What do instructional designers do?
As the name implies, an instructional designer is one who
designs materials used for the purpose of instruction and learning. Like all
other design professions, this involves analysis of the requirements of the end
users, conceptualising, visualising, development, deployment, evaluation and
adjustments. Let us understand each step in the context of instructional
The instructional designer must know who needs to learn, what
do they need to learn and why. The mode of instruction will depend on the goal
and the audience. For example, somebody needs to learn how to make tea. Now, if
this somebody is an adult, we cannot use the same mode of instruction or even
the same language as used when somebody is a child. Again, if somebody only
needs to know theoretically how to make tea, the instructional design approach
would be quite different from the need to gain the practical ability to make
The instructional designer now plans the mode of instruction
for the most effective learning. Should it be virtual or face-to-face? Online,
self-paced or time bound? Should there be illustrations, audio-visual elements?
How long should the instruction take? How can we test and make sure that the
learning goal is met?
This is the stage when the instructional designer creates
the actual design, often in the form of a storyboard. A storyboard design is
required for e-learning development. For instructor-led or classroom training, a
comprehensive list is made of the various materials required in the classroom,
such as a presentation, exercise books, handouts, audio-visual elements,
trainer and participant guides and so on.
This is when the instructional materials are developed
according to the design, by multimedia developers and content developers,
always under the supervision of the instructional designer. Other people
involved in the development are the subject matter experts. Often the
instructional designer actively participates in the development.
This is when the instructional materials reach the end
users, i.e. the students or the learners. They experience the learning either
through a facilitator or by themselves using a computer or a mobile phone.
There are several ways of evaluating the effectiveness of
the instructional design. The users or learners may be asked to take tests or
provide feedback about their experience. Sometimes the supervisors or teachers
of the learners may also be called upon to provide feedback.
The instructional designer analyses the results of the
evaluation and modifies the instructional design to make it more effective.
Sometimes the adjustments are also required because of changes in the
environment or circumstances.
The above is, in a nutshell, what an instructional designer
does on a daily basis.
So, what skills do you need to have to be an instructional designer?
First and foremost, you must have the ability to understand
any subject matter and convert it into compact, lucid, easily digestible format.
For this, an excellent grasp of language is essential. You must have good
writing and storyboarding skills and skills to use various authoring tools and
learning development software.
What knowledge do you need to have?
To be an instructional designer, you need to know human
psychology and behaviour with respect to learning. Knowledge of learning
theories, models and methodologies help you approach your design and deployment
in a scientific and proven manner. You also need to know certain globally accepted
standards for e-learning and mobile learning deployment. Basic knowledge of
graphic design, multimedia software, and html program would also help you
perform your day-to-day activities more effectively.
What is the future of instructional design as a career?
The world of professions is changing rapidly and will
continue to change with new technologies and new ways of conducting business
and life. To keep up, people need to learn fast and learn continuously. Only
the instructional designer can make this rapid learning possible. Today’s
instructional designers are able to provide learning on demand, in micro
capsule format, through smartphones, tablets, augmented and virtual reality (AR
Therefore, instructional design as a profession, is here to stay, grow, and evolve. Are you up to the challenge of an instructional design career?
This post is written by Sonia Bhattacharyya Sonia Bhattacharyya is an instructional designer by profession. She has been in the field of learning ad development for the past 17 years and has worked for many corporate giants around the world.
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