What is an Instructional Designer?


The post-pandemic workforce has experienced many changes. Workers no longer interact with each other in the same way, and new hires are being onboarded and trained differently. It is crucial for companies to adapt to these changes and modify the way they approach training so employees and new hires can thrive in this new environment. It is for these reasons that companies started hiring instructional designers more than ever.


If you’ve tried to hire an instructional designer recently, you might have realized that the pool is sparse. Instructional designers are a niche skill set and demand over the last few years has grown.


If you are thinking about hiring your first instructional designer or growing your team of designers, this blog will provide more information about the role of instructional designers, what they do, and 16 essential skills that every instructional designer must have.


We will also provide more information on how LEAi can be used to increase the productivity of your existing instructional design team or fill the content creation gap that you would like an instructional designer to fill.



Instructional designers generally have three distinct areas of focus: analyzing new training requirements within a company, creating/modifying training curriculums and evaluating success of training to implement feedback to improve effectiveness.


What instructional designers do?

Instructional designers are responsible for creating new curriculums, training programs, courses, and certifications, as well as modifying current ones or revamping older ones. They oversee the success and assess the future utility of certain training methods and are responsible for implementing feedback into training models.


They also take part in developing learning objectives, course material and templates, presentations, standard guidelines, and testing. In short, instructional designers are tasked with creating any necessary resources in order to provide adequate knowledge and skills to a trainee.



Breakdown of instructional designer roles

According to the ATD, instructional designers generally have three distinct areas of focus: analyzing new training requirements within a company, creating/modifying training curriculums and evaluating success of training to implement feedback to improve effectiveness. Instructional designers should be prepared to address each of these areas, as the process of creating and flushing out a curriculum will require all three of these areas.

Analyzing training requirements: The first step to training will always be identifying everything that needs to be taught to a new trainee. By observing the needs of the company or organization, interviewing subject matter experts, and receiving information on previous training, an instructional designer can effectively construct new training models. An important step is receiving input from past trained individuals and identifying common areas of improvements. This step allows the designer to plan out how the material will be taught, and any specific objectives that must be reached through the training.



Creating/modifying current curriculums: Typically, there will be previously existing training or source content, whether it be from the same company or an outside source, that needs to be modified or augmented. It’s also possible that a new course will need to be built to accommodate new roles or changes in the solution. Whatever the case, it is important that instructional designers are capable of both creating new material and modifying old ideas. The instructional designer must be able to prepare lessons and training plans, devise how the training is implemented, and source any external requirements to the training. They must also be able to adapt older training courses to meet current company needs or to meet growing demand for more and better training, and modern learning needs.

Evaluating training success: There is always room for improvement and as such, it is equally important for the instructional designer to be able to evaluate the quality of courses.


Consider if the employee found the training to be engaging and whether their superior found that that the employee was adequately trained. Also ask questions like “Is the employee open to future training?”, “What other training will this employee need to progress in their career?” and “Are there any unmet training needs?”. Answers to these questions will help identify any components that were missed and what can be incorporated into future programs.



The work done by instructional designers is important because it allows trainees to learn effectively.


Where do instructional designers work?

Instructional designers are found in many different environments and develop many different types of training. Positions vary, from placement in the government to the military to technology companies, any large company, and educational institutions like universities.


Especially throughout the pandemic, there was a surging need for them by universities, as they could help the institutions transition from in-person to online and back again. They were also necessary for accommodating specific needs of certain students and professors throughout the transition. However, even before this sudden demand, instructional designers were still very common in educational institutions, designing curriculums and monitoring student success to modify teaching methods.


There are also many opportunities for instructional designers outside of the field of education. Most large companies employ instructional designers to provide training within the company, whether this be for training new hires or preparing additional training to current employees. As the market changes, companies must adapt, and so often employees must learn new skills to maintain their efficiency. These new skills are all taught with the help of instructional designers.




The ability to understand who exactly is being taught the material, how they learn and how to effectively communicate with them is crucial for any instructional designer.



Why is instructional design important?

The work done by instructional designers is important because it allows trainees to learn effectively. Instructional designers fulfill this crucial role by:


Creating engaging content: Good instructional design means creating engaging and meaningful content for the learners. This means that the content will be more enjoyable to learn, and any learner will be open to further training. Instructional designers should be aware of how their target audience learns and should then make decisions on how to present information effectively. By extension, they should also be aware of any specific learning needs of anyone within the group being trained and should be ready to accommodate these needs.


Helping learners retain information: It is one thing to teach material, but a different matter entirely to remember it. Instructional designers ensure that content isn’t only taught, but taught well, and in a way that will not be forgotten as soon as the given course is over. This is often accomplished with visual elements, as studies show that the human brain retains visual information much more easily when compared to reading text to absorb content. It’s also accomplished by following proven learning methodologies like Bloom’s Taxonomy – Tell me, show me, let me try it, test me.


Encouraging learning outside of the program: Effective instructional designers don’t only teach content: they communicate ideas and deliver messages to the learners. Good design inspires learners to seek more opportunities for learning to further their own knowledge and to set learning goals for themselves. In an educational environment, this leads to more successful and motivated students, and in a professional environment, this creates efficient and capable employees.



Instructional designer must be able to dissect topics into smaller parts that are easier to teach.



16 essential skills for instructional designers

When selecting an instructional designer for your organization consider the following essential skills:


  1. Can learn and adapt to their target audience: The ability to understand who exactly is being taught the material, how they learn and how to effectively communicate with them is crucial for any instructional designer.

  2. Can determine all important or relevant content that must be taught: Ensuring only information that pertains to the subject is being prepared allows for more time efficient research and preparation. Eliminating any irrelevant details streamlines the design process.

  3. Can accurately assess resource, time and other requirements: There are often restrictions on how many resources companies can allocate for training, so this must be kept in mind when training programs or curriculums are designed.

  4. Can independently work on a project and provide quality content: Instructional designers must be able to work individually and still create effective and high-quality content, as not every curriculum is a team project.

  5. Can work with experts in the field to support content: Experts in the field can always provide a good source of relevant information and can also help designers decide what is essential in the workforce.

  6. Can effectively work in teams on a single project: When teams are involved, instructional designers must be able to effectively collaborate and communicate with instructors or other designers to provide a coherent product.

  7. Can create content that is engaging: Teaching new content is meaningless if it is forgotten the next day, so instructional designers must be able to create content that engages its target audience and is easy to retain.

  8. Can create time and cost-efficient training: Training cannot take endless amounts of time, as often companies are on tight schedules and don’t have that time to spare. It must be quick, concise, and efficient for the company to teach.

  9. Can prioritize important lessons and skills over trivial ones and streamline relevant information: This comes into play in the developmental stage, but again in the training stage, as only important and useful information or skills should be taught. Less important skills should be given lower priority, so if there are any sudden time restrictions and the training cannot be completed, no important content is lost.

  10. Can break down long or complex topics into simpler sections: Many topics are hard to understand initially, so an instructional designer must be able to dissect topics into smaller parts that are easier to teach.

  11. Can create dependable, consistent, and easy to teach content: A process created by an instructional designer must be easy to teach, and the designer must be able to consistently prepare instructors in varying circumstances to teach the material.

  12. Can constantly modify content without compromising effectiveness of training: Changes always need to be made, and so an instructional designer must always be able to tweak their program to maximize efficiency.

  13. Can adapt to changing requirements of a company: Company requirements often change, so an instructional designer must always be monitoring these changes to maintain the effectiveness of their programs.

  14. Can analyze results of training on learners to further improve programs: Observing student or trainee performance after the training can also help to identify points of weakness, which can be addressed to create more effective programs.

  15. Can openly communicate and receive feedback on training: Instructional designers need to be able to receive feedback from the company and incorporate these new ideas or modifications into their programs.

  16. Is comfortable with technology: There are many advances in learning technology and a good instructional designer will be comfortable learning and mastering new technological tools that will enable them to their jobs faster and more effectively.



Salary for instructional designer

According to Indeed, the average annual salary for an instructional designer in the United States is just under $70,000USD, however there is a range for the salaries. More experienced workers who find jobs in the government or working for international companies could find themselves making upwards of $94,000USD. Of course, these numbers are very dependent on the company and level of education of the designer.



A good instructional designer will be comfortable learning and mastering new technological tools that will enable them to their jobs faster and more effectively.



Instructional designer interview questions

Whether you are looking to hire your first instructional designer or expanding your existing team, here are 22 questions to consider including in your interview process.


Background

  • What is your level of experience as an instructional designer?

  • Do you possess any certifications relevant to instructional design?

  • What learning management systems (LMS) and tools have you used?

  • How do you work efficiently and effectively with subject matter experts?

  • Have you ever created a storyboard or script?

  • What experience do you have editing instructional materials?

  • Do you have experience analyzing performance data and using it to inform your work?

  • Do you have experience completing a job task analysis?

  • What delivery modality options do you have experience with?

  • Have you worked in positions outside of instructional design?


Instructional design experience

  • What is your design process?

  • Are there any design theories that you use or apply in your work?

  • Which factors do you consider when evaluating instructional materials?

  • Have you used any learning content creation tools, like LEAi, in past roles?

  • How do you incorporate feedback into your design process?

  • How do you make your courses engaging?

  • Can you describe an instance in which you offered successful technical advice to a client?

  • How do you ensure that you're meeting audience needs throughout your design process?

  • Can you provide an example of instructional materials that you are most proud of?

  • Can you create instructional road maps for programs you develop?

  • Have you ever recommended changing the direction of a curriculum or course?

  • How do you measure your course design success?



Technology and instructional designers

As mentioned above, instructional designers should be comfortable with using and adopting new technology tools. One such tool is LEAi which was designed to make it easier for instructional designers to take the content they already have and transform them into learning objectives, learning scripts and assessments questions – all in minutes.


LEAi is so easy to use, you don’t have to be an instructional designer to use it. Simply upload your presentations, documents, blogs and wikis, let LEAi analyze the content and select the templates you can use to design and build courses just like instructional designers do. LEAi will automatically build your learning objectives, learning content that follows proven learning methodology, and test questions.

Key benefits of LEAi include:

  • Use content that exists

  • Be guided by best practices

  • Update existing courses fast

  • Repurpose content easily

  • Use the content to create different learning delivery modes

  • One-click microlearning!

Let us show you how LEAi can be used within your organization!






Sarah Sedgman

CEO, LearnExperts