Instructional Design Principles



Watch overview videoInstructional Design Principle: Practice Principles (4:00)


Practice in e-Learning incorporates interactions through questions. When creating questions for interactions, creators must keep in mind that the questions being asked should allow learners to be both behaviourally and psychologically active. Learners should be given a chance to actively apply their knowledge rather than just regurgitating answers. The practice must be deliberate. Any type of practice offered to learners should be relevant to their jobs, dispensed all over their learning space and be offered frequently as it leads to improvement. Six practice principles are set as guidelines for creators of web-based learning tools.

Guidelines for Use

Practice Principle 1 – Sufficient Practice Interactions

There should be enough practice assignments for learners to help them learn without overloading them with repetitive types of questions. Since the benefit of practice reduces over time it is not helpful to bombard students with the same types of practice questions and/or questions with the same content, and it is not a good use of their time.  One way this can be accomplished is to give the students a choice regarding how many questions they wish to practice. If they feel like they have sufficient knowledge of the concept then they can choose to move on.

Practice Principle 2 – Mirror the Job

The interactions provided must have job-realistic content. It is important to avoid only knowledge-based questions and should include application questions where learners can respond to scenarios that might happen in real-life at their job. An example of this is a nursing simulation used by nursing students to help them understand daily circumstances that might occur. A link to that website is provided below.

Practice Principle 3 – Provide Effective Feedback

The feedback provided should include relevant explanations – especially when the answer is incorrect. Learners must understand why the answer they chose is correct or incorrect. One way this can be done is to deliver a summary of the learner’s answers after the practice session is complete and provide detail explanations of each answer.

Practice Principle 4 – Distribute and Mix Practice

Research shows that distributing practice produces long-term retention. Therefore, instead of teaching an entire unit and then having a practice session, it is important to divide the unit into smaller lessons and have the learners practice after a few lessons.  Also, if the unit has different concepts that need to be learned, mix up those concepts when learners are practicing. An example of this is when students are learning different types of sentences (declarative, imperative, interrogative or exclamatory). Instead of chunking the questions into groups based on their type, it is better to mix them up when students are practicing so they can get a better sense of the differences.

Practice Principle 5 – Apply the Multimedia Principles

For students to benefit from practice, make sure to include visuals, keep everything in line and avoid anything extra that might be distracting. If the students are learning about the solar system, not every slide needs to have a background full of planets as that might be visually distracting.

Practice Principle 6 – Transition from Examples to Practice

Slowly release the amount of responsibility given to the learner to practice the lesson by scaffolding. Ensure that students are shown a fully worked out example and can work on smaller parts of the problem before introducing them with a problem to figure out on their own. In math when students are trying to analyze a word problem, ensure that they know how to work the math component of the problem before they are shown how to make sense of a word problem and how to analyze it.

Good Examples of Use

Example 1 – Lippincott Nursing Education

This tool teaches nursing students how to engage with patients by mirroring the job they would be expected to perform at work.

Example 2 – Chess

Learners hoping to get better at the game of chess can navigate this website by learning how to play, watching videos by experts, practicing by engaging in different scenarios, receiving feedback from skilled coaches and much more.

Helpful Resources

Resource 1 – How to Create an Effective Feedback System for eLearning

This page gives three steps that must be included when giving feedback to ensure that it is effective.

Resource 2 – Mayer’s Multimedia Principles

This gives a quick outline of the twelve multimedia principles and some examples of how they can be integrated into the learning content.

Resource 3 – 10 Ways to Scaffold Learning

The page shows how lessons can be taught so students can effectively transition from seeing examples to tackling a problem successfully themselves.


Clark, R.C., & Mayer, R. E., (2011). Does practice make perfect? In E-Learning and the science of instruction: proven guidelines for consumers and designers of multimedia learning (pp. 251-276). San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer

Plant, E.A., Ericsson, K.A., Hill, L., & Asberg, K. (2005). Why study time does not predict grade point average across college students: Implications of deliberate practice for academic performance. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 30, 96–116.

Shute, V.J. (2008). Focus on formative feedback. Review of Educational Research, 78(1), 153–189.


Submitted by: Roohi Jawas
Twitter: @RooJ33
Bio: I am a grade 5 homeroom teacher and I have been an Ontario certified teacher (OCT) since 2009. I am currently pursuing a Master’s of Education degree at Ontario Tech University. I am always looking for new ways to engage and educate my students, and often it is through some form of technology.



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