Look no further. If you want to learn more about instructional design, eLearning and how people learn, here is an updated selection of books for you to browse. If you are already competent, there are a few books here that will expand your skills and understanding. In this updated article, there are a range of books, from the smaller less expensive ones to pricey graduate level texts.
Books are listed in alphabetical order by title.
The Accidental Instructional Designer by Cammy Bean
If you became an instructional designer through happenstance, fate or necessity, you’ll love Cammy Bean’s practical and real-world look at the field. She takes the reader on a journey through the practice of instructional design, presenting a sensible approach to learning models, finding a hook, interactivity, writing and more. This is a good book for both accidental and intentional learning designers. You might like this interview with Cammy Bean about instructional design best practices.
Design for How People Learn by Julie Dirksen
This smartly-written book presents the principles of learning, memory and attention that underlie experiences for helping people learn. Julie Dirksen helps readers see that it’s possible to make learning meaningful while still being engaging and fun. Making effective use of metaphors, graphics and stories, she covers everything from the basics of how to get started, to cognitive foundations of learning, to design strategies. The book is a good example of how to translate theory into practical application. See a full review of Design for How People Learn and listen to an interview with the author about the importance of getting feedback on our work. A new edition is now available, with three additional chapters.
Designing Effective Instruction by Gary R. Morrison, Steven M. Ross, Jennifer R. Morrison and Howard K. Kalman
Wait. I’m not suggesting you buy the expensive new edition of this classic graduate school text before it’s published. The eBook will be half the price. But, you can most likely find it at a university library. I’ve listed this book because it covers a lot of traditional principles of instructional design and it is well-written. If you’re studying instructional design on your own, this book may answer some of your questions.
E-Learning and the Science of Instruction: Proven Guidelines for Consumers and Designers of Multimedia Learning by Ruth Clark and Richard Mayer
This book provides research-based design principles for multimedia learning. It answers questions that practitioners often ask themselves, such as how and when to mix pictures and text; when to use audio in animation; and similar issues. Although there is overlap with more basic books, eLearning and the Science of Instruction also covers more advanced topics.
e-Learning by Design by William Horton
Like other books on eLearning design and development, e-Learning by Design takes you through the process of designing and creating eLearning. Unlike other books, Mr. Horton also writes about a variety of activities to include in your eLearning. He covers different types of learning activities that fit into three categories: Absorb, Do and Connect. You’ll also find chapters on tests, structure, social learning, games and simulation and much more. Note: Reviewers who read this on a tablet device are disappointed by the poor formatting.
The Essentials of Instructional Design by Abbie Brown and Timothy D. Green
The Essentials of Instructional Design covers the foundations of instructional design including the principles, processes and practices without subscribing to a particular model. It is used as a graduate school textbook and the second edition has assignments at the end of each chapter, which are helpful if you’re learning this on your own. Here’s an interview with the authors about the future of instructional technology.
Essentials of Online Course Design: A Standards-based Guide by Marjorie Vai and Kristen Sosulski
In Essentials of Online Course Design, the authors state it is written for a wide audience, from teachers to higher education to the professional workplace training staff. With its distance education perspective, it may be most appropriate for educational technologists. The book presents the features and components of online learning and lightly covers writing style and visual design basics. It then presents ways to engage the learner and covers assessment activities. Some appendices are included.
If you want to learn the traditional ADDIE model for design and development, this book will take you through the steps. The focus is more on instructional design for classroom facilitation than for eLearning. It is organized into four clearly-written sections: The Basics of ISD, Working Through the ADDIE Model, The Basics of Design and Lesson Plans and Tips for Success. If you want to set your sites beyond the ADDIE model, see the next book.
Leaving ADDIE for SAM by Michael Allen
Michael Allen proposes a design paradigm that differs from ADDIE in that it is more collaborative and creative. SAM is an acronym for Successive Approximation Method, which entails designing in small iterative steps of ideas and prototypes to continually get feedback until one reaches the best solution. You will find this book valuable if you’re looking for another model and if you think prototyping will help your design process. The book takes you through the full project planning process and includes tables and charts.
Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel
Even though this book speaks to teachers and students, there is a lot that learning designers can glean from it. The authors present the latest research on the best techniques for effective learning and teaching. They also explain why so-called intuitive approaches are often ineffective and inefficient. Listen to my interview with one of the authors or download the transcript.
Map It: The Hands-on guide to strategic learning design by Cathy Moore
If you’re frustrated with the limited models available for instructional design, then you’ll be interested in Cathy Moore’s acton mapping alternative. It’s a visual model of training design that focuses on improving workplace performance. Using the action mapping method helps designers stay focused on organizational results rather than loading down learners with extraneous content. Listen to The Action Mapping Alternative or download the transcript.
More Than Blended Learning by Clive Shepherd
In this book (I have the Kindle version), Clive Shepherd empowers designers to take a modern approach to designing learning experiences. He shows how to go beyond the traditional boundaries of blended learning by providing what adult learners actually need on the job to close a skill or knowledge gap. Thus, there is a strong emphasis on support and resources over courses, though formal learning is not excluded. The book details the author’s end-to-end process (called PIAF), which consists of Preparation, Input, Application and Follow-up. There are lots of examples and helpful tips throughout.
Rapid Instructional Design: Learning ID Fast and Right by George M. Piskurich
Perhaps the most shocking topic in this book is whether you even need to use an instructional design process. If you do, then this book provides a practical approach to the subject with lots of detail through all the steps. If you are new to instructional design and looking for a hefty volume to keep by your side, consider this new updated version. The author covers traditional instructional design basics for a variety of delivery approaches, not just eLearning. In addition, some things covered here that you may not find in other ID books include: data collection, cost/benefit analysis, rapid design shortcuts, beta tests, repurposing and short cuts. There are lots of helpful charts and templates too. The author addresses instructor-led training, online learning and includes some case studies. There is a final chapter on designing for new applications, such as mobile, flipped classroom, MOOCs and communities of practice.
Revolutionize Learning & Development (L&D): Performance and Innovation Strategy for the Information Age by Clark Quinn
In Revolutionize, author Clark Quinn answers the question of how Learning and Development teams can be relevant in the information age. He will convince you that many training teams are misaligned with employee and organizational needs. He then provides a path to reaching higher ground by concentrating on performance, creating a learning culture, making organizational change and supporting work. I’ve included it in this list of instructional design books because it’s important to have these contemporary strategies in mind when proposing solutions.
The Systematic Design of Instruction by Walter Dick, Lou Carey and James O. Carey
If you’re interested in a graduate school classic, you’ll like this book. The well-known Dick and Carey model was a breakthrough approach at one time. These days, some think it’s overly complicated and prefer the more rapid approach to instructional design. It will, however, introduce you to a model for analyzing, designing and developing learning materials that is somewhat different than ADDIE. There is a newer 8th edition that includes designing for newer technologies. It is available in a loose leaf format and the format gets mixed reviews.
Bonus! Agile for Instructional Designers by Megan Torrance
Agile for Instructional Designers is about so much more than project management. In the first section, Kicking Off the Project, Torrance walks readers through what I call Next Generation Instructional Design. She covers the kickoff, personas, user stories/scope, action mapping and the like. It’s a great blend of multidisciplinary techniques applied to L&D work. The second section is Managing the Project. Here, Torrance provides detailed explanations on how to plan, estimate, deliver in iterations and communicate. She even helps you find the rhythm in iteration. Who knew? The book closes with Applying Agile in Your Organization. For more on this approach, listen to my interview with the author, Megan Torrance.
What are your favorite ID books? Comment below.