Purpose and Recommended Audience

The following is offered as a sample syllabus for an instructional design / performance consulting course, internship, or practicum in which students design a performance improvement solution for a client during the course of 15-week semester. This course is recommended as a capstone applied-learning experience for a graduate-level instructional design program in which students have completed the core requirements of the program.


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Course Description

This project-based course is designed to develop and enhance the ability of instructional designers to work as partners and consultants to clients and superiors.  All students will be required to complete an individual instructional design project for a client, as supervised by the student’s instructor.

Course Goals

The purpose of this course is to help you develop your consulting skills through activities and a project personalized to your specific interests that will allow you to be able to:

  • Create an operational definition for instructional design / performance consulting
  • Identify organization performance problems, opportunities, and needs
  • Develop and negotiate a consulting proposal for a performance improvement project
  • Maintain a positive client relationship throughout a consulting process
  • Provide feedback to the client and overcome resistance when conducting a performance improvement effort
  • Ensure that you practice professional ethics through a project
  • Assess your skills as a consultant

Suggested Readings

The following texts are suggested readings. Note that the textbooks are available at many online bookstores in both print (rent, new, or used copies) and eBook formats. Older versions of these books are also available at significantly discounted prices and offer substantially the same material.

  • Block, P. (2011). Flawless Consulting: A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used (3rd edition). Pfeiffer. ISBN-10: 0470620749
  • Hale, J. (2006). The Performance Consultant’s Fieldbook: Tools and Techniques for Improving Organizations and People (2nd edition). Pfeiffer. ISBN-10: 0787985341

Course Milestones

  1. Operational Definition: Using the Operational Definition Worksheet presented in Figure 1.7 of Hale’s Performance Consultant Fieldbook, you will prepare your own operational definition of instructional design or performance consulting. While this definition should be grounded in the suggested readings, as well as outside readings and professional standards you seek, each person’s definition will be tailored to his or her own intended context, such as work as an internal consultant or independent external consultant. In preparing this definition, you will briefly identify your intended consulting context and describe: (a) what you think ID or performance consulting is, (b) why ID or performance consulting is needed, and (c) how ID or performance consultants accomplish their practice. In addition, you will list and describe the knowledge and skills required, as well as how you feel your effectiveness as an instructional design or performance consultant should be measured for the typical consulting tasks you identify. Complete your written response in approximately 1,200 words.
  2. Course Contract: Each student is required to find an instructional design or performance improvement project in your community or workplace. Each student will prepare a written course contract as the statement of understanding and agreement between you and the instructor about the instructional design / performance improvement project that you plan to undertake in this course for your client. Instructor approval of your course contract and project is required. This contract should describe the context, the client, and your best assumptions about the specific project deliverables. It is expected that the project deliverables would meet the requirements of a substantial project in an applicable graduate-level course in the program, and be a work product sample you would be proud to include within a job interview portfolio. Complete your written course contract in approximately 1,200 words.
  3. Client Project Contract (or Memorandum of Understanding): Once the instructor has approved your course contract (see above), you will negotiate the specific terms of your project with your client. Within a written project contract that you will deliver to your client, you will document the outcome of your negotiations. Using Checklist #2 in Block’s Flawless Consulting as a guide, prepare a written contract document (or memorandum of understanding) that outlines: (a) the boundaries of your project, (b) the objectives of the project, (c) the kinds of information you will seek, (d) your role in the project, (e) the product you will deliver, (f) the required support and involvement you will need from the client, (g) the time schedule, including starting time, intermediate mileposts, and completion date, and (h) a statement regarding confidentiality. While you will not charge your client for your services, your project contract must also include an estimated budget (in hours and dollars) for your project. Along with your written project contract, you will submit a brief synopsis of your client discussions and contract negotiations with your client. Complete your written project contract, budget, and synopsis of negotiations in approximately 2,000 words.
  4. Weekly Project Management Updates: You are required to provide weekly project management updates of your project to your instructor. It is recommended that you create and share your project management updates in an online document that provides your instructor the opportunity to ask questions and offer feedback (i.e. a Google Doc, a wiki, or in blog format). While you are encouraged to post updates as many times as you want during the week, a minimum of one comprehensive project management update per week is required. Your updates should include: (a) a substantive summary of your progress on the project, (b) a running tally of your “billable” hours incurred to date (in date / task / hours format), (c) any changes you have negotiated with the client, and (d) concerns you have regarding project completion. Complete each weekly update in approximately 600 words.
  5. Final Product Deliverable: Your instructional design (ID) or performance improvement project will be assessed by your instructor based upon the extent to which the product delivered to your client conforms to the quality and scheduling requirements agreed upon in both your course and project contracts (see above). Along with all project deliverable(s) given to your client, you will submit a written project summary that offers: (a) a comparison of the budgeted versus actual costs (hours and dollars) to complete the project with an explanation for any differences, (b) a brief synopsis of your interactions with your client over the course of the project, including his or her overall satisfaction with your consulting process and final product, (c) the key lessons you learned, including what that you would do similarly or differently in your next consulting project, and (d) your perceptions of the overall quality of your consulting process and product. In addition to your project deliverables, complete your written project summary in approximately 1,200 words.
  6. Self-Assessment: As a self-assessment of your experience at demonstrating instructional design / performance consultant standards, you will complete a self-assessment developed by the International Society of Performance Improvement (ISPI) to help Certified Performance Technologists candidates assess their competence prior to application for certification.See: http://www.ispi.org/pl/cpt/Self-Assessment-Guide.doc. You will also write a brief self-reflection of your consulting expertise at the conclusion of this course as compared to your operational definition (see above), in which you identify your strengths and weaknesses, your opportunities for improvement, and a plan for continued development as an instructional design or performance consultant. Write your self-reflection response in approximately 1,200 words.