Design Thinking: innovative solutions for instructional design

Once you have set your learning objectives, the following step in instructional design is the definition of all the training process elements, both face-to-face and eLearning, which can make use of models like Design Thinking to find innovative solutions. 

Which processes does this model comprehend and which benefits does it have for instructional design? Keep reading to learn more. 



Design Thinking is a methodology born in Stanford and then spread in the rest of USA, Canada and most parts of Europe thanks to its validity in terms of problem solving. The innovation of this approach is related to the combined application of creative thinking and scientific method to the research of innovative solutions, in order to come up with new ones and anticipate their consequences before selecting the most effective



Without any doubt, the first cornerstone of Design Thinking is creativity, the use of tools and working methods that foster the generation of new ideas

Bearing in mind the creative-scientific approach, though, in addition to that there is prototyping, namely realising a “trial version” (or more than one) of the designed solution in order to test it and pinpoint its strengths and weaknesses within the specific frame of reference

During the entire process, then, users’ contribution is crucial: they are involved in evaluating ideas and testing the solution, since they will be its first beneficiary

Finally, the last peculiar element of this methodology is related to the process duration, which is by definition variable: the process is in fact made up of convergent and divergent dynamic phases, which cannot be anticipated. 



All the features of Design Thinking we have described clearly explain how this methodology can be applied to Instructional Design, since it retraces its components. 

The analytical approach and user involvement are very necessary elements in the initial training need analysis we talked about in the previous article. In addition to that, Design Thinking seems to be particularly suitable for the “Design” phase described in the ADDIE’s ISD, which includes planning and prototyping all the elements involved in the training process. 



Design Thinking can acquire different shapes, each one with its own unique features and more suitable for specific applications. Sprint Execution includes the distribution and testing of prototypes by consumers, to collect feedbacks to improve the product. Creative Confidence aims to involve all the actors in the creative process to make them more confident. Innovation of Meaning’s goal is to find new directions to offer valuable experiences to users. 

However, the paradigm that seems to suit Instructional Design better is Creative Problem Solving, the methodology that aims to solve complex problems using a mix of analytical and creative thinking, which is typical of Design Thinking. The goal of the Design phase is to solve one simple problem: how to achieve the set learning objectives starting from knowledge and skills that students have at the moment? The main risk, in this case, is to only consider popular solutions that are not specifically designed for the frame of reference: this, without any doubt, leads to reduce the potential effectiveness of training. 

On the contrary, Creative Problem Solving suggests to start with a divergent ideation phase, a real brainstorming with the goal of collecting as many solutions as possible. The outcome of this process include all the possible training processes and sets of educational and para-educational materials and activities: these will be analysed and some of them will be selected to be prototyped and tested


Talking about eLearning, the prototype of a digital training course is usually presented in form of a storyboard, a graphic description of all the multimedia elements included in the lesson, useful to pre-visualise the final result. Do you want to know how to build a storyboard and why it is so important in Instructional Design? Read out next article



Osservatorio del Politecnico di Milano, Mapping Design Thinking: Transformations, Application and Evolutions
Wikipedia, Design Thinking
Door to Innovation, Che cos’è il Design Thinking? 




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