5 Skills You Need To Be A Successful Instructional Designer

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Instructional designers are critical members of any learning development team. Often referred to as IDs, they are responsible for designing learning content and shepherding projects through a chosen design process like ADDIE.

However, designers may have very different responsibilities depending on the project or organization. Nevertheless, there are five essential skills that every instructional designer should possess.

No matter what path your career as an ID takes, as long as you have mastered these basic skills, you will be set up to succeed. In fact, these skills, while critical to being a proficient instructional designer, are universally beneficial across the entire learning and development (L&D) industry.

In this edition of Insider Training, Maria Jones reveals five skills she found invaluable throughout her career as an ID. She also shares examples of how each skill has affected her work.

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Speaker: Maria Jones, Instructional Designer

What about those who are interested in becoming an instructional designer? What kind of skills do they need?

Basic Skills for Instructional Designers

First and foremost, you have to be a good communicator.

A big part of instructional design is working with clients to understand their needs. So, it's important to be able to share your ideas both verbally and visually.

You have to be able to talk to people. You should definitely be a good writer, but you also have to be able to present information in a way that people will understand it.

When I was talking about the ADDIE process, I mentioned storyboarding. Well, in storyboarding, you have to be able to communicate visually what a course is going to do once it's been produced.

And it's live, so you'll need to be able to show, "oh well, when you click on this button, that's on screen. That's, right now, not actually a button. This is what's going to happen."

You really have to be a good communicator and also a really good listener.

You also need to be creative.

When I say creative, I mean in every sense of the word. Not only creative in the look and feel of the materials you're delivering but also in the way that you deliver the content.

Clients are always looking for new ways to engage learners. So, it's important to keep an open mind and sometimes think out of the box in different ways that you can actually engage the learner when you're teaching different concepts.

And sometimes, just coming up with a new idea, a new way to present information is what you need to do.

You have to be organized.

And no, I'm not saying like your desk needs to be organized or clutter-free. But you have to be able to take large chunks of data and put them together in a way that's simple, easy to understand, and that makes logical sense to the overall flow of the course.

So really being organized, I guess, in your thinking and the way that you put information together.

You also need to have some project management skills.

It really depends on the project, but no matter what, as an instructional designer, you're always going to be involved in pretty much every piece of the design project process.

For some of the projects I've worked on, we had a project manager, and it was great because they put together the schedule. They put together all of the weekly updates. But for most of the projects that I work on as a consultant, I act as both the instructional designer and the project manager.

So I'm putting together project plans and timelines and sending project updates to my client. It's definitely a skill that's really important if you are going to look at a career in instructional design as a contractor.

You want to be able to keep the project going because some projects can tend to drag on forever. But if you really have that clear plan and can help keep people accountable for it, then that helps with the overall success of your project.

Most importantly, you have to have a love for learning.

That's one of my favorite parts about instructional design. For every project I work on, I get to learn a new topic, a new process, a new procedure, or maybe even a new computer program.

I love digging in and doing research about the topics that I'm teaching, and that's what's going to make you a really good designer; diving into the topic and learning it well enough to teach it!

Maria Jones

Maria Jones

Since graduating with a mechanical engineering degree from Georgia Tech, Maria has made her mark as an instructional designer. She has spent nearly a decade honing her craft. Maria is fluent in both English and Spanish and used her bilingual skills to create course content for her clients in both languages.
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