Blog Post 2: Initiation and Design

            This post looks at the next two steps of a merged approach between Instructional Systems Design (ISD) and Project Management (PM): initiating the project and designing the document, which involves the creation of two documents: the Project Charter and the Design Document.


By DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS Office of Information and Technology (Project Management Guide) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS Office of Information and Technology (Project Management Guide) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Initiating the Project

Project initiation is, as the name implies, the first step of Cox’s four-step-combo of ISD and PM. In PM, the initiation phase includes making the project charter and identifying stakeholders. The ISD tasks in this first phase involves analysis: training needs analysis, learner analysis, setting analysis and task and content analysis (Cox, 2009). So, what exactly is a project charter?

The project charter “documents the business need that the project is initiated to address and justifies the project”, including a “description of the product, service, or result of the project (Cox, 2009, p. 33). Basically, the project charter documents the contract, the statement of work, enterprise environmental factors, organizational project assets and business plan (Cox, 2009). This is related to ISD in that some of the details secured through the analysis phase of ADDIE is needed to populate the project charter.




Designing the Document

After producing the project charter, further needs analysis data must be combined into a design document, which is the framework of the proposed training intervention (Cox, 2009). A training needs assessment (answering the questions of: why? who? how? what? and when?) will help one determine the training needs that exist as well as the type and scope of resources needed (Cekada, 2011). A needs assessment can also be helped through the formation of gap analysis: detailing the future, desired state, the current state and the next actions to make the desired state a reality (Mind Tools, 2014). The NOAA (n.d.) gives a comprehensive, twelve-step process in completing the needs assessment. Now, that we have the data, let’s put it into the design document.

The design document is the framework of the training project, it gives an outline of the content material and how it will be presented (Cox, 2009). Basically, design documents are the one-stop-shop, allowing stakeholders to sign-off on the training program’s material and instruction. Information is usually presented in three columns: learning objectives, key points content/concept and process and activity (Cox, 2009). Design documents are the result of analysis, the project charter and identifying stakeholders: the culmination of ISD and PM activities thus far that result in the foundational elements for training.

For a helpful look at design documents in eLearning from Learning Solutions Magazine, click here.


By Tomascastelazo (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


PM mainly differs from ISD in the use of a project charter, business terminology as opposed to educational terminology and the focus on profit and contracts. The project charter supplements the Analysis phase of ADDIE. Terms such as ‘client’ and ‘sponsor’ can be somewhat disorienting and the focus on profit and contracts is not needed in ISD. The perceived differences between the combination of ADDIE’s 5-step process and PM’s 4-step process could present one challenge, although Cox’s ‘4-step combo’ seems to fit together better than others (Cox, 2009). Another challenge could come through the recognition of PM being essential to ISD practice and advocated inside the ID profession while the literature review shows mixed opinions of the inclusion of PM in ID (van Rooij, 2010). Similarly, while PM is a fundamental part of successful ID principles in theory, PM training at the graduate level is not widely mandatory (Pan, 2012). Instead of a free exchange of ideas that could make both fields more efficient, some academics in ID have un-inclusive views in regard to ‘imposing’ theories.

Should ISD be exported to the other professions while losing an identity as a stand-alone profession? It seems like the system can be easily integrated into other systems, but my main concern would be the possible negligence of focusing on only the ISD system if it was embedded into other practices.



Cekada, T. L. (2011). Conducting an effective needs assessment. Professional Safety, 28-34.

Cox, D. M. T. (2009). Project management skills for instructional designers: A practical guide. Bloomington, Ind: iUniverse Inc.

Mind Tools. (2014). Gap analysis: Identifying what needs to be done in a project. Retrieved from

NOAA. (n.d.). Needs Assessment Guide. Retrieved from

Pan, C.-C. (2012). A symbiosis between instructional systems design and project management. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 38(1) 1-10.

van Rooij, S. W. (2010). Project management in instructional design: ADDIE is not enough. British Journal of Educational Technology, 41(5), 852-864. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8535.2009.00982.x

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