What is Human-Centered Instructional Design

Would you call your instructional design human-centered? Are you providing valuable content to your audience? It is true that technology and technologically mediated education can be dehumanizing, but this does not have to be the case. The problem arises when you design your instructions first and put learning experiences second. Consequently, learners have to endure poor e-learning experiences. 

It is not learner-centered content and not even human-centered. Rather, it is business-centered, training-centered, onboarding-centered, or government-centered. Often, it is gamification-centered. By adding a gamification element in the course, instructional designers think they have made the content interactive and human-centered because people love playing games! 

This is the wrong approach! Although gamification helps in engaging people, it should not be overused. E-learning will remain popular for a long time. Therefore, we will share everything you need to know for creating a human-centered Instructional Design approach. 

What is Human-Centered Instructional Design?

The human-centered instructional design keeps learners at the heart of the course design and delivery process. Instead of following a strict formula or guide, this design consists of quizzes, exercises, or principles that enhance the learning process. Technologies are not considered as the end of, but rather as the service of, e-learning programs. 

Furthermore, the instructional designer should develop and deliver the content in such a way that it approaches the same question from the learners’ perspectives. Every tool that teachers use and each e-learning design they employ are only meaningful when engaging the students. In other words, it is a user-focused program that solves learners’ problems.  

Elements of Human-centered Instructional Design

Human-centered learning involves four components: 

1. Empathy: An Instructional designer should genuinely care about his learners when designing the strategy. Build empathy by picturing yourself among the ones who will be taking your course. 

2. Creativity: Find creative and engaging ways to solve learners’ problems and answer their questions. 

3. Business Requirements: Don’t just think about the learners, but make your online training successful for your brand. 

4. Direct Engagement with the Learners: human-centered instructional design refers to designing with the users and not only designing for them. Researching your audience and communicating with them regularly before getting started with the project is crucial for HCD.

Five Tips for e-learning Professionals for Developing a Human-Centered Instructional Design 

We have heard the joke quite a lot of times about Product design vs. marketing. Developers 

Developers always manipulate us by saying that the product they designed was only developed for the users. Initially, developers come up with an innovative plan. Then, marketers claim and convince people that the product was created just for them. However, this rarely happens! In actuality, the design to meet their own requirements: fulfilling their business needs. 

human centered design

In contrast, the human-centered design creates a more engaging experience by emerging marketing with production. According to this philosophy, courses and services are designed by keeping learners in mind and tailored to their needs. Below mentioned are the top 5 tips every instructional designer should use to develop an effective e-learning course.

1. Watch and Get Inspired

During the inspiration stage, you need to conduct fundamental on-the-ground research. Begin by researching your target audience. You can attain this by directly getting in touch with your learners and knowing their most significant problems and pain points. This is a crucial stage for designing a human-centered instructional design. You will need to look for the answer to these questions:

  • What makes your students happy?
  • What will make them disappointed or frustrated?
  • How do they absorb content? 
  • What issues consume most of their time? 
  • What are we trying to fix? 

The key is to understand your audience. In order words, you need to see them from their perspective. Once you get answers to these questions, it will be easy to address their needs and provide them with a user-friendly experience.  

Generally, there are two most common ways to research your target audience. For instance, you might email your learners a survey or make a survey submission form on your website. If individuals are not replying to your surveys, you can offer them incentives - 10% off on the next purchase, giveaway, etc. 

However, if you’re not comfortable with designing surveys and sharing them with learners, facilitate a focus instead. If you keep interacting with your audience via phone or email, you will possibly hear a lot of issues they might be having. Once you are done with the research, enlist all the problems your consumers are having. Choose the right strategies to identify how you will target these problems and provide solutions to the learners with your team. 

2. Come Up With Different Ideas

After you have identified all the problems your students face look for solutions that can make them happier, productive and master their skills. This is the ideation stage, where you are free to note down any idea that comes to your mind. It is a “no such thing as a bad idea” brainstorming stage. Come up with good ideas and make them better by collaborating with your team. Think of all the possible ideas that can solve learners’ problems, whether big or small. 

When you’re confident about your realistic, human-centered idea to satisfy your learners’ thirst for knowledge, you will have to envision a course that could address and solve their issues. For instance, most of your students are content writers but are unable to produce SEO-friendly articles. You will make a long list of possible solutions: 

  • Youtube video to help them learn SEO
  • Instagram posts to deliver SEO strategies
  • A complete course on LMS with quizzes and exercises 
  • An e-book
  • Live sessions 

Now, you will choose the best possible solution among these. Ultimately, your team has reached a decision - aha! We will provide them with a complete course on SEO with relevant tasks, a discussion forum, and quizzes. 

Create a Prototype

The next step is to create a prototype of the product and test it on your ideal learners. Having something tangible provides a reference point. According to the scope of your online course, your prototype can be anything like a pen-and-paper sketch, an e-learning course outline, a wireframe, or a presentation deck. The document does not need to be polished or finished; however, it should be comprehensive and have all the course details. Remember that the actual purpose of human-centered instructional design is to understand the needs of your learners and provide them with a solution. Moreover, don’t get discouraged when they criticize your e-learning course, instead get inspired. This feedback is all you need to keep track of your skills and improve every day. 

Create an easy-to-access e-learning course

Look for the best possible way to develop your instructional design. To make it human-centered, you have to consider a lot of things besides your content. For instance, does this industry require extensive fieldwork? If yes, then you will need portable materials, so make them so that they are compatible with tablets and smartphones. To use your training materials, remote workers without WiFi will need offline access.   

Does the organization operate globally? Evaluate the nationalities and make sure you provide translations in your learners’ preferred languages. Take the time to think about your interviewees or the survey forms you gathered. People may have provided some hints (or openly stated) of their ideal method of learning. Human-centered instructional design requires this information to be added to your template.   

3. Get Peer Reviews

Involving your team in the process and getting their reviews is essential for developing a human-centered instructional design. Ask them if they have any questions; this can help you identify missing steps or crucial information. If they are confused at any point, the e-learning course probably requires some modification.  

You will need to have a thick skin and keep an open mind, as evaluations are often brutal. Pay attention to all their feedback and reassess your work. Consider and implement any changes you think are relevant and modify areas that need adjustment.  

4. Implement Your Idea    

Now that you have designed and tested a prototype, collected feedback, Make the course ready to introduce to a wider audience. Since you have all the concepts in mind, know the workflow and assigned roles, execution will be easy. Begin developing the course, and get it done.   

Consider User Experience

User experience and instructional design go hand in hand. User experience consists of three factors:

  • Usability: usability is the core of user experience. If your course is not helpful, the learners will not have a positive experience which will result in the failure of your course. 
  • Look: If you market your content well, if you have some positive reviews, or if your organization is credible, learners will possibly want to try it. 
  • Feel: People will not like or feel comfortable if you demotivate them. Don’t say that the skill is difficult. Instead, tell them that even the beginner can master the skill with this course. 

This is the reason why you must answer these questions when developing your e-learning design: 

  • Is this course useful for the learners?
  • Are we using the right marketing strategy?
  • Do learners enjoy taking the course?

Make Your Content Interactive

Good content and flow are nothing without a good design. Even if you succeed in answering your learners’ problems, you will not catch their attention for long if your course is not engaging. You will need to develop interactive videos so they don’t get bored. Cinema8 provides you with all the elements that are necessary to develop exciting content. From adding images to video branching, these unique features can make your videos highly interactive.  

Promote Your e-learning Content 

It is time to promote your content. Ultimately, you will have to picture yourself in your learners’ shoes and then market your course from their point of view. “What would have appealed to me to take this course if I were them?”

Since your course is all about the solution to their problems, you will have to come up with a highly effective marketing strategy that will tell them that their long-term solution is presented here. You can also promote your content by partnering with other companies in the e-learning domain. By collaborating with them, you are offering to provide the users with more of an all-in-one solution.  

For instance, you know an organization that provides training for web development. If you collaborate with them, it will be a win-win solution for the learners since they will learn about SEO and web development all at once. 

Criticism on Human-centered Instructional Design

The human-centered instructional design model is considered the best solution to today's eLearning challenges, but some disagree with its ideologies. Namely, it only addresses current problems instead of taking an instructional design approach to preventing future problems. Personalization is another issue that could cause problems—for example, niche groups within an audience. Furthermore, human-centered Instructional Design does not fully take advantage of learning technologies, according to critics. This solution uses technology to resolve current issues but doesn't give Instructional Designers the freedom to experiment and come up with new solutions or uses.


Creating a learning experience design is not easy, nor is it magic, but it gives developers and educators a roadmap to effectively learn something, try something, make something, and ultimately do something. A good e-learning design is necessary to keep learners engaged and motivated. However, human-centered instructional design is essential to make them feel involved and encouraged. It is all about answering their questions and solving their problems. 

Begin by interacting with the learners and asking what they need. Observe and engage with them to know about their problems. Come up with the best solutions that can solve their issues. Make a draft that can be tested. Go through the feedback and modify your content accordingly. Keep repeating until your e-learning course is complete.