Rapid Prototyping in eLearning

Concurrent Session 10

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

The design framework of rapid prototyping can be employed when designing for eLearning. This framework uses design, development and evaluation. Design in this way allows for expectations to be established early in the process. We will examine this framework as well as the advantages and disadvantages of employing it.


I'm currently an instructional designer with Cengage Learning. My job duties include creating online courses for higher education institutions around the nation. My previous position was as an instructional designer at the University of Missouri-Columbia. My duties included not only creating online courses, but also hybrid and traditional face-to-face courses. I also have trained teachers on using technology in the classroom, and was an elementary teacher.

Extended Abstract

The presentation proposal will focus on the use of the rapid prototyping framework, and how it can be utilized in course or training design. The framework itself will be described and detailed, with specific attention given to advantages and disadvantages of using it. The presentation will also include a listing of online tools that would be helpful when using this type of design process.

Rapid Prototyping Framework

The design framework of rapid prototyping can be employed when designing for all aspects of eLearning. Rapid prototyping strives to combine design, development and evaluation in a very succinct way. The framework is becoming more popular than traditional instructional design approaches, due to the ability to create a training or course much more quickly and with less required rework to be done. Using this approach allows for problems to be addressed much earlier in the design and development process.

The steps involved in the rapid prototyping framework include the following:

  1. Analyze the situation that you are designing for. This step is the same for any framework you use, and isn’t tied to just rapid prototyping. Analysis requires looking at the needs of your audience, analyzing the required outcomes, considering pedagogical considerations, analyzing the timeline for the entire project, and other considerations based on the situation.
  2. A prototype is created based on the analysis completed. This prototype is designed based on the needs of the course or training that is being developed. This is especially necessary in cases that include complex media or interactives that are difficult to explain, and easier to visualize.
  3. End-users, stakeholders, or clients can get a look at the design and prototype early in the process which allows for their review and ability to provide feedback. The review can focus on the functionality and usability of the piece that’s shared.
  4. Prototype is refined and revised to include the feedback and recommendations. These recommendations will be further implemented within the full design.

What is a prototype?

In thinking about a prototype, there isn’t just one item that would fit this model. Essentially a prototype is going to be a sample, or model of what is to come. This can take many forms, and it can be presented to stakeholders or clients in many different ways depending on the project. The main purpose is that the prototype is reflective of the final project that will be completed.

The prototype needs to a small enough snapshot of what the entire project will be, while giving a large enough example that the project can be envisioned. The prototype needs to be constructed in such a way that the individuals can imagine how the entire project will look.

The prototype can be completed on paper as a simple sketch, it might be created with an online tool, or it could be a type of storyboard. The form of the prototype isn’t important, the message that it conveys is. They can be done quickly and in a way, that they are more like a rough draft, or they can be more fully vetted and with lots of detail.  The choice of how and why is primarily a result of the project it is created for.

Examples of Prototypes

Examples of prototypes will be shown. There will be examples provided that have been created as storyboards, on paper as rough sketches, and examples using online tools. Participants will be given the opportunity to look at the examples, and talk about their usefulness in the given situations.


  • Encourages design that is outside of the box because it doesn’t require expensive time-consuming reworks if they are needed. Increase in creativity because the user feedback is more quickly obtained.
  • More opportunities for regular communication with stakeholders, clients, etc. If a client or stakeholder changes their mind the rework, or revision necessary would be less time intensive.
  • Is a good option for courses that are complex due to interactives and high level of media use because stakeholders can “see” the ideas rather than trying to decipher textual descriptions on storyboards.
  • Resource-efficient process because it’s easy to draw a quick sketch, or put together a basic outline or prototype.


  • Prototyping can lead to a design-by-repair philosophy, which is only an excuse for lack of discipline.
  • Prototyping does not eliminate the need for initial analysis. Although time constraints during design can be limited, a good initial analysis must be doneA prototype cannot substitute completely for a paper analysis.
  • In some instances, the creation of a prototype may lead to stakeholders or clients committing to a design even if they aren’t totally buying in to it and they don’t consider that the prototype is just a suggested design and doesn’t have to be the final product


Adobe XD

Origami Studio

Paper Browser




During reflection the participants will consider projects they are going to be working on and how the use of rapid prototyping would be a beneficial framework to employ. They would respond to reflection questions regarding the presentation.

  1. What would make the use of rapid prototyping beneficial in my next project?
  2. What details of the framework seem to be the most useful in my position?
  3. Could I use the entire framework for my projects, or are there pieces of the framework that would be useful?


Participants would get into groups of individuals that focus on the same things professionally, or groups with the same job titles. For example: instructional designers, instructors, educational technologists, etc. In the small groups the participants begin by sharing what they reflected on. They also come up with questions for each other, and/or questions for the presenter or the whole group.