Instructional Design & Technology Timeline

By: Bryce Platt

Types of Events:

Welcome! This timeline is an ongoing project to document an interesting history of Instructional Design and Technology. This by-no-means will be a comprehensive survey but should encompass a vast majority of significant developments in the field. This timeline will focus primarily on developments in the United States; however, there some interesting events from around the world have been added.

If there is any information that is not cited, it can be assumed that it came from A History of Instructional Design and Technology: Part 1 or Part 2 (2001) by Robert A. Reiser, a professor in the Instructional Systems program at Florida State.

My Definition: Instructional design and technology is the study of synthesizing learning theories, pedagogues, and research with appropriate technologies to provide the opportunity for learners to reach targeted learning outcomes.

The First School Museum Opens in St. Louis

These museums "served as the central administrative unit(s) for visual instruction by (their) distribution of portable museum exhibits, stereographs (three-dimensional photographs), slides, films, study prints, charts, and other instructional materials" - Saettler (1968)


Publication of Visual Education by The Keystone View Company

This publication is a guidebook for teachers about lantern slides and stereographs, showing that there is enought use and interest in using these technologies in a learning setting.

Example of a stereograph from the Keystone View Company

Beginning of as the Visual Instruction movement

This movement saw the improvement of the learning process by using visual media like "flat pictures, models, exhibits, charts, maps, graphs, stereographs, stereopticon slides, and motion pictures” (Dorris, 1928, p. 6).

Dorris, A. V. (1928). Visual instruction in the public schools. Ginn.

Publication of the first catalog on instructional films

After this catalog was published, later in the year, the Rochester School System was first to adopt films for regular use in the classroom.


"Books will soon be obsolete in the schools..."

This was a proclamation made by Thomas Edison. He went on, "It is possible to teach every branch of human knowledge with the motion picture. Our school system will be completely changed in the next ten years" (cited in Saettler, 1968, p. 98). As we know, these predictions did not come true over the next ten years. However, the interest and focus on visual instruction did gain momentum. Five journals and five professional organizations were founded in those ten years, focusing on the evolution and developments in visual instruction.


Publication of Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education by John Dewey

This publication is still influential today and marked Dewey as one of the great influential thinkers in educational philosophy with a tremendous impact on the field of instructional design.


The first radio broadcast in the U.S. begins

When radio first began, it served with two main functions: to entertain and inform. Therefore, it is hard to separate when radio was first used purely in academic pursuit. Radio in the U.S. first began it's broadcast in Detroit and Pittsburgh. Then by 1922, there thirty radio stations.

Marconi's first radio transmitter

Wisconsin School of the Air is established

School of the Air was a radio broadcast students, and classrooms could tune into for lessons. "Debuting the week of October 5th, the school drew on resources in the School of Education along with the State Department of Public Instruction and teachers in the Madison Public Schools to craft a comprehensive schedule of programs aimed at use in primary and secondary school classrooms around the state." Source

A classroom listening to School of the air

Great Depression begins

Transition to the Audiovisual Instruction Movement

Previously, without sound recordings and moving pictures, instructional tools were for visual demonstration.

Ralph Tyler becomes the father of the bahavioral objectives movement

Tyler wrote (cited in Walbesser & Eisenberg, 1972) that "each objective must be defined in terms which clarify the kind of behavior which the course should help to develop."


Publication of Visualizing the Curriculum by Hoban, Hoban, & Zissman

In the 1920s and 1930s there were many textbooks which came out on the topic of instructional design; this was one of the most important (Reiser, 2001). The authors established that the effectiveness of audiovisual materials was directly related to the degree of realism portrayed.

World War II Begins

World War II has a tremendous impact on the field of instructional design and the technologies it uses. In the war, the U.S. gained a massive advantage over other participants by using films to provide instruction to troops. By creating these instructional files, the cost and time put into training larger numbers of troops was dramatically reduced. Further, due to the importance and focus of the war efforts, great minds from a wide range of fields focused their attention on how to improve training, make it more widely available, and drive down costs, which led to an explosion of ideas.

U.S. Army Air Force produces more than 400 training films and 600 filmstrips

During these two years, it was estimated that there were more than 4 million showings of these training films to members of the armed forces.

U.S. Gevernment establishes the Division for Visual Aids

A governmental department focussing on research and publication of visual aids.

Publication of Cone of Experience by Edgar Dale

Publication of A Mathematical Theory of Communication by Claude Shannon & Weaver

This publication's impact extends much further than the context of education. Shannon wrote this publication as his master's thesis, and it established the groundwork for the digital revolution and the internet.

First Publication

The Programmed Instruction Movement

This progression in thought was a major influence on how instruction should be designed.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) designates 242 television channels for education

This led to a surge of interest in the production of educational programs.

While Sesame Street did not air until 1969, it is a prime example of how influential educational television can be.

Publication of The Science of Learning and the Art of Teaching by B.F. Skinner

"In this article and later ones (e.g., Skinner,1958), Skinner described his ideas regarding the requirements for increasing human learning and the desired characteristics of effective instructional materials. Skinner stated that such materials, called programmed instructional materials, should present instruction in small steps, require overt responses to frequent questions, provide immediate feedback, and allow for learner self-pacing. Moreover, because each step was small, it was thought that learners would answer all questions correctly and thus be positively reinforced by the feedback they received." (Reiser, 2001)


Publication of Taxonomy of Educational Objectives by Benjamin Bloom, Engelhart, Furst, Hill, & Krathwol

This book illustrated that there was a hierarchical relationship between the various types of learning outcomes that exist within the cognitive domain.


U.S.S.R launches Sputnik

This action by the soviets and the complete surprise by the U.S. led to the government pouring millions of dollars into--what would be called today--STEM education.


Ford Foundation spends more than $170 million on educational technology (Gordon, 1970).

Edsel Ford, Henry's son, who became president of the Ford Motor Company and later established the Ford Foundation

IBM builds the first CAI (Computer Assisted Instruction) device

This leads to a surge of interest in the production of educational programs. While, as with most new technologies, hype and hope were high for the impact of these new devices on instruction, by the end of the 1970s they were found to have had little impact.

"The IBM 1500 Instructional System was the only commercial system produced by a single manufacturer that had an integrated student terminal configuration providing a keyboard and light pen response mode, CRT-based graphics, audio, and static film projection." Source

The Criterion-Referenced Testing Movement

Publication of Preparing Objectives for Programmed Instruction by Robert Mager

"The book describes how to write objectives that include a description of desired learner behaviors, the conditions under which the behaviors are to be performed, and the standards (criteria) by which the behaviors are to be judged." (Reiser, 2001)

The first definition of the field of instructional technology is established by the Dept. of Audiovisual Instruction

"that branch of educational theory and practice primarily concerned with the design and use of messages which control the learning process.” One small outcome of the 1963 Definition book was a consensus on the contemporary spelling of the keyword "audiovisual". Source

Publication of The Conditions of Learning by Robert Gagne

This book lays out the five domains (types) of learning outcomes:

  1. Verbal Information
  2. Intellectual Skills
  3. Psychomotor Skills
  4. Attitudes
  5. Cognitive Strategies

In this same book, he described the nine events of instruction or teaching activities.

The founding of Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET)

This was the first iteration and proof-of-concept of what we now know as the internet. Started by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) of the U.S. Dept. of Defense, the purpose of ARPANET was to enable the remote access to computers to send and receive messages and documents.


Publication of The Methodology of Evaluation by Michael Scriven

Describes the idea that materials should be tested for effectiveness and revision before the final release. This was contrary to the current practice where materials would simply be created/written by subject experts and released to learners without and prior feedback or testing. Scriven labeled the long-standing practice of releasing the materials to then get feedback as summative evaluation. His new strategy of testing before final release as formative evaluation.


The first "internet" connection

On Oct. 29, 1969, the first two hosts connect using ARPANET between SRI (Stanford Research Institute) programmer Bill Duvall and UCLA student programmer Charley Kline. Later that year, by Dec. 5th, all four initial terminals of ARPANET (between SRI, UCLA, UCSB, & The University of Utah School of Computing) were connected in a network.

The UCLA Network Measurement Center was the home of the first ARPANET node in the 1970s.

A large boom in the number of instructional design models

By the end of the decade, there were more than 40 established instructional design models.

Dept. of Audiovisual Instruction changed to the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT)

This marks a significant shift in the field from the terms audiovisual instruction to that of educational technology and instruction. Following from the renaming of the organization came the renaming of the two journals published by the now AECT. The Audiovisual Communication Review became the Educational Communications and Technology Journal, and Audiovisual Instruction became Instructional Innovator.

The Commission on Instructional Technology releases report with two new definitions

  1. In its more familiar sense, it [instructional technology] means the media born of the communications revolution which can be used for instructional purposes alongside the teacher, textbook, and blackboard. . . . The pieces that make up instructional technology [include]: television, films, overhead projectors, computers, and other items of “hard- ware” and “software”. . . (p. 21)
  2. The second and less familiar definition of instructional tech- nology goes beyond any particular medium or device. In this sense, instructional technology is more than the sum of its parts. It is a systematic way of designing, carrying out, and evaluating the whole process of learning and teaching in terms of specific objectives, based on research on human learning and communication, and employing a combination of human and nonhuman resources to bring about more ef- fective instruction. (p. 21)
  3. Commission on Instructional Technology. (1970). To improve learning: An evaluation of instructional technology. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Association for Educational Communication and Technology (AECT) adopted a new definition of the field

Educational technology is a complex, integrated process involving people, procedures, ideas, devices, and organiza- tion, for analyzing problems and devising, implementing, evaluating, and managing solutions to those problems, involved in all aspects of human learning. (p. 1)

Association for Educational Communications and Technology. (1977). Educational technology: Definition and glossary of terms. Washington, DC: Association for Educational Communications and Technology.

Computers grow in popularity for classroom use

The Center for Social Organization of Schools (1983) reported that more than 40% of all elementary schools in the country were using computers for educational purposes and that number grew to 75% for secondary schools.

Tim Berners-Lee wrote his proposal for the World Wide Web

"Sir Tim Berners-Lee describes the original premise for the WWW as an approach to enable the people at Cern to share documents easily. While it started at Cern, within three years, the WWW and the HTTP protocol was in the public domain."Source

Increased focus on principles of Constructivism

The instructional principles associated with Constructivism include requiring learners to:

  1. solve complex and realistic problems
  2. work together to solve those problems
  3. examine the problems from multiple perspectives
  4. take ownership of the learning process (rather than being passive recipients of instruction)
  5. become aware of their own role in the knowledge construction process
(Driscoll, 2000)

"During the past decade, constructivist views of learning and instruction have had an impact on the thoughts and actions of many theorists and practitioners in the instructional design field. For example, the constructivist emphasis on designing "authentic" learning tasks-tasks that reflect the complexity of the real-world environment in which learners will be using the skills they are learning-has had an effect on how instructional design is being practiced and taught (Dick, 1996). Although some have argued that "traditional" instructional design practices and constructivist principles are antithetical, in recent years numerous authors have described how consideration of constructivist principles can enhance instructional design practices (e.g., Coleman, Perry, & Schwen, 1997; Dick, 1996; Lebow, 1993; Lin et al., 1996)."
(Reiser, 2001)

Publication of Instructional Technology: The Definitions and Domains of the Field by AECT

Instructional Technology is the theory and practice of de- sign, development, utilization, management, and evaluation of processes and resources for learning. (p. 1)

Seels, B. B., & Richey, R. C. (1994). Instructional technology: The definition and domains of the field. Washington, DC: Association for Educational Communications and Technology.

Surveys showed that on average there was one computer for every nine students

While the surveys showed that schools had computers, they were not being used for more than learning to type or other computer-specific tasks.

FirstClass: First Learning Management System (LMS) released

This is the 'Desktop' of FirstClass in 1993

Source 1, Source 2

Moodle: First Open-Source LSM is released

What Moodle looked like cerca 2002
Source: The Internet Archives

Publication of new AECT definition of the field

Educational technology is the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources. (p. 1)

AECT Definition and Terminology Committee. (2008). Definition. In A. Januszewski & M. Molenda (Eds.), Educational technology: A definition with commentary. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum.