Wiki: ID Career Opportunities

Note: This was a group project for IDD 600. Group members were Mitchell Dykstra, Brian Jones, and Britta Lafont. If videos do not load, please refresh the page.

Instructional Design Opportunities in
Military Education &
Training Environments

Introduction to the Military Setting

In the military, training and education are highly valued, required for advancement, ongoing throughout the career, and part of daily life, so instructional designers have a great opportunity to play an important role in the support and growth of military personnel. As a setting for instructional design, the military is unique in terms of its culture and mission. “For civilians with little or no personal exposure to the military culture, the Armed Forces may seem overwhelming, incomprehensible, esoteric, or even anachronistic. However, to understand, work with, and help those who serve in the Armed Forces, it is necessary to have a general understanding of the institution” (Halvorson, A., 2010. p. 1).The militaries of the United States and other nations are marked by a particular culture, defined by its extraordinary camaraderie and, despite many differences within each branch of service, a common purpose (Bratton-Jeffery, 2017, p. 159). As instructional designers collaborate with military leadership and create training for military personnel, it is critical to keep in mind the “the highly structured collective culture of military life” and other aspects of organizational culture that might be foreign to civilians (Suzuki, M., & Kawakami, A., 2016, p. 2060). Some issues that define military culture include:

  • Core Values.”Each service has its own specific values that are taught to new recruits from the beginning of their time in service…[these values] are more than a list of terms that young recruits must learn and repeat on command; these values define how each service member lives his or her life, approaches every duty, and succeeds at every mission” (Halvorson, A., 2010. pp.9-10).
  • A high view of order, discipline, action, leadership, and respect for authority (Suzuki, M. & Kawakami, A., 2016, pp. 2060-61)
  • A highly structured hierarchy, known as the “chain of command” (Suzuki, M. & Kawakami, A., 2016, pp. 2060-61)
  • The commitment of the individual to the group, upholding the best interests of the group over the individual (Suzuki, M. & Kawakami, A., 2016, pp. 2060-61)
  • A distinctive set of acronyms, jargon, and lingo. Here is a current list from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Performance orientation and commitment to self-improvement and personal responsibility (Suzuki, M. & Kawakami, A., 2016, pp. 2060-61)
  • A high regard for training and self-improvement (see video below):

In contrast to typical bureaucracies, which tend to be resistant to change, “military organizations are subject to strong, if not irresistible, external and internal pressures to learn and to adopt new behaviors” (Foster R. E. & Fletcher, J.D., 2013, p. 308). The U.S. military’s need for regular change and improvement creates a consistent need for the development of new training and education, resulting in a natural partnership with the field of Instructional Design.

“Military training is distinguished from other forms of training by its emphases on discipline, just-in-case preparation, and the training of collectives” (Fletcher, J.D. Chatelier, P.R. 2002, p. I-1).

  • Training as Discipline: Military commanders view training as discipline that prepares the military member to perform at their highest level and keep their composure during the worst situations they can encounter (p. II-1).
  • Just-in-Case Training: Excellent military training prepares individuals and groups for the worst case-scenario of life-threatening, armed combat. This kind of preparation is called just-in-case training, which prepares the military to perform at a high-level of proficiency in conflicts and engagements. This is training that “we hope and often expect to be unnecessary” (p. II-2).
  • Training of Collectives: Many military organizations consider the training of individuals to be a personnel issue. “In this perspective, ‘training’ is what military commanders do to prepare the [collective: crew, group, team, or unit] they command” (pp. II-1-4).

For an overview of the typical training that various branches of the military undergo, visit It is helpful to keep in mind that each service of the United States military—Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard—is a subculture unto itself with different ranks and uniforms, particular core values, and history (Halvorson, A., 2010, pp. 6, 9), all under the U. S. Department of Defense (the DoD). The mission of the DoD governs the mission of the U.S. Military: “The mission of the Department of Defense is to provide the military forces needed to deter war and to protect the security of our country” (The U.S. Department of Defense, 2017).

Though the security of the United States is the primary mission of the military, in recent years there has been an expansion of traditional duties, moving from fighting other nations to fighting terrorists, from national to global defense, from warriors to peacekeepers, dealing with human and trafficking and piracy on the open seas, and participating humanitarian efforts (Bratton-Jeffery, 2017, pp. 160-161). In addition, joint exercises are increasing between various military forces within the U.S., with other government agencies and in multi-national coalitions (p. 161). The changes and challenges facing today’s military, along with the introduction of increasingly sophisticated technologies, require continued training and education, and this is where the Instructional Designer has a great opportunity to contribute.

History of Instructional Design in the Military

As it turns out, the history of instructional design in America is closely tied to the history of instructional design in the military. Just as it was a major event shaping the entire 20th century, World War 2 made a significant impact on the history of instructional design in the military and beyond. According to Reiser (2018) in Chapter 2 of our textbook “during a two-year period (from mid-1943 to mid-1945) it was estimated that there were over 4 million showings of training films and filmstrips to U.S. military personnel.”The video below was made in 1943, so it perhaps would be included in that estimated 4 million showings:

Reiser goes on to cite the work of Walter Dick, who in 1987 wrote about how the instructional work done in World War 2 went on to affect the psychology and instructional design fields for years to come:

When the programmed instruction movement began in the late fifties, there was already a receptive environment for any innovation in the area of human learning that could be applied in the classroom. This interest had been building since the second World War.

Conversations with pioneers in the field, Robert Gagne (personal communication, April, 1984) and Leslie Briggs (personal communication, April, 1984), indicate that a number of psychologists were influenced by the training demands made by World War II and the corresponding lack of relevant research and experience that could be drawn upon from the field of psychology. After the war these training problems continued to be of interest to many psychologists. (Dick, 1987)

When the programmed instruction movement began in the late fifties, there was already a receptive environment for any innovation in the area of human learning that could be applied in the classroom. This interest had been building since the second World War.

Conversations with pioneers in the field, Robert Gagne (personal communication, April, 1984) and Leslie Briggs (personal communication, April, 1984), indicate that a number of psychologists were influenced by the training demands made by World War II and the corresponding lack of relevant research and experience that could be drawn upon from the field of psychology. After the war these training problems continued to be of interest to many psychologists. (Dick, 1987)

In 1975, 30 years after the end of World War 2, one of the most influential instructional design models, ADDIE, was developed by Florida State University researchers working on a contract from the U.S. Army Combat Arms Training Board (Branson, 1975).

Methodologies within the Military Setting

Every 4 years, the Department of Defense is required (by the U.S. Congress) to publish the Quadrennial Defense Review Report, which “establishes the vision for all efforts by each of the individual services. Each service must examine its current means of doing business and transform itself against the measures provided in the QDR” (Bratton-Jeffery, 2017).Because of the tremendous amount of training that occurs across the entire military, we suspect in practice there are a range of methodologies being used in various situations. This project cannot definitively list all of these, but we have done our best to find information that offers some insight into the overall approach.

We were able to find recent instructional design documents for the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. These are long, detailed documents, and reading over them makes it clear that each branch of the U.S. Military puts a lot of thought into its instructional design approach. Three out of the four documents we reviewed uses the ADDIE model to describe its process (Department of the Air Force, 2011; Department of the Army, 2017; Department of the Navy Headquarters United States Marine Corps, 2015). The Navy document (Department of the Navy Naval Education and Training Command, 2010) showed the use of a modified ADDIE model called PADDIE+M (Planning, Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, Evaluation, and Maintenance.)

As an example of how the documents from each service branch describe systems and models, let’s look at the Army Learning Policy and Systems document, which introduces a model called the Army Learning Model (ALM) with the following text:

ALM provides a framework and is about using good instructional design principles. It is not a one size fits all model. ALM allows designers the flexibility to design according to the training and education needs of the Soldiers. It is an adaptive, continuous learning model focused on providing quality, relevant, and effective learning experiences. ALM promotes outcome-oriented instructional strategies that foster thinking, initiative, and provide operationally relevant context. It features learning beyond the learning institution in a career- long continuum of learning through the significantly expanded use of network technologies. (Department of the Army, 2017, p.24)

Later, the document describes ADDIE as the “enterprise ISD” and states reasons for its adoption:

Centers and schools will use the enterprise Instructional System Design (ISD) to produce Army learning products. ISD is the process of designing and developing instructional courses or materials that bring greater efficiency and effectiveness to acquiring knowledge, skills, and attitudes to achieve required performance for learners. The ADDIE process is the enterprise ISD.

b. The Army adopted the ADDIE process for five primary reasons:

(1) It provides thoughtful identification of learning requirements based on analyses.

(2) It ensures focused learning on critical job performance requirements.

(3) It determines the specific objectives the learning intends to address, the associated experience required, and identifies the assessment required.

(4) It facilitates the generation and application of alternative learning methods.

(5) It reduces required resources through the application of technology to achieve expected learning outcomes. (Department of the Army, 2017, pp.26-27)

The aforementioned documents offer a lot of insight into how the military views instructional design processes. If you are interested in pursuing a career in military instructional design (see Instructional Design Jobs in the Military section below), we encourage you to explore those manuals further as part of your study.

Role of Instructional Design and Development
within the Military Setting

Instructional Design and Development plays a critical role in “the transformation to accommodate the needs of today’s service members and move the military of today to the military of tomorrow” (Bratton-Jeffery, 2017, p. 159).The military provides subject matter experts to the instructional design process in the creation
of training and education programs, but places great trust in the professional Instruction Designer to have (Bratton-Jeffery, 2017, p. 159):

  • an expertise in learning theory and instructional strategies the ability to implement them
  • the ability to utilize technology at optimum levels in a variety of learning environments
  • ingenuity in approaches which blend learning solutions
  • a budget-minded approach
  • “understanding the military culture both at home and abroad as well as the culture of international forces” (p. 159)
  • excellent communication skills

The Role of Instructional Design and Technology is to apply knowledge of learning theory and technology to the subject matter, in partnership with subject matter experts, in the military setting, to achieve necessary changes in the system. Instructional Designers must balance the design considerations (theories, settings, opportunities) with the design issues (strengths, needs, limitations, and constraints) and be prepared to “make trade-offs” and concessions in order to develop plans and programs (with multiple, flexible options) to meet the needs of the military. Table 1 depicts the “systematic methodology for working through trade-offs,” and is based Bratton-Jeffery’s Figure 18.3 on page 164 in her chapter in Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology. A hypothetical scenario is applied to Figure 18.3 to demonstrate its use.

In Table 1, the most significant design issue is creation of a joint training program. Clearly, this multi-force training requires a blended solution of classroom instruction and technology applications, but funding and budget are considerations (so offering a variety of alternatives like gamified simulations, as well as lower-cost options would be helpful). In addition, the jointness of program reveals a technology issue (perhaps due to incompatibilities existing between the technological systems of the different branches). Any performance support device or tool that is expected to be used on the job would need to be compatible across all systems.

Trends and Issues


Simulators have been used in military training as early as World War II, when they were used for flight training (Reiser, 2017, p. 9). This technology is still used extensively in military training for a wide range of applications. One of the major trends shaping the use of simulators in military is the use of virtual reality (VR) to increase learner immersion in the training environment and to better replicate the real-world scenarios in which the training is to be applied (Forces TV, 2016). VR simulator-based training has a wide range of military applications, including (but not limited to):

  • Medical Training

  • Combat Training
 Simulations such as these represent the higher end of the technological range for military training; however, military instructional products also include “the simplest paper-based, pocket-sized job aids” (Bratton-Jeffery, 2017, p. 162). The wide range of technology available can present challenges for instructional designers in a military setting because they must be able to produce effective instruction from a large number of different instructional products and stay up-to-date on their performance requirements (Bratton-Jeffery, 2017, p. 162).


The wide range of industrial products available is well-suited for dealing with one of the largest issues in military education and training—funding (Bratton-Jeffery, 2017, p. 162). The proposed 2018 budget for the United States’ Department of Defense (DoD) is approximately 640 billion dollars (Office of Management and Budget, 2017, p. 2), which comprises a significant proportion of the Federal budget (see the Figure 1, which is based on Office of Management and Budget, 2017).

Though it may seem odd to say that funding is an issue in military training, only a fraction of the overall budget is designated for use in the education or training of service members. In 2007 (this was the most recent data I could find on the subject), only about 16 billion dollars were used for the education and/or training of military personnel (Horowitz, 2016, p. 5). At the time, there were approximately 3.5 million military personnel (Department of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense, 2007, p. i), which means that under 5 thousand dollars were spent educating or training each service member. That’s less than half the cost of educating each K-12 student in the US in the 2007-2008 academic year (National Center for Education Statistics, 2017). Of course, things are certainly quite a bit more complicated than these numbers make it seem, it is clear that the military must be relatively frugal when it comes to education and training expenses.

Given these funding restrictions, using the most advanced and innovative technology for each instructional product is out of the question, so “suggesting new approaches to training using low-and high-tech methods incorporated with the mission equipment is an option that should be considered [by the instructional designer]” (Bratton-Jeffery, 2017, p. 162).

Delivery Environments and Distributed Learning Environments

A second issue for instructional designers working in military education and training is the wide range of delivery environments (Bratton-Jeffery, 2017, p. 162). Unlike training in a civilian environment, which typically happens a separately from the work environment, military training is “integrated into the workplace…[and] takes place in the classroom, in garrison, in base and shipboard environments, and wherever personnel are deployed—even in combat,” so the instructional designer must be able to adapt instructional programs to a wide range of environments (Bratton-Jeffery, 2017, p. 162).

In order to address the wide range of delivery environments, a current trend in military education and training is the use of distributed learning environments that permit “the interoperability of learning tools and course content on a global scale” (Bratton-Jeffery, 2017, p. 163). The goal for the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative (sponsored by the U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense) is to “provide access to the highest quality education and training, tailored to individual needs, delivered cost-effectively anywhere and anytime” (Bratton-Jeffery, 2017, p. 163). In addition to providing an accessible education and training network for service members, the ADL also “conducts research, development, test [sic], and evaluation” focusing on the following areas in order to “provide learning science, specifications, guidance and best practices, and technology applications to the DoD, federal agencies, and coalition military partners:”

  • e-learning,
  • mobile learning and mobile performance support,
  • learning analytics and performance modeling,
  • learning theory,
  • Total Learning Architecture (TLA) infrastructure, and
  • web-based Virtual Worlds (VWs) and simulation (Advanced Distributed Learning, 2017).

Design Constraints and Jointness

A third issue facing instructional designers are design constraints due to the diversity of the different military branches (Bratton-Jeffery, 2017, p. 162). The designer may be required to design instruction that applies to a number of different branches; however, the visions of the different branches may conflict and the different network infrastructures and equipment used by each branch may cause product compatibility issues (Bratton-Jeffery, 2017, p. 162). Furthermore, in lieu of professional instructors, the military typically makes use of subject-matter experts (SMEs), who are very knowledgable about the material but might know very little about teaching or facilitating learning (Bratton-Jeffery, 2017, p. 162). Therefore, the instructional designer may be required to produce train-the-trainer materials that “explain the lesson plans in a step-by-step manner and incorporate learning theory as well (Bratton-Jeffery, 2017, p. 162).

Connected to the issue of design constraints is the trend of military “jointness,” which as embodied by the Doctrine for the Armed Forces of the United States(2013), “provides the doctrinal basis for interagency coordination and for US military involvement in multiagency and multinational operations” (p. i). Section six of the Doctrine for the Armed Forces of the United States includes standards for joint education and training, which is training that is designed to suit the needs of multiple branches simultaneously (p. 8-11). According to Bratton-Jeffery (2017), “inherent in this instructional design mission is recognition of the diversity of the force in terms of service perspective…, doctrine of allied forces…, and even cultural diversity such as differences in language and religion (p. 163).

Recruiting, Retention, and Lifelong Learning

In voluntary forces, such as the U.S. military, a major issue is “recruiting good people and retaining highly trained and skilled service members,” and the armed forces of various country have recognized the need to “provide for quality of life, especially in the areas of personal and professional growth” (Bratton-Jeffery, 2017, p. 162). To meet these needs, a developing trend is to provide continued learning opportunities within the service, known as “lifelong learning,” that “improve the service member within his or her occupational specialty and open the doors to many opportunities for those who leave service” (Bratton-Jeffery, 2017, p. 163). For example, the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) makes it easier for service members in European Union (EU) countries to transfer between universities in the EU, which “allows military students to continue their personal learning goals while serving their countries abroad” (Bratton-Jeffery, 2017, p. 163).

Remediation and Alternative Training Solutions

Historically, a fifth issue in military education and training was remedial training, which is required when service members do not achieve the desired results when training is complete (Bratton-Jeffery, 2017, p. 162). In the past, service members “were remediated until mastery was achieved…this remediation was often done in the manner in which the original instruction was presented” (Bratton-Jeffery, 2017, p. 162). It is easy to see how this could be problematic. If a learner is not responding well to an instructional strategy, it is unlikely that additional exposure to instruction employing the same strategy will result in drastically improved learning outcomes. A current trend in military education and training, however, is for the instructional designer to “recommend completely different instructional strategies” or recommend that individual learners be allowed to select their preferred learning option (Bratton-Jeffery, 2017, p. 162).

Instructional Design Jobs in the Military

Given the extensive training requirements and diverse needs of the armed forces, it should come as no surprise that the services of instructional designers are often invoked in this setting. According to Bratton-Jeffery (2017), “[i]nstructional designers who work in the military environment are never bored and, given enough time, will have the opportunity to work in every aspect of instructional design from analysis to evaluation” (p. 165).The wide range of technology and focus on individual educational and training requirements means that instructional designers in a military setting will be involved in the design and development of a plethora of instructional products and “The knowledge of learning theories and instructional strategies that will be needed can be employed in virtually any manner: instructor-led or instructor-facilitated classroom, informal self-study, formal online learning courses with synchronous and/or asynchronous options, or a blend of any or all of these” (Bratton-Jeffery, 2017, p. 165). The Department of the Army (2017), for example, specifies that Army training occurs across three domains:

  • The operational domain includes “The training activities organizations undertake while at home station, at maneuver combat training centers, during joint exercises, at mobilization centers, and while operationally deployed” (p. 148).
  • The institutional domain is the “Army’s institutional training and education system, which primarily includes training base centers and schools that provide initial training and subsequent professional military education (PME) for Soldiers, military leaders, and Army Civilians” (p. 142).
  • The self-development domain is the “Planned, goal-oriented learning that reinforces and expands the depth and breadth of an individual’s knowledge base, self-awareness, and situational awareness; complements institutional and operational learning; enhances professional competence; and meets personal objectives” (p. 151).

In addition to the mandatory law-directed training, the Army also requires a number of unique training and educational products in each domain. The operational domain, for instance, requires learning products that include:

  • Soldier Training Publications (STPs), which provide “guidance on the conduct of individual Solider training in the unit and aids all Soldiers in the training of critical tasks” (p. 153);
  • Combined Arms Training Strategies (CATS), which “provide a descriptive holistic and METL Focused, task-based, event-driven strategy for all TOE units” (p. 133);
  • Warfighter Training Support Package (WTSP), which is a “complete, task-based, exportable package integrating training products, materials, and information necessary to train one or more collective tasks and/or one or more individual tasks” (p. 159);
  • collective tasks, which are “clearly defined, discrete observable and measurable activity or action which requires organized team or unit performance and leads accomplishment of the task to a defined standard” (p. 133); and
  • drills, each of which is a “collective action (or task) performed without the application of a deliberate decision making process…[,] is initiated on a cue, such as enemy action or leader’s simple command, and is a trained response to the given stimulus” (p. 138).

So, that is five different types of educational programs within only one out of the three U.S. Army domains. If one extrapolates to the rest of the U.S. military, he or she can see that there is a very large number of diverse educational and training programs that require the expertise of instructional designers for analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation.


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Bratton-Jeffery, Mary F. (2017). Instructional design opportunities in military education and training environments. In Reiser & Dempsey (Eds.), Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology (pp. 159-167). New York, NY: Pearson.

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