Are you an ID Superstar???

Instructional Designers are indispensable in an eLearning courseware development process. They are involved since the identification of the learning need to the learning solution implementation phase. They understand the problem, develop corresponding solution and devise a plan for its effective implementation.

Let’s discuss what qualities an Instructional Designer should possess to deliver these responsibilities.

An instructional designer should be a…

Quick Learner
As a professional courseware developer, Instructional Designers are ought to develop learning solutions on any concept under the sun. To do this, they must be quick learner with minimal assistances from SMEs.

Creative Explainer
An instructional designer should possess ‘Teacher’s Instinct’. Considering the Content, Learner and the Learning Outcomes; an instructional designer should adopt simple and intuitive explainer models at both, macro level (curriculum designs) and micro level (instructional strategies) of a learning solution.

Expository Writer
Writing has different styles to express your thoughts; but an instructional designer should possess an expository style of writing or developing the learning content. The content must be plain and easy to comprehend in simple efforts. Each piece of content should be put in a pattern that it construct one concept after the other.

Instructional Content Visualizer
Instructional Content incudes text, images, illustrations, videos etc. An instructional designer should represent these elements in an appropriate flow and graphic design sense. It includes the use of colors, symmetrical shapes, arrangement patterns and animation sequence.

Keen Reviewer
An instructional designer should have an eye for detail focus and correct every feature of an effective courseware development. High precision reviewing capability is vital to identify mistakes and loop-holes in content as well as other cosmetic designs. Even a minute element of the course should serve its intended purpose.

Innovator
Every learning need is unique with respect to the desired outcome behavior, learner and the content. An instructional designer must be an innovator to blend different instructional strategies and develop a unique learning solution for the problem. It requires an instructional designer to be well-versed in various instructional models, approaches and technologies.

Researcher
Developing a course requires lot of material to review. Quite often, clients supply content if it is related to organizational policies, specific products and services or in-house developed content (if any) etc. In normal course of work, an instructional designer define and get approve the learning objectives in specific behavioral terms and then develop content through their own research on Internet, Books, Videos etc. They ensure, the final content should help the leaner achieve the desired objectives.

Tech Savvy Developer
Every piece of courseware such as content, visuals, courseware development tools, learner interactive strategies etc. conveys some-meaning to learner; an instructional designer tries to have control on these and ensure learner receives the intended meaning. This require instructional designers to be conversant in learning science as well as in learning technologies such as eLearning authoring tools, sound editing software, image editing software etc.

10 Tips for Instructional Designers

Developing a self-paced learning involves all the difficulties of classroom teaching, with a little additional effort. I would follow the basic 10 steps to keep my learning approach effective:

1. Do a thorough audience analysis: Conducting an audience analysis is an essential part of the eLearning development for an instructional designer. An effective eLearning course must achieve the learners’ requirements and their goals.

  1.  Analyze the given content: Typically the content for the eLearning course is varied on the training requirements and organizational goals. Content also differs from one course to other and it may be divided into facts, concepts, principles, process, and procedures. Understanding the content type helps the instructional designers to design an effective course and also helps to meet the course objectives.

3. Device effective Los: We all know that adult learners always have their own set of experiences and knowledge. According to their requirements frame effective and measurable outcomes. This helps them to get a clear idea about the course and they will know what they are going to achieve at the end of the course.

4Place onscreen text appropriately: Too heavy screens and paragraphs develop a cognitive load on the learners. Hence, it is important for an Instructional designer to chunk content for better understanding. Don’t pack too much text into one frame; try to identify the category of the content and group them accordingly. Keep it simple and focused.

5. Use visual elements that support the content: A text-heavy slide doesn’t support a quick learning; instead, it creates a cognitive load on the learner. Instructional designers should ensure to use simple and relative graphics and visuals to make your course visually rich. Use appropriate images (vector images, real images or icons), characters, and infographics to support the given content.

6. Don’t keep your learner locked into the course: Using interactivities in the course is one of the best solutions to keep your learner engaged with the course. However, this does not imply just clicking and navigating through the slides. It’s all about presenting content in a different and simple way. It helps to engage the learner through simple activities like click-on images, click-on tabs, click-on hotspots, etc. It is used to explore information when it is involved with an activity.

7. Use different media: Support your content with different media available in eLearning like audio, narration and videos and PDFs to make your course learner-centric. These help your course to serve different learning styles, such as auditory and visual learners.

  1.  Create a self-paced and engaged learning: According to the adults learning principles, adults always enter into a learning experience with a problem-centered orientation to learn and they always want to be self-directive. To support their learning process it’s necessary to create self-paced and engaged learning through games, character animations, illustrations, and include some icebreaker questions, case studies, etc., to enhance their learning process.

9. Include self-evaluation test/assessments: Assessments help learners to measure their learning outcome. An effective eLearning course maintains learning objectives and content and assessments are aligned with each other. Thus an Instructional designer should consider learners’ past experiences and provide real-world insight by giving feedback and let them know about their learning outcomes.

10. Include rewards: Rewards boost up the learning process; it may be through certification upon successful completion of the course or grades, which allows the learner to upgrade to the next level courses.

Becoming an Instructional Designer (ID)

In the past few months, I’ve been thinking on what an instructional designer does and how to get into the field. The growing field of instructional design presents a plethora of job opportunities for those looking to break into the field. I love instructional design because it is a field where I am constantly learning and I have a great variety in what I do. I use so many different skills—writing, web design, graphics, collaboration, planning, plus of course how people learn. I thought it would be useful to collect all the information and post it here.

The first step can be to get more instructional design experience at your current job, if possible. For example, if you’re offered the technical writing part of a project, you might ask about other training and support materials that the project requires and what the larger business need for the project is, and suggest that you could design those other materials to meet that need.

My job was a combination of support, technical writing, and training, so I was in a good position to identify ways to improve the organization’s performance. By volunteering to improve processes and create training and support materials beyond my official job description, I created items for my portfolio and eventually transitioned into a more “pure” instructional design role.

Another approach is to politely offer to overhaul an existing course or other learning intervention that isn’t working or that people complain about, even if has nothing to do with your job description. That way you can show what you can do, save your colleagues from suffering, and learn how to redo others’ work without stepping on toes, which is a valuable skill in our field.

Hopefully you can do this sort of thing while still employed and build a portfolio, which will be your key to getting ID work.

If you want to do instructional design and not just e-learning development, be sure to explain the instructional decisions you made for each sample in the portfolio. The most common mistake is to simply show the material without discussing the strategy behind it or linking it to any larger need in the organization. IDs with that sort of portfolio give the impression that they view their job as putting information online, which is unlikely to lead to fulfilling work.

If you just do design and not development, put your design ideas in the portfolio. For example, describe the performance problem and the solution that you designed, explaining your reasoning and describing the results.

Learn the theory

If you aren’t doing it already, I’d recommend that you also do some independent reading to get the vocabulary and basic theoretical background that’s expected of IDs. Cammy Bean lists a lot of recommended books and sites that traditional IDs use. I got the most help from Michael Allen’s Guide to E-Learning, Ruth Clark’s research-based books, David Merrill’s First Principles of Instruction, the research-into-practice info from Will Thalheimer’s site.

Since many people in our field like to discuss theory, it’s good to be able to talk about Bloom’s taxonomy, Gagne, constructivism, etc., much of which is described for free online. However, I think it’s equally important to remember that most of it is just theory, and that experiments that seem to support a theory were likely done on students in school, not adults in the business world.

Consider a degree

Compared to other instructional designers, I seem to be less enthusiastic about degrees. I worked with several recent graduates of ID degree programs and usually found that they learned a lot of theory but had little knowledge of business needs and no experience applying the theory to real-world situations with tight deadlines. So if you want a degree, I’d recommend that you consider programs that give you real-world projects in addition to the theory.

Decide: design or development, or both?

As you get more experience, identify what gives you the most satisfaction. Do you love analyzing a performance problem, figuring out a solution to it, and outlining a training program that you know will be effective? Or do you love to create the media for content that already exists, making it more interesting and interactive?

Most jobs that I hear about seem to require both sets of skills, which mean neither gets the time it deserves. If you like both the instructional design and the media creation, there are jobs out there that will give you the chance to do both, keeping in mind that you probably won’t have time to do your best work. The number one complaint I hear from solo instructional designers is that they’re not given enough time for strategic instructional design and are expected to just put existing information online.

If you prefer strategy and design over production, look for a position in an organization that’s big enough to have a separate production team or that outsources the production. Also make sure that your possible employer will view you as a performance consultant included in training strategy and not just as someone who converts information into a course.