Raise the Bar on ISD
ATD Blog

How to Raise the Bar on Your ISD Performance

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

If you think you’re at the top of your game, there’s always something more to learn. Completing the Master Instructional Designer program allowed me to raise the bar on my own practice. 

I got to the point in my career where I thought I was an expert. After all, I have a BEd in adult education and an MEd in workplace learning and change. I’ve been taking courses with ATD for years, and also attend various conferences and read the latest books in learning. I was working as a learning professional developing all kinds of learning solutions. 

Despite my accomplishments, completing the Master Instructional Designer program was the boost I needed. The previous year, I took my facilitation to higher levels by completing the ATD Master Trainer program; when I saw the Master Instructional Designer program, I knew I had to take it. 

The ATD Master Instructional Designer program is excellent; it’s a model of how a learning program should be designed and delivered. The course content validated a lot of what I already knew, and taught me about various acceptable models of instructional systems design (ISD). I always knew about ADDIE, but the program showed me that I misunderstood the E, or evaluation. In fact, during the in-class session, we had a great discussion about ADDIE, and I realized that my “sideways” approach to ADDIE wasn’t ADDIE; it was Agile. I’m still a defender of ADDIE because it is foundational, but Agile is now my new favorite ISD model. 

Soon after completing the program, I began to use what I learned. My colleagues and internal clients noticed a difference with my learning solutions. I started applying what I learned in an Agile framework, allowing me to meet tight timelines with increased collaboration. 


My organization’s project management office now uses an Agile approach. In the past, they would have begun gathering requirements before conducting user acceptance testing. In that situation, ADDIE’s waterfall approach fits. However, when your project manager is using Agile and gathering requirements and conducting user acceptance at the same time, you have no choice but to design your learning programs in the same manner. I found Agile works equally well for product training, system training, and soft skills training.

Another area where I raised the bar was with assessments and evaluations. One of the elective courses I took as part of the program was the Test Design and Delivery Certificate Program. This course was incredible. You’d think as a learning professional, designing tests should come naturally to me, but there is a real science to designing tests. 


Following the program, I was working on developing an online test for a new initiative. One of the new elements I implemented was using the Angolff method. It’s a best practice in determining the appropriate passing grade, but it has other benefits too. Previously at my company, test scores were picked out of thin air. This was my opportunity to demonstrate the “science” side of learning. 

I created an Excel spreadsheet with the Angolff method calculations built in. I asked each of my three SMEs individually to rate each question. I inputted the results into the spreadsheet and the standard deviation calculation pointed out where the SMEs weren’t aligned on the questions. This led to a rich discussion on wording and meaning, allowing us to refine the questions and responses. We not only came up with a solid passing score, but also designed in partnership a test that was solid. This was a total win! 

I am fortunate to be able to pass the skills I learned in the ATD Master Instructional Designer program to my employees and co-workers. Currently, I’m managing a learning team and getting the opportunity to coach what I learned about ISD. Through my coaching, I’m instilling the high level of standards I learned in the program. Even when I work with suppliers, I’m insisting on an equally high standard. I believe it is important that people see that developing learning solutions requires specialized skills and training. 

I’m so glad to have taken the program. For the guy who thought he knew it all, I certainly walked away changed. The program facilitator, participants, and insightful learning all changed me for the better.

About the Author

Michael Dalmaridis is the manager of learning and development at Meridian Credit Union in Toronto. He is an ATD Master Trainer and ATD Master Instructional Designer. He also has a BEd in adult education and a master of education in workplace learning and change.  Learning is more than a job to Michael. He’s passionate about learning in all aspects of his personal and professional life. He believes in providing learning solutions that adhere to best practices and is an advocate for an individual’s potential. He loves to share his knowledge—sometimes unsolicited to complete strangers.

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