Idylls of the Future: Automating Instructional Design
Review by Charles Ennis
Automating Instructional Design, Development, and Delivery
Edited by Robert D. Tennyson
Springer-Verlag, 1994

As another Tennyson so aptly wrote:

Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are:
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

(Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "Ulysses")

So, too, Robert Tennyson and his colleagues are of an equally heroic temperópushing the boundaries of instructional design into the twenty-first century with Automating Instructional Design, Development, and Delivery. The book is a brilliant exposition of what can be accomplished in the world of automated interface design using new technologies in accord with the principles of cognitive science. As such, Tennyson brings together articles by authors on the leading edge of instructional design to explore the realm of instructional design's automation. By examining each of three instructional system development (ISD) phases: planning, production, and implementation, Tennyson and his collaborators find and discuss theoretical and applied methods for designing effective and efficient instructional media at a time when industrial society's population is becoming increasingly illiterate, even as technology and its demands continue to create an ever growing need for a skilled and educated populous.

The book, an outgrowth of the proceedings of the NATO Advanced Research Workshop on Automating Instructional Design, Development, and Delivery, held in Sitges, Spain, over the period of March 23 through March 27, 1992, promotes, through eleven of the articles presented at the conference, the "use of artificial intelligence and advanced interactive technologies in the design, development, and delivery of instructional computing systems" (Tennyson, Spector, & Muriada, 1994, p. 1). Specifically, the authors feel "applying advanced hardware and software technologies to the design, development and delivery of instruction can result in improved student learning and enhanced courseware authoring efficiency" (Tennyson, Spector, & Muriada, 1994, p. 1).

The first section of the book deals with the planning of an automated instructional system development. Each of the authors provides answers to specific questions relating to ISD. The questions range from concerns over what "design functions can and should be automated" to concerns over progress evaluation. The editor, Tennyson, addresses the historical development of ISD and provides a theoretical model covering four generations of instructional system development.

The chapter by van Merrienboer, Krammer, and Maaswinkel delve their recent findings concerning theoretical research-based efforts to automate a computer-based system that plans and executes instructional programs. Gonzalez and Vavik, in their chapter, investigate various evaluation matters associated with development activities in Norway.

The planning section concludes with criteria that Gros and Rodriques present for the evaluation of automated instructional development designs.

Generally, section one has the authors acknowledging the ease of designing and programming the learning of declarative knowledge. However, when theyconsider the cognitive and constructive aspects of such learning, instruction is "something more complex than knowing simple facts" (Gros & Breuer, 1994, p. 113). The authors champion the use of cognitive and constructivist methods; but they admit defining and programming a cognitive or constructivist learning approach, using a set of generally recognized standards, in practice, although technically feasible with today's sophisticated technologyócontinues to allude them. They concede that "developing concrete definitions for the process of instructional development is one of the main challenges to automating ISD" (Gros & Breuer, 1994, p. 113).

Section two's authors deal with problems related to automated ISD production. The articles of this section focus on answering questions that probe the theoretical issues germane to automating ISD computer-based simulations.

The first chapter of this section written by Sancho examines the issues surrounding the context of the learning environment and the concerns associated with designing contextually based educational software. Sancho's primary consideration deals with the complexities involved with developing an interface between a proposed automated instructional system and the audience.

The concluding chapter of this section has Tennyson and Breuer developing their proposal of a network approach to automating ISD based on the neural properties of the brain. They call their proposed automated ISD program "ISD Expert." This neurally networked approach differs dramatically from the conventional expert system. Where a conventional design imposes a linearly programmed structure on to a known educational model, Tennyson and Breuer's model allows for self training designsóneural networks have the capability to train themselves and learn from their past mistakesómuch as humans learn.

However, the authors concede that the production of automated ISD is not without it problems. Specifically, the main problem lies in specifying which instructional development processes to automate. In the summary for the second section, Gros elaborates that it is "possible to automate the input of knowledge . . . using authoring tools, the behavior of the system . . . and the final interface" (Gros, 1994, p. 192). The question remains: Where should automation occur? The authors are also concerned with using and developing technology created for the real world. As such, they feel that working more closely with teachers in actual classroom settings would allow for more realistic ISDóand, hence, a better understanding of where, also, to apply instructional automation.

Section three copes with the consequences of implementing instructional delivery. The authors in this section share some of their personal experiences in actually attempting to use and develop automated ISD. The authors cover questions that deal with determining when multimedia presentations are "useful and instructionally effective."

Obviously, the main problem the authors in this section contend with is determining "the most appropriate way of supporting the kind of learning and instruction desirable." Indeed, any instructional designer is concerned with the same question. For example, various design and programming techniques exist for developing drill and practice programs, interactive leaning courses, hypermedia presentationsóthe list is endless. The selection of the appropriate design is hindered by the paucity of research on the most appropriate way to establish relevant learning interactions according to the desired outcome. Additionally, with neural networks, designers have to contend with problems associated with non-linear approaches to ISD: namely, creating materials and interfaces that allow for functioning based on learner responses. As Michael Baker points out, "if authors do not understand the pedagogical rational underlying dynamic instructional planning decisions, they will not be able to plan curricula in accordance with that rationale" (Baker, 1994, p. 221).

Robert Tennyson and his collaborators have provided an informed survey of the direction, future, and problems associated with automated ISD. However, the readings of each section are speculative and evince more theory than application. Still the reader must remember, the problems of automated ISD encompass relatively new areas of exploration. The use of neural networks, for example, provides the instructional designer with an almost unparalleled power for emulating human learningóand, consequently, for modeling more realistic learning contexts and interfacesóbut the use of an artificial intelligence modeling procedure proves exceptionally complex in its programming. Nevertheless, the future looms large on the horizon. Neither the complexity nor the challenge will dismay the designers of today, designing for the learning environments of tomorrow. They will, instead, continue to "strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."





Baker, M. (1994). Adapting instructional design methods to intelligent multimedia authoring systems. In R. D. Tennyson (Ed.), Automating instructional design, development, and delivery (Series F: Computer and Systems Sciences, Vol. 119, pp. 197-222). New York: Springer-Verlag.

Gros, B. (1994). Part 2 summary: Production. In R. D. Tennyson (Ed.), Automating instructional design, development, and delivery (Series F: Computer and Systems Sciences, Vol. 119, pp. 191-195). New York: Springer-Verlag.

Gros, B., & Breuer, K. (1994). Part 1 summary: Planning. In R. D. Tennyson (Ed.), Automating instructional design, development, and delivery (Series F: Computer and Systems Sciences, Vol. 119, pp. 111-116). New York: Springer-Verlag.

Tennyson, A. (1978). Ulysses. In L. Perrine (Ed.), Literature: Structure, sound, and sense (3rd ed., pp. 636-638). New York: HBJ.

Tennyson, R. D., Spector, J. M., & Muraida, D. J. (1994). Automation and instructional system development. In R. D. Tennyson (Ed.), Automating instructional design, development, and delivery (Series F: Computer and Systems Sciences, Vol. 119, pp. 1-6). New York: Springer-Verlag.

Back to the Book Review List

Research Online | Features | Links | Information
Instructional TechnologyResearch Online