Applying the science of learning through sound instructional design

Where education science meets instructional design

This article is part of a series on overcoming the challenges of distance work by creating learning experiences based on the science of hard learning. What you are about to read is a myth. The learning challenges by the company, AshCom, are fictional, but Katherine, AshCom’s CLO and her team share real and general learning groups at large organizations. It is our hope that you will be able to connect with the characters, their challenges and the solutions they have discovered. We invite you to read the first ebook in the series.

E-Book Release: Taking Up the Challenge of Distance Work: How to Introduce Learning Experiences Built on Tough Learning Science

Ebook release

Embracing Remote Working Challenges: How to Introduce a Learning Experience in Solid Learning Science

Flexibility is important, but does time-tested learning science support virtual learning experiences designed exclusively for remote locations?


Many in AshCom’s current learning team were unaware that at one point Maggie was encouraged to apply for the job of Chief Learning Officer (CLO). The request is meaningful. Maggie Ashcom had more time than most. 20 years ago, he joined the company in the human resources department. As Ashcom grew up, the leadership realized that they needed a team dedicated to learning. Their products were becoming more complex, as were the processes required to make them.

Maggie had a university degree in human resources, but she was naturally inclined to learn. AshCom provided her tuition so she could pursue a master’s degree in instructional design. As much as he loved creating learning experiences, his real joy came when he heard stories of AshCom students gaining new skills and high-level roles in the company.

The CLO role was interesting to him. A few days later, he turned down the opportunity despite having an internal track. She decided to stay in her role as a directional designer because she believed it was more appropriate for her passion and gift.

That’s when Ashcom hired Catherine to work as a CLO. Katherine was a great fit. He was a leader in the 3M learning team. He has a mind for strategy and he was a necessary person in the role of Ashcom. Maggie and Katherine built a strong relationship based on trust and mutual appreciation.

When Katherine decided to have a luncheon and learning series on the science of virtual education for distance workers, she deliberately asked Maggie to be the final presenter. Other members of the group have presentations on brain science, psychology, sociology, linguistics, and consumer science. Maggie’s job will be to put all the ingredients together which will serve as a guide for the whole team. Maggie won’t be disappointed.

“We’ve seen a lot of science learning elements and how they apply to virtual learning experiences,” says Maggie. “My job is to give a holistic perspective. The science of the brain, presented by Daryl, has helped us to think about how knowledge works. Martina has done a great job creating some challenges and opportunities from psychology. Michael took sociology. Adeena walked through our linguistics. And Amy, in her usual creative way, has given us insights into learning from a consumer science perspective. “

Everyone shook their heads. They have covered these issues well, resulting in additional discussions outside of any formal meeting.

Introductory Designer Role

“So,” Maggie continued, “how do we think of these in our role as instructional designers?”

Alicia, the youngest member of the learning team and currently enrolled in a Masters program in instructional design, spoke first. “I guess I think of them as tools in our toolbox. We can draw from them when we need them. ” Several have agreed.

Michael spoke next. “Instructional design is not really my background. You know, I’ve spent most of my career in academics, as a professor and an administrator. I have a question about how instructional design fits into these other parts of science learning. Are they tools? Or is instructional design a separate science? In other words, is it on the side of cognitive science, psychology, sociology, linguistics, and consumer science? “

“Interesting question. Your question, Michael, does it look like this?” Maggie said as she walked towards the whiteboard.

Brain Science | Psychology | Sociology | Linguistics | Consumer Science / Instructional Design = Learning Experience

“It’s different from what I had in mind,” Alicia said. “I did not think of instructional design as a science that would be on par with all other sciences. Would you mind if I moved some things around a bit? “

“Of course not,” said Maggie.

Alicia has made her changes to the Whiteboard because everyone is looking deeply.

Instructional design

Brain Science | Psychology | Sociology | Linguistics | Consumer science

“I remember it,” said Maggie. “I don’t think of science as a toolbox that instructional designers draw on projects. I think they are involved in every learning experience we create. “

Daryl agreed. “I think the tools of instructional designers are things like technology or method. We can choose one animation for one and augmented reality for the other. Depending on the need analysis, students may be better served by an infographic that reminds them of different steps in a process. They are the tools we can choose. I think learning science needs to be effective in everything we create.

Learning science is being applied in ID

“What I’m hearing you say is that discipline is fundamental to learning science. It’s the foundation of what we do. It’s the application of science to the learning experience,” Katherine said.

“That’s exactly what I mean,” said Daryl. “I can’t imagine a scenario where cognitive science is out of the game. Or where we decide to ignore what consumer science or psychology can teach us. Especially in creating virtual learning experiences for remote employees.

“Let me see if I can give an analogy that might be helpful,” Maggie said. “Sometimes when I’m struggling to get my mind around an idea, I look for something similar. And I have a job that can be like what we do.”

“Say,” Katherine said with a smile, growing confident that she had made the right decision when she asked Maggie to take up this complex matter.

Maggie replied, “My brother-in-law is an architectural engineer. He has a bright mind and he is one of those rare people who is part scientist and part artist. His work is unique and sometimes challenging. A designer can draw a beautiful building, but that drawing is not the only thing to be able to create the structure. An architectural engineer is needed to ensure that the building will work the way it was designed. It will do whatever the owners want. “

Maggie continued, “He has to make sure everything fits together. He has to think about how to heat and cool the building. He has to think through plumbing systems, which can be quite complex in a large structure. There are other systems to consider. He needs to make sure the materials used are able to withstand the right amount of weight and pressure. “

Build a solid foundation

“I can see what you mean by being smart,” Alicia said.

“All of these things need to fit together and work properly to make the building safe, sustainable, strong and functional. He thinks a lot about the experience of the people living or working in each building. Just like we spend a lot of time thinking about the student experience. “

“So how does all this relate to learning science?” Michael asked.

“Think about all the science you need to know to be an architectural engineer,” Maggie replied. “I don’t think about physics, hydrology, metallurgy, electricity, chemistry, aesthetics, phonology, environmental science, and maybe many more. All of these disciplines are involved in every single structure my nephew designs. Like instructional design, he cannot ignore one or two of these sciences. Everyone has to consider every design he makes. “

Maggie continued, “This is about our work. We develop, implement and evaluate lots of learning experiences for many people in a variety of situations. Join us. We have to put the theory into practice, but that means we all have to have a strong understanding of the theories that are taught by different sciences for learning science. “

“I’ll add some things,” Alicia said. “In my Masters program, we are constantly pressured to be active design thinkers, which means we think about graphic design and experience design. We need to be creative with time and budget on our projects. “

“I agree,” said Maggie. “Aesthetics and design are really important.”

“We talked about changing the title for what we do, and we stopped,” Katherine said. “It was like everyone was talking about instructional design. But maybe we have to think of ourselves as learning experience designers. It seems to be a more complete description of what we are doing and what we should do next. “

“And it is,” said Maggie, “that we need to think for ourselves as we deepen the virtual learning experience for remote staff. It will be more challenging for us than creating personal or e-learning modules for people on our plant. Inspirational and engaging experiences.” Creating is going to be important. To do this, we need all this science about every decision. We need micro-learning and immersive technology like augmented reality and virtual reality. We need to think through the social and psychological realities of distance learning. We need to consider brain science. We need consumer science to tell us how to market our learning experience and how to keep people engaged. “

“Our time is up,” Katherine said. “I’m grateful to all of you for taking a deep dive into these different sciences and for drawing them to Maggie in a way that encourages us to be creative.”

Everyone applauded for Maggie.

“One final word,” said Catherine. “I know it will be a challenge for us. We need to think more deeply than in the past. We need to be more creative. Our creativity will become more important. But I believe we can do it because I believe in this team. We have an incredible opportunity to shine. I believe we will rise to the challenge. “

With that the members of the party were dismissed. Katherine was confident that although it took time to work through all the sciences, it did spend time very well. He was more confident that his team would create excellent virtual learning experiences for a newly formed remote workforce and he was not disappointed.


Download eBook Embrace Remote Working Challenges: How to Introduce a Learning Experience in Solid Learning Science to discover how you can overcome obstacles with the help of psychology learning and targeted solutions supported by proven methods. You can join the webinar to discover which scientific principles are relevant for remote workforce training.