What is an Instructional Designer?
An Instructional Designer (ID) develops learning material for schools, organizations and businesses. While IDs are required to possess an extensive set of skills, the most important task is to carefully analyse how students learn and to choose the appropriate materials and methods that will most effectively help them improve or acquire new knowledge.
"Design Thinking is essentially a problem-solving approach, crystalized in the field of design, which combines a user-centered perspective with rational and analytical research with the goal of creating innovative solutions" (Ellis, n.d)
What skills should one dispose to become an Instructional Designer?
The job of an ID includes a wide range of responsibilities spanning from contacting with the clients’ SMEs to choosing the necessary instructional and pedagogical approaches that would enable a particular group of learners to educationally flourish. Since instructional design touches and involves many fields due to its interdisciplinary nature, IDs are expected to have extensive skills and knowledge in various fields (Peck, 2020) like research, graphic design, video making, training, eLearning development and, of course, instructional design itself.
What are the steps that Instructional Designers follow to create learning material?
Instructional designers tend to have different responsibilities and workloads based on the organization they work at. This means that there is no clear path that one should adopt in order to achieve results. Thankfully there are some steps in the instruction process which are common in most design cases
Is this an easy road?
It is indeed true that IDs do receive a substantial amount of money when it comes to payment. But keep in mind that as a rose has thorns, this job has its own flaws. Like any job that requires from the individual to get in touch with clients, organize groups of professionals in teams, assign them tasks and manage their workload, the job of an Instructional Designer is stressful too. A couple of issues need to be taken into consideration before starting a career in this field. Below are a few common issues an ID may face at some point:
In addition, some clients may be extremely demanding, asking you to develop extra material than the ones set, or adjust the final product beyond the agreed schedule. To avoid those issues, IDs set the project’s milestones clearly and agree with the client on the number and, most importantly, timing of revisions that will occur.
For example, in some cases, budget may be an issue, so a solution that once fit with a previous client may have to be changed accordingly. When there is an abundance of resources available, the process of developing solutions for the client may allow the ID to spend more time in the phase of analysing the client’s needs, reviewing older training programs that the client conducted, etc. On the other hand, if the budget is limited, solutions have to be found in order for the quality of the program to remain high and at the same time to stay in good terms with the stakeholder’s finances.
Assuming that the individual who would like to become an ID has the necessary background, either in Computer Science or in Education, a Master’s Degree in Educational Technology or Pedagogical Studies may be needed in order to acquire the necessary knowledge regarding learning theories and instructional design processes that will allow him/her to create learning experiences that make training more effective, efficient and engaging. Also note that constant effort is needed to stay up-to-date with the latest trends in the educational technology field, that is continuously evolving, which means that taking part in related conferences and joining communities of practice is mandatory for this purpose.
Types of Instructional Designers
IDs also tend to have different responsibilities and workloads based on the organization they work at.
For example IDs who work in educational institutes and organizations, spend much of their time into extensive meetings with SME’s in order to clearly understand their demands and needs. Then they transform the “raw material” which came from the meetings with SME’s into the right form by choosing the appropriate approaches for its development. Besides they keep in constant touch with the institution’s eLearning developers who are responsible for the material’s digitization. On the contrary IDs who work in the corporate sector, besides writing the learning material, pretty much what their educational counterparts do as well, tend to spend less time in researching the clients’ needs, since their client is always the same,and spend the vast majority of their workload in developing eLearning courses themselves to meet the needs of the company’s employees. (Peck, 2020)
As educational institutions and employers have lately transitioned to remote learning and training environments, the need for Instructional Designers is more apparent than ever. We are currently witnessing an influx of Instructional Designers in the market since their profession and expertise is highly requested at the moment, but in order to shine and stand out, one must possess an ample variety of skills and knowledge in both the education and computer science fields.
Devlin, P. (2020). How to Become an Instructional Designer in 2020. Retrieved September 5, 2020 from https://www.devlinpeck.com/posts/how-to-become-instructional-designer
Ellis, C. (n.d). Instructional Design & Developer. Retrieved September 4, 2020 from https://www.cathellis.com
Purdue University (n.d). What is Instructional Design? Retrieved September 5, 2020 from https://online.purdue.edu/blog/education/what-is-instructional-design
Tucker, C. (2018) What does an instructional designer do? Retrieved September 5, 2020 from https://www.christytuckerlearning.com/what-does-an-instructional-designer-do/
Vaughan, S. (2016) 2016 Instructional Design Trends Compass: Experiences, Ecosystems, Evaluations. Oh My! Retrieved from https://elearningindustry.com/2016-instructional-design-trends-compass-experiences-ecosystems-evaluation-oh