Abstracts and notes from:

Tripp, S. D., & Bichelmeyer, B. (1990). Rapid protoyping: An alternative instructional design strategy. Educational Technology, Research and Development, 38(1), 31-44.

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Document abstract (in Educational Technology, Research and Development):

There is a design methodology called rapid prototyping which has been used successfully in software engineering. Given the similarities between software design and instructional design, we argue that rapid prototyping is a viable model for instructional design, especially for computer-based instruction. Additionally, we argue that recent theories of design offer plausible explanations for the apparent success of rapid prototyping in software design. Such theories also support the notion that rapid prototyping is appropriate for instructional design. We offer guidelines for the use of rapid prototyping and list possible tradeoffs in its application.

ERIC abstract:

From ERIC: Discusses the nature of instructional design and describes rapid prototyping as a feasible model for instructional system design (ISD). The use of prototyping in software engineering is described, similarities between software design and instructional design are discussed, and an example is given which uses rapid prototyping in designing a computer-assisted tutorial. (44 references) (LRW)


Tripp cites the efficiency of rapid prototyping and the relative inefficiency of a systems approach.

There are natural sciences and artificial sciences. Some artificial sciences are enginerring, medicine, architecture, and instruction. "The four qualities that separate the natural sciences from the artificial or design sciences are (a) artificial things are synthesized by people; (b) aritificial things imitate appearances of natural things but lack the reality of them; (c) aritificial things can be characterized in terms of functions, goals, and adaptation; and (d) artificial things are usually discussed in terms of imperatives as well as descriptives." (p. 32)

"Ésince problem solvers are rarely in a position to identify all possible solutions, they must deal with bounded rationalities. Bounded rationality refers to the need to make decisions without complete information." (p. 34)

"designers take on the task of turning indeterminate situations into determinate ones (Schön, 1987)" (p. 34)

"The most fundamental difference between the two fields [software design and instructional design] is the degree of rigor that can be expected in each. Software designers deal in part with computer software, but primarily with systems based on human cognition, which entail more uncertainty and accept more ambiguity." (p. 34)

"In this methodology, after a succint statement of needs and objectives, research and development are conducted as parallel processes that create prototypes, which are then tested and which may or may not evolve into a final product." (p. 35)

"The use of rapid prototyping in software design depends on development software which allows rapid construction and modification of software." (p. 35)

On differences between rapid prototyping and traditional instructional systems design: "Émany traditional models emphasize early constraining of design decisions, while rapid prototyping follows the pragmatic design principle of minimum commitment, that at each stage in synthesizing a design no commitment is made beyond what is absolutely necessary to solve the problem at hand." (p. 37)

"A crucial part of the prototyping process is the utilization of the design with potential learners." (p. 37)

"Rapid prototyping presupposes a design environment which makes it practical to synthesize and modify instructional artifacts quickly. Without such an environment it becomes inefficient and, therefore, loses its attractiveness." (p. 38)

"There are a number of reasons why traditional models may not be successful. As Streibel suggested, they may be incomplete, or they may not account for the situated nature of knowledge. Or perhaps, as Maher and Ingram (1989) suggested, many traditional designs have a linear quality which in many instances is not a true reflection of the design process. They argue specifically that recent research has found instructional design models with sequential, hierarchical features do not adequately represent what people really do, or what they should do, in specific design situations, and that software engineers frequently need more realistic, more flexible models to follow in planning and executing a project." (p. 39)


One of our students had been involved in the development of a computer-based grammar tutor for foreign students. He found that his analysis of the types of information which would be useful to students, the types of feedback that should be given, and the general structure of the tutorial was becoming very complex. On the other hand, he felt that he could not pilot-test the program until it was in a relatively finished form. I suggested to him that he should try rapid prototyping the tutorial. The prototype was deliberately only a model of the finished product. That is, it contained only the major elements of the final tutorial, and these elements were presented in a schematic way. He was able to produce the prototype in a short period of time (a matter of hours) and immediately started teshng it with potenhal users, while collecting their suggeshons and comments. He reported that this process answered many of his queshons and that he was able move quickly toward a full version of the tutorial. This example illustrates the essenhal features of rapid prototyping. First, a model of the system was used to inveshgate and design the full system. Second, the software environment allowed rapid synthesis and mod)fication of the system. Third, a slow and uncertain process of analysis and detailed speciQcahon was replaced by an efficient process of hands-on design. Although this application was successful, it depended upon two factors: a plastic and modular medium, and an intention to leam through the process of design." (p. 41)

"Some may argue that rapid prototyping is nothing new--the methodology of rapid prototyping has always been with us, even if the models of design did not acknowledge it. In one sense this is true. Where possible, engineering design and instructional design have used prototypes. The use of prototypes is not the same as rapid prototyping, however. In many cases, the use of prototypes is dictated by the sever consequences of error (i.e., aircraft design), rathen than efficiency considerations. Rapid prototyping emphasizes the rapid synthesis and utilitzation of designs because the medium affords it." (p. 41)

"Whitten et al., (1989) have summarized the advantages of prototyping in a systems engineering context. We have adapted their conclusions into the instruchonal design environment. The following are potential advantages of rapid prototyping:

"The main disadvantage of prototyping can be summed up in one complaint that is easy to imagine: it has a tendency to encourage informal design methods which may introduce more problems than they eliminate.

This failure can be avoided if the following issues are kept in mind:

When prototyping an instructional package, creeping featurism (the adding of bells and whistles) may lead to designs that get out of control." (p. 44)