When Your Content Resembles Spaghetti

Last week I was given seven PowerPoint slide decks to transform into meaningful content that adult humans could comprehend and use. Although the slides were reasonably well-organized, the content was difficult for a layperson like myself to understand.

There were unfamiliar concepts and new terms. There were twists and turns, like a good drama, only this wasn’t a screenplay. And there were confusing redundancies—the same thing being covered in multiple places.

Should I have a panic attack?

Although I considered having a panic attack, I decided against it. Particularly because I know how to do an instructional analysis, which is a way to identify the skills and knowledge that are required to reach a learning goal.

Sometimes a simple content outline will do. But when content is complex and difficult to understand, I find an instructional analysis helps me clarify the content and understand how to organize it—whether it’s for a course, performance support or something people can just learn on their own.

Video: How to Do an Instructional Analysis

Then I thought about you and decided to create a video showing how to perform an instructional analysis for a procedure or process, in case you’re not familiar with this approach. It’s based on the Dick and Carey model (see reference below). If you don’t have this method in your toolbox, watch the video. It could come in handy for many situations.

Secret: Performing an instructional analysis is one of the key ways an instructional designer can learn to work with any type of content without being a subject matter expert.

For more types of analysis you might need to perform, see Analysis for eLearning.

Let me know how you like the video or what I can do to make it better. Please leave your comments and questions below.


Walter Dick and Lou Carey, The Systematic Design of Instruction.

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  1. Jason Snell says

    Content was excellent. My only suggestion for improvement would be to clean the audio. There was a thump sound which repeated several times during the presentation. It was a bit distracting.

    I want to thank you for all your hard work on this site. It has proven to be a wonderful resource for me on a weekly basis.


  2. Connie Malamed says

    Thank you, Jason. And thanks for letting me know about the audio as it didn’t show up on my speakers. Will check on another computer. Hope your ears are okay :-)

  3. Katherine H says

    Thanks Connie – I found this very useful. I was just on the verge of hyperventilating on some course content received from a client and now I know I am not alone and that there is a way to untangle the web :)

  4. rfc says

    Ah, brings back memories. Dick and Carey was the model we had to follow in my ID graduate course. Thanks for the reminder. Of course, as you stated, we still need to wade through (or plow through) all the content, and this is where a lot of time is chewed up. But at least Dick and Carey give us a handle on what to do with it after we’ve waded (or plowed).

  5. Katherine H says

    Thanks Connie – just wanted to let you know that I just got my copy of Visual Language for Designers – and I do find that not only does visual language make my courses look great (focusing the eLearner’s attention), it helps me understand how best to deliver the content I am writing. It is well worth having this book on hand! :)

  6. Connie Malamed says

    Hi Katherine,
    I’m happy you are enjoying your copy of VLFD. They have run out of print copies in the U.S. and are shipping some in from the U.K. The Kindle version will always be available, of course. Thanks for your kind words.

  7. James Goldsmith says

    Thanks for your video on How to Do an Instructional Analysis, Connie. I found it to be straightforward and helpful. One question – what tool did you use to create the video. Thanks!

  8. Connie Malamed says

    Thanks, James. When I have time I’d like to demonstrate other types of instructional analysis. Believe it or not, I used Photoshop to create the video.

  9. Vivek Nair says

    Hi Connie: I wonder if there is a text version available for reference or those who cannot watch the video. Thanks!

  10. Jeff Dalto says

    Nice video. This video ends with the mention of possibly making a new video in which you take your instructional goals and turn them into learning objectives. Did you ever make that video or do you have something similar written up?


  1. […] The instructional analysis (or learning task analysis) examines and breaks down the learning tasks of each specific instructional goal. It provides the steps and associated subordinate tasks that are required to reach each goal. The instructional analysis should only include what’s really necessary to reach the goal and eliminate the extraneous material. A good reference for this is The Systematic Design of Instruction. See this demonstration of how to do one type of instructional analysis. […]

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