What does it take to become an instructional designer?

What does it take to become an instructional designer? This is what other people have to say.

The Vignetted Training blog provides an interesting compilation of job descriptions in the area of e-learning instructional design, from a Project Champion and Leader via Creative Writers and Programme Designers to various more technical and programming-oriented roles. Experiencing e-Learning has got at least six articles on the topic, all of them worth perusing.

What seems important is the ability to combine effectively the knowledge of adult learning methodologies and familiarity with available learning technologies to create learning environments that actually facilitate learning, assessment and feedback. This is the reason why instructional design requires training and experience: it is not about introducing the latest e-learning tech fads but rather about carefully designing learning events to match learning objectives and learner needs and characteristics.

Ideal features of web/e-learning instructional designers are discussed in this article on The eLearning Coach blog (an expanded version is available here). In this context, it is very interesting to note that people working in instructional design come from a variety of professional backgrounds and very often do not have a degree in the field.

I tend to agree that while a degree may be of considerable help since it would normally provide strong background in cognitive science, teaching/learning methodologies and use of related technologies, what an instructional designer needs to have in the first place is a passion for learning. She needs to be motivated to make use of available resources to stay abreast of various new developments in the field and constantly develop her knowledge and skills.

The full list of traits and competencies of an e-learning instructional designer, as posted on The eLearning Coach, is as follows:

The successful instructional designer should:

  1. Conceptually and intuitively understand how people learn.
  2. Know how to connect with an audience on an emotional level.
  3. Be capable of imagining oneself as the learner/audience member.
  4. Be obsessed with learning everything.
  5. Brainstorm creative treatments and innovative instructional strategies.
  6. Visualize instructional graphics, the user interface, interactions and the finished product.
  7. Write effective copy, instructional text, audio scripts and video scripts.
  8. Meld minds with Subject Matter Experts and team members.
  9. Know the capabilities of eLearning development tools and software.
  10. Understand related fields—usability and experience design, information design, communications and new technologies.

So, how many boxes are we prepared to tick?