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Predicting the Future of Instructional Design in Higher Education

The future of instructional design is rooted in modalities and models that engage students through gamified, personalized, flexible learning that uses AI thoughtfully and builds partnerships that benefit students.

It’s no secret that the field of instructional design in higher education is constantly evolving. As new educational technologies and teaching methods emerge, instructional designers must adapt to stay ahead of the curve. But what does the future hold for instructional designers? In this blog post, we’ll look at some predictions to give you a glimpse into what’s in store for instructional design.

The Need for Instructional Designers to Be Adaptable and Able to Work with a Variety of Technologies

Instructional designers in higher education have always been adaptable out of necessity, and that need will likely continue. With educational technologies becoming increasingly prevalent in educational settings, instructional designers must be prepared to keep up with the changes. They must be able to pivot from using traditional educational resources to capitalizing on new advancements such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality. This adaptability is essential to meet the ever-evolving needs of educational settings. In addition, adopting educational technology early will allow instructional designers to stay ahead of their competition and better shape the future of higher education. Instructional designers are responsible for determining how best to implement educational technology into educational scenarios.

Keeping Up with the Latest Trends in Instructional Design

It has become increasingly important for institutions to stay informed and up to date on the latest trends in instructional design. Student satisfaction, faculty development and the continual search for ways to improve learning depends on using the most effective tools and techniques related to instructional design. Online leaders should actively seek out new approaches, techniques and trends available in today’s market to ensure their students receive a quality education that helps them learn and sets them up for success in our ever-changing digital landscape. Higher education institutions need to keep up with the latest trends in instructional design to remain competitive and provide students with a quality education. So, what will those trends be?


The gamification trend will continue to grow in the near future, as more institutions recognize its potential to increase student engagement and motivation. This practice has been identified as effective in the corporate world for quite some time. Game-based learning can not only teach subject material but also develop necessary skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving, which are essential for success in today’s workplace. Furthermore, technological advancements make it easier to create engaging games that students can access through their mobile devices or laptops. This provides a much more convenient way for learners to engage with course material outside the traditional classroom setting.

Personalized Instruction

Personalized instruction is another trend expected to continue growing within educational institutions. With the help of AI-driven systems, instructors can now offer customized lesson plans based on each learner’s preferences and abilities, which allows them to provide support whenever necessary while allowing students flexibility in how they consume content. Personalized instruction has been found to be particularly effective among adult learners with limited time due to other commitments like jobs or family responsibilities.


Microlearning approaches, popular in corporate training for years, will continue to become increasingly popular among educators, as they search for ways to deliver content quickly without overwhelming users with too much information at once. Not only does this method allow learners more significant control over students’ individual pace of learning, but it also grants instructors an easy way to track progress, which can be extremely helpful when providing additional help during the completion process. As such, microlearning strategies should increase in educational institutions.

Continued Rise of Online Education Leadership

Instead of placing online learning in an academic department or under IT, institutions see value in giving online learning a genuine seat at the leadership table. Chief Online Learning Officer (or similarly titled) roles continue to grow at institutions and are ideally filled by an individual with a wealth of online experience both as an instructional designer and online instructor. This individual also must have excellent communication skills and be an innovator with an eye on the future. This role is essential for strategic planning and operational purposes.

Normalizing Remote Work

Instructional designers are in demand, and if higher education wants to compete for top talent while keeping their current instructional designers happy, institutions will need to offer the option for instructional design teams to work remotely. An instructional designer’s work can easily be conducted remotely, especially designing and developing online courses and programs. Often the individuals you are working with are remote or, at the very least, comfortable teaching online, so they should have no issue collaborating with a remote instructional designer.

Additionally, face-to-face courses are increasingly integrating more educational technologies, so faculty are comfortable using these platforms. Asking an on-campus faculty member to collaborate with a remote instructional designer isn’t unrealistic, as they should be comfortable using the technologies. It may not be some traditionalists’ favorite method of collaboration, but there’s no reason they cannot collaborate with a remote instructional designer just as effectively as if they were on campus. One challenge will be including remote employees in campus culture without forcing them to come to campus unnecessarily.

Quality Assurance, Continuous Improvement and Faculty Partnerships

The old days of developing an online course and offering that same course repeatedly with little to no improvements or modifications are long gone—and that’s a good thing. It helps ensure that you provide students with the best possible product, different from what’s most convenient for instructors. Online programs have no lack of competition from other institutions, so it’s essential to develop a culture of continuous improvement to ensure you’re offering high-quality online education experiences for students.

If institutions want to achieve equitable, inclusive and responsive learning environments, it will serve them to encourage faculty to form productive partnerships with instructional designers. The old myths that online learning cannot be engaging or effective have been debunked long ago, and online education continues to proliferate in higher education. Although some individuals may not like online learning, it’s difficult to question its effectiveness. An instructional designer’s duties may vary between institutions, but faculty must understand that instructional designers are not fulfilling help desk or customer service roles. Instructional designers are highly skilled professionals that can help improve their courses in multiple ways.

Navigating ChatGPT & AI Tools

Instructional designers will be tasked with easing instructors’ concerns with ChatGPT while designing authentic learning activities that cannot be cheated by ChatGPT or other forms of artificial intelligence. Rather than relying heavily on essays, creating active learning activities such as debates, podcasts and peer feedback would ultimately lead to a more effective educational experience for students. Additionally, faculty and staff can use ChatGPT for productivity purposes. It can also transform how institutions serve students, making applying, enrolling or registering for courses more seamless. ChatGPT could be used to create course syllabi and policies. As impressive as ChatGPT is, use cases should be implemented thoughtfully and carefully while being monitored by the proper individuals.


The future of instructional design in higher education will undoubtedly involve many new educational technology platforms and strategies for effective communication within the classroom. To move forward, strong online education leadership will be necessary to create ground-breaking innovations in how students interact and engage with their course materials. New instructional design approaches must be developed to keep up with today’s student population’s ever-evolving needs to ensure they receive an engaging and meaningful educational experience unlike any before. This challenge awaits instructional designers and educators alike and promises ongoing obstacles but tremendous rewards.