First Principles of Instruction for Creating Better eLearning with Dr. David Merrill

First Principles of Instruction for Creating Better eLearning with Dr. David Merrill
February 9, 2021
6 minutes
First Principles of Instruction for Creating Better eLearning with Dr. David Merrill

In this episode of Instructional Designers in Offices Drinking Coffee #IDIODC we were joined by one of the most prominent names in our field: Dr. M. David Merrill. Everyone has read at least one of his books and has had their instructional design practice shaped by him in one way or another.  

If not, then this recording is required viewing for you. It will challenge your thinking and maybe even support some of your suspicions about the “theories” expressed by your colleagues and peers.  It was such a relief for me to hear him talk about recording subject matter experts as they “do the work”.  

IDIODC community member Emily Wood reached out to us prior to the live stream and asked if we could talk about the order of the principles and if it’s relevant. And can only 1 or 2 principles be applied without the others.  She was also interested in getting a little more insight into the difference between Activation and Application.

Dr. Merrill has fantastic answers for both. Watch the video to hear his complete response.

Here are the First Principles of Instruction:

  • Learning is promoted when learners are engaged in solving real-world problems
  • Learning is promoted when existing knowledge [and skill] is activated as a foundation for new knowledge [and skill]
  • Learning is promoted when new knowledge is demonstrated to the learner
  • Learning is promoted when new knowledge is applied by the learner
  • Learning is promoted when new knowledge is integrated into the learner’s world

If they sound TOO simple then you NEED to watch the replay and gain a little more insight into the practical examples.  

You can learn more about First Principles of Instruction buying his book from All proceeds go to helping students attending BYU Hawaii.  

To see all the comments from the chat check out the full session right here.  

You can also sign up for our next episode, Using email as course delivery tool with Sarah Mercier!

And if you'd like to further hone your Instructional Design skills, here are some other dominKnow resources you might find helpful:

About Dr. M David Merrill

Dr. M. David Merrill is professor emeritus at Utah State University. He is available to lecture, provide a workshop, or consult on effective instruction. Click to contact him.

Dr. Merrill has been engaged in the study of effective, efficient and engaging instruction for more than 50 years since he finished his PhD program at the University of Illinois in 1964.

He was honored with the AECT Distinguished Service Award 2001 for advancing the field of Instructional Technology through Scholarship, Teaching and Leadership.  He received a life time achievement award from the Utah State University College of Education 2010; and he was recognized as an Honored Alumni for the College of Education at BYU 2011. He received the ETR&D Distinguished Development Award 2013 and the AECT D&D Outstanding Book Award 2014 for his book “First Principles of Instruction.”

He received his BA from Brigham Young University 1961; his MS from the University of Illinois, 1964; his PhD from the University of Illinois, 1964. Since receiving his PhD he served on the faculty of George Peabody College, Brigham Young University-Provo, Stanford University, the University of Southern California, Utah State University, Florida State University, and BYU Hawaii (as a missionary volunteer). He served a service mission at BYU Hawaii where he helped faculty put courses online.  Since retiring he has taught online courses at Florida State University, BYU Hawaii, University of Hawaii and Utah State University. He is internationally recognized as a major contributor to the field of instructional technology, has published many books and articles in the field and has lectured internationally.  Among his principle contributions: TICCIT Authoring System 1970’s, Component Display Theory and Elaboration Theory 1980’s, Instructional Transaction Theory, automated instructional design and ID based on Knowledge Objects 1990’s, and since 2002 First Principles of Instruction.


Instructional Designers in Offices Drinking Coffee (affectionately known as IDIODC) is a weekly live videocast and podcast that helps instructional designers with pain points and provides best practices and industry insight.  

Every Wednesday morning at 10am ET hosts Brent Schlenker and Chris Van Wingerden guide us through an upbeat and candid conversation with their guests from the elearning and training world. The live cast session encourages peers to participate in the chat and share their own personal insight! After airing live, you can catch the learning podcast on all major streams such as Spotify, Apple and Google Play podcasts, as well as on YouTube.

New to IDIODC?

Instructional Designers in Offices Drinking Coffee (#IDIODC) is a free weekly eLearning video cast and podcast that is Sponsored by dominknow.

Join us live – or later in your favourite app!