it looks like the difference
> maybe the perspective. Instructional Design maybe looking at it from
> a perspective of how well the person will learn or understand
> something, and how to train a person. Where as interaction design is
> about the intuitiveness of something and how easy is it to use
> without any instructions.
>

23 Jul 2009 - 10:34am
Anonymous

It's an interesting question, and one I've been thinking about
myself a fair bit lately.

I currently am employed at a post-secondary institution, as a member
of a curriculum development group.

For our instructional designers, much of their work is spent
developing the Outcomes and Objectives for courses/programs (with
input from SMEs, driven by industry requirements), and then
determining what course materials (assessments, module content, and
media pieces) should go where. At this time, I do not believe the IDs
are engaged in doing research with students (much to some of our IDs
dismay), but rather relying on best practices and research done
elsewhere.

Once the IDs have determined where they want an activity or learning
object, and of what type (drag-and-drop matching? crossword puzzle?
interactive simulation? etc.) in consultation with the SME, the
project is handed over to a Media Developer (either a graphic artist
or programmer) to design, implement and build.

In our situation, we do not really do any formal "interaction
design"; we typically build pieces to whatever looks good to the
developer in question. A few of us are working towards being able to
perform research with our students, to ensure that the media pieces
we build are solid from an IxD perspective, but we're not quite
there yet :-)

That being said, the reason I have been thinking about the
relationship between IDs and IxDs is because I've been turning over
in my mind what the role of IxD would be in an environment like ours.
Is it the role of the ID to do the IxD? I don't think so.

As I see it, the IDs on our team are fantastic at planning and
structuring the course, its materials, assessments, outcomes and
objectives in a way that is pedagogically sound and beneficial for
the student.

My fellow media developers then build whatever the IDs and SMEs
believe will be beneficial to the student. But there is also a role
for IxD -- the translation of the IDs idea into a workable, usable,
and ultimately user-friendly media piece.

I believe that in this type of environment, the role of the
interaction designer is really a "student/user experience advocate"
-- working to ensure that the students receive the benefit of the
instructional design which has come before. The last thing we should
want is for our students to have to learn a difficult interface
before they can learn a difficult concept. And that's the problem
that IxD can solve, that I don't think that IDs really can (or would
want to).

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24 Jul 2009 - 6:33am
Jim Hoekema
2004

On Jul 22, 7:58 pm, missu <sparkleeye22-des... at yahoo.com> wrote:
>
> I have never heard the phrase or title "Instructional Design" before today.

Instruction Design, or Instructional Systems Design (ISD), has been
around for a long time, and that discipline certainly has major
overlaps with interaction design, particularly in the design of
tutorials, simulations, questions, feedback and tests. IxD can be
applied to many areas that don't involve instruction, just as
instruction design concepts and discipline can be applied to non-
interactive settings (such as programmed workbooks), less and less so
these days. The user research methods are more or less the same.

One key element of instructional design is quantifiable objectives, as
in, "After completing this unit, the student will able to achieve a
score of x in the y test..." If the mastery test is part of the
course, the course may force students to review material and re-take
the test until the define level of mastery is attained. Of course
another distinctive area is designing questions and answer choices -
there is a subtle art to asking questions (especially multiple) that
don't give away the answer yet are not perversely "unfair" either.
Another key area of design is how to process answers, especially wrong
answers - some options being (a) just give the right answer, (b) ask
the student to try again, (c) simply indicate right or wrong and keep
score, etc. The best approach depends on the purpose and context of
the instruction.

I still treasure a quote from an instructional design textbook (Alessi
& Trollop, 1985) that "Timed events are too long for some, too short
for others, and just right for nobody." This comes up in discussions
of Flash animations all the time!

24 Jul 2009 - 8:18am
Bruce Esrig
2006

Here's a simple contrast:
- Instructional Design plans environments for learning to perform
- Interaction Design plans environments for performing

There is also a lot in common:
- Audience analysis / user analysis
- Goals of the user
- Context in which they will attempt the task (and attempt the learning)
- Scenarios that capture the essence of the paths to achieving the goals
- Design of information structures
- Design of environments that enable (learning vs performing) behaviors

Because of the focus on motivation and behavior in interaction design, the
content can be minimized or neglected. That's why content strategy has
become a specialty of its own: to represent in performance environments a
perspective that has always been accepted as essential in learning
environments.

Best wishes,

Bruce Esrig
Madison, NJ

On Thu, Jul 23, 2009 at 4:34 AM, Breanne <breanne.dyck at sait.ca> wrote:

> It's an interesting question, and one I've been thinking about
> myself a fair bit lately.
>
> I currently am employed at a post-secondary institution, as a member
> of a curriculum development group.
>
> For our instructional designers, much of their work is spent
> developing the Outcomes and Objectives for courses/programs (with
> input from SMEs, driven by industry requirements), and then
> determining what course materials (assessments, module content, and
> media pieces) should go where. At this time, I do not believe the IDs
> are engaged in doing research with students (much to some of our IDs
> dismay), but rather relying on best practices and research done
> elsewhere.
>
> Once the IDs have determined where they want an activity or learning
> object, and of what type (drag-and-drop matching? crossword puzzle?
> interactive simulation? etc.) in consultation with the SME, the
> project is handed over to a Media Developer (either a graphic artist
> or programmer) to design, implement and build.
>
> <snip>

> As I see it, the IDs on our team are fantastic at planning and
> structuring the course, its materials, assessments, outcomes and
> objectives in a way that is pedagogically sound and beneficial for
> the student.
>
> My fellow media developers then build whatever the IDs and SMEs
> believe will be beneficial to the student. But there is also a role
> for IxD -- the translation of the IDs idea into a workable, usable,
> and ultimately user-friendly media piece.

<snip>

>
>

24 Jul 2009 - 11:09am
Jared M. Spool
2003

On Jul 24, 2009, at 9:18 AM, Bruce Esrig wrote:

> Here's a simple contrast:
> - Instructional Design plans environments for learning to perform
> - Interaction Design plans environments for performing

If you want to get really crazy, look up the work done in electronic
performance support systems (EPSS) by Gloria Gery and others. It's a
mashup between IxD and Instructional Design.

One way to think about it is that, most of the time, interaction
design succeeds if the user doesn't learn anything in the process and
instructional design succeeds if they do.

Jared

24 Jul 2009 - 11:22am
Sharon Greenfield5
2008

And another example:
Interaction design - building an online fart sound game
Instructional design - building a multimedia/flash curriculum to teach
people how to build an online fart sound game

>
>> Here's a simple contrast:
>> - Instructional Design plans environments for learning to perform
>> - Interaction Design plans environments for performing
>
> One way to think about it is that, most of the time, interaction
> design succeeds if the user doesn't learn anything in the process
> and instructional design succeeds if they do.
]

24 Jul 2009 - 11:50am
Dave Malouf
2005

The way I look at it is that interaction design is but one of the
disciplines required to achieve good instructional design.

that is to say that instructional design is a form or a goal, and
interaction design is 1 of many disciplines used to achieve a good
instructional design.

It goes back to the notion of horizontal vs. vertical disciplines of
design. IxD is a horizontal that spans many if not all vertical
disciplines.

Vertical disciplines are structured around goals or forms like
instructional, interior, architectural, industrial, graphic,
interactive, etc.

Horizontal disciplines like IxD and IA transcend goals and forms and
speak to an aspect of the whole.

here's the hard part. many vertical disciplines (not all) are also
horizontal in their nature such as visual design and 3D design (core
historical element of industrial design).

But that's my take on this whole fun framing a definition thing!

-- dave

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27 Jul 2009 - 6:13pm
AlokJain
2006

Bryan,

Your note reminds me of the three processes that are at work behind
every click - motor, perceptual and cognitive.

I think that the Instructional design focuses mostly on the cognitive
process and a bit on perceptual. The interaction design focuses on all
3. That's not to say that instructional design is a subset of
interaction design. Both go beyond each other in different scenarios.

Also instructional design does not equal to an elearning material.
The latter is an output that involves many other principles includes
information arch, technology component etc.

Alok jain (AJ)

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28 Jul 2009 - 1:50am
Philip Bouchard
2009

I designed educational software for 20 years before switching careers 10 years ago to focus on interaction design for web-based applications. I have always seen a substantial overlap between my two careers, but that was partly due to the way that I approached each one.

As an educational software designer, my goal was to envision and build rich learning environments, such as simulation games. Every detail of the environment was intended to be highly user centric. I wanted the UI to quickly disappear from the user's consideration, so they could focus on the tasks that they consciously or unconsciously set for themselves -- exploring, hypothesizing, testing their hypotheses, setting goals, and finding ways to achieve those goals. Therefore a major part of the user testing was to verify that the UI did indeed quickly fade away from their consciousness, and that they were able to do any task that they attempted without the UI getting in the way.

When I switched to application design, I found that the philosophical basis of my approach was essentially unchanged. The user has certain tasks that he or she wishes to accomplish, and the UI should quickly fade away, allowing the user to concentrate on the tasks at hand. In either of my careers, a central part of my objective is to create an environment that is easily learned and mastered by a new user -- and yet is powerful and efficient for the experienced user.

The main difference for me is that in educational software design, I had to do more than just craft a highly usable environment. I also had to provide rich learning opportunities within the environment and strong motivators so that the user would keep coming back. Finally, two other key measures of success were how much the user had learned while using the product, and even more important, whether the intellectual curiosity of the user had been stimulated so that they would keep learning after putting the product aside. By comparison, I find interaction design to be a simpler career!

- Philip

28 Jul 2009 - 5:43pm
Cindy Edwards
2009

Jared Spool offered: "One way to think about it is that, most of the
time, interaction design succeeds if the user doesn't learn anything
in the process and instructional design succeeds if they do."

I agree, to a point: Interaction design succeeds when the user
doesn't have to expressly learn to use the tool they are interacting
with, and instructional design (for online learning) succeeds in part
when the interaction design is effective.

For technology-based learning, interaction design is a necessary
function of success. Sound pedagogical design for a learning
experience does not guarantee success. IxD is part of the ID process,
whether the instructional designer takes responsibility for it or the
developers take responsibility for it. At some point, IxD is
paramount to learner success in interacting with the instructional
interface. Poor usability (weak IxD) distracts the learners from the
goals and objectives of the instructional experience, thus poor IxD
directly influences the success of ID.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
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28 Jul 2009 - 3:53pm
desiree mccrorey
2007

I couldn't say if one is a precursor to the other, but I feel
they're very related; ultimately the goal is to help users
accomplish something.

I do interaction design professionally; I do instructional design for
fun (specifically online arts and crafts tutorials).

I do both because I enjoy the rewards of empowering others through
fundamentals of teaching the what, when, how and whys.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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29 Jul 2009 - 7:03am
Ian Chan
2005

cindy,

I like this explanation a lot. Jared's point is a good one, but I
wouldn't make instructional design responsible for the learning
process. There are different learning modalities and (gardner's
visual, verbal, etc) Instructional design may succeed in facilitating
learning with some and not with others. I think your right that ID
uses ixd but ID is also applied to the sequencing of activities, the
use of resources, roles, tasks, and goals of activities, the build of
activities (which varies by discipline: reading and comprehension is
taught differently than, say math or science, etc), and so on. So in
my experience it hews closely to the content, and is design of a sort
of the interaction with content. Bad ID would result in confusing the
learning process, but good ID is not a guarantee of success.

a

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On Jul 28, 2009, at 3:43 PM, Cindy Edwards wrote:

> Jared Spool offered: "One way to think about it is that, most of the
> time, interaction design succeeds if the user doesn't learn anything
> in the process and instructional design succeeds if they do."
>
> I agree, to a point: Interaction design succeeds when the user
> doesn't have to expressly learn to use the tool they are interacting
> with, and instructional design (for online learning) succeeds in part
> when the interaction design is effective.
>
> For technology-based learning, interaction design is a necessary
> function of success. Sound pedagogical design for a learning
> experience does not guarantee success. IxD is part of the ID process,
> whether the instructional designer takes responsibility for it or the
> developers take responsibility for it. At some point, IxD is
> paramount to learner success in interacting with the instructional
> interface. Poor usability (weak IxD) distracts the learners from the
> goals and objectives of the instructional experience, thus poor IxD
> directly influences the success of ID.
>

29 Jul 2009 - 12:41pm
Jared M. Spool
2003

On Jul 28, 2009, at 3:43 PM, Cindy Edwards wrote:

> Jared Spool offered: "One way to think about it is that, most of the
> time, interaction design succeeds if the user doesn't learn anything
> in the process and instructional design succeeds if they do."
>
> I agree, to a point: Interaction design succeeds when the user
> doesn't have to expressly learn to use the tool they are interacting
> with, and instructional design (for online learning) succeeds in part
> when the interaction design is effective.
>
> For technology-based learning, interaction design is a necessary
> function of success.

Hi Cindy,

First, I'll suggest that I intentionally said "most of the time" in my
original supposition because I do think there are times when the goal
of interaction design is to educate the user.

However, this is not one of those times. :)

I agree that interaction design can be a necessary component for
technology-based learning. But, in that instance, the goal of the
interaction design component isn't to education. It's to facilitate
the education from the instructional design component.

More concretely: If I have a design element (say a video player or
game) that is part of instructional schema (by watching the video or
playing the game, the user learns the desired content), learning how
to control and operate the design element (playing the video or
manipulating the game controls) is *not* the objective. An 'intuitive'
design element will best meet the instructional objectives. No need to
distract the user from their learning by forcing them to focus on
operation of the technology.

So, with that, I stand by my original supposition.

Jared

Jared M. Spool
User Interface Engineering
510 Turnpike St., Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845
e: jspool at uie.com p: +1 978 327 5561
http://uie.com Blog: http://uie.com/brainsparks Twitter: @jmspool

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