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ASTD: Instructional Systems Design Still Relevant, Needs to Adapt

Study makes recommendations for new learning realities.

(Alexandria, VA) August 11, 2010 – Most companies have instructional systems design (ISD) programs that are, at best, moderately effective in achieving both learning and business goals and are not positioned well enough for the future, according to a new research report from the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD). The research also found that while there are many challenges facing the world of learning and ISD practitioners, the need for instructional systems design still exists and will continue to as the field adapts to the demands of the contemporary learner and a global workforce.

The report, Instructional Systems Design: Today and in the Future, includes a survey of major ISD practices and interviews conducted with experts and business organizations. The Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) partnered with ASTD in the research. The study reveals that the traditional classroom course, often reported as being irrelevant, is still used by most organizations, with 97 percent of respondents saying they currently use the classroom to deliver workplace learning.

Other key findings from the study include:
• 93 percent of participants believe ISD will become more important in the future.
• Blended learning is being used by 69 percent of organizations which means ISD experts must adjust to an increasingly diverse and blended world of learning.
• 40 percent of respondents agree traditional ISD does not prepare designers for today’s learning environments.
• Popular tools used by ISD practitioners include Microsoft PowerPoint and Adobe Flash and Photoshop – not software traditionally designed for ISD.
• Most organizations expect social media technologies to become a significant component of learning. Only five percent do not think social media usage will increase over the next five years. Mobile learning, social networks, podcasts, and wikis are the top four tools being considered for use in the future.
• Metrics on the effectiveness of ISD are necessary to gain credibility with senior leadership.

The report finds that many ISD professionals believe their processes are not as effective as they could be and that indicates a necessary shift in how practitioners approach the field. The future of the profession lies in formulating instructional programs or products for not only the classroom, but also for other learning approaches like mentoring, coaching, online and offline simulations, asynchronous and blended learning systems, mobile learning, and serious games. This will require instructional designers to have a broad range of competencies, and overcoming resistance to new tools will be a necessary skill. The report also suggests that change is necessary at the university level where tomorrow’s designers are prepared.

Instructional Systems Design: Today and in the Future provides a data-driven foundation for course designers who wish to adapt to the changing learning environment, and take advantage of new technologies.

The full report can be accessed via the ASTD Store. This report is free to ASTD members.

About ASTD
ASTD (American Society for Training & Development) is the world’s largest professional association dedicated to the training and development field. In more than 100 countries, ASTD’s members work in organizations of all sizes, in the private and public sectors, as independent consultants, and as suppliers. Members connect locally in 130 U.S. chapters and with 30 international partners. ASTD started in 1943 and in recent years has widened the profession’s focus to align learning and performance to organizational results, and is a sought-after voice on critical public policy issues. For more information, visit

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