Being a teacher in the 2020s is a job that would be impossible to prepare for. So, it’s no surprise that more people are wondering how to change careers from teaching to instructional design

 

Teachers are pretty high on the list of people who are the most passionate about their profession. And I’m not just saying that because I used to be a teacher! In The Hangout, a community for aspiring instructional designers, I connect with teachers daily. Teachers also make up a huge percentage of the folks who participate in the Instructional Design and Tech Accelerator program. 

 

So, I know from personal experience that passionate educators make great instructional designers. Not only that, but I’ve seen the work that teachers can produce for their instructional design portfolios with a little bit of guidance. When teachers express interest in changing careers from teaching to an instructional design job, I want to do everything I can to help.

 

One thing that I think is extremely useful when considering changing careers from teaching to instructional design is understanding the differences between the two.

 

That’s why I focused on the topic for this episode of The Accelerated ID.  

 

 

Why Change Careers from Teaching to Instructional Design?

 

If you’re new here, I think teachers make some of the best instructional designers. I even devoted a whole blog to the topic. Teachers bring their passion for learning to instructional design in a whole new way. 

 

So many of the skills you have as a teacher crossover into the instructional design world. Like curriculum mapping, organizing content into daily lessons, and choosing engaging activities, just to name a few.  

 

For an in-depth explanation of these skills, you should watch this episode of The Accelerated ID. 

 

Select Your Path to Instructional Design

 

How to Change Careers from Teaching to Instructional Design Paath

 

Coming from a background in education, you probably remember your path to teaching. For teachers, there’s a strict set of obstacles to cross before you enter the classroom. 

 

This is not the case with instructional design! Instructional designers don’t have to sit through state exams for licensure and they don’t have to have specialized degrees. There’s no one right way to become an instructional designer!

 

Here are some common paths to instructional design:

 

Self-Taught

Many instructional designers shift into the career through their employer. Maybe they worked in another department and were asked to put together a training on a particular topic and were noticed for their work. Maybe they were really great at facilitating training and someone thought that they would be great at creating learning experiences. 

 

I have had people on my L&D team move onto the team from project management, IT, Human Resources, Analytics, and more.  

 

These instructional designers didn’t have formal training specifically for instructional design. They had to figure a lot out on their own and through trial and error.

 

Certificate Programs

 

Another way to shift into instructional design is with some formal training. That might be through a certificate program or a graduate degree. 

 

Some of your really good certificate programs, like the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate program, often offer more practical, hands-on application training with instructional design methodology, adult learning theory, and instructional design tools (such as eLearning authoring software programs like Articulate Storyline 360). Many even guide you through the portfolio process. 

 

Graduate Degree Programs

Graduate degree programs, on the other hand, tend to focus on instructional design methodology and adult learning theory and oftentimes fall short in educating new instructional designers on how to use the tools.

 

Choose the Right Instructional Design Career Opportunity For You

 

Not only do you have choices when it comes to choosing your path to become an instructional designer as you change careers from teaching to instructional design, but you also have choices when it comes to choosing which instructional design career opportunity you are most interested in. There are three main career opportunities:

 

  1. Corporate 
  2. Higher Education
  3. Freelance

 

Personally, I have experience in all three career opportunities and can tell you that they all have their pluses. If you’re not sure where to start, it might be helpful to hear from these four career changers who came from different backgrounds and have experience in Corporate, HigherEd, and Freelancing. 

 

Know the Differences Between Teaching and Instructional Design

 

It’s important that you understand the differences between teaching and instructional design for three reasons:

 

  1. So you feel like you’re making the right decision when you change careers from teaching to instructional design
  2. To give you insight into the gaps that might exist between the two fields so you can make a plan to bridge them
  3. For a confidence boost when you see that the differences are manageable

 

Now, let’s focus on a few areas where teaching and instructional design differ. Along the way, I’ll include resources you can use to start filling in any gaps in your knowledge. 

 

Areas of Expertise

How to Change Careers from Teaching to Instructional Design

 

Teachers really have to be experts across multiple disciplines. They’re subject matter experts, learning strategy experts, and delivery experts. Teachers have to be able to analyze assessment data but also be highly personable and communicative. 

 

Instructional designers are learning experience experts who are often paired with a subject matter expert to design quality learning experiences. The subject matter expert is the person who has the topic expertise and the instructional designer is the person who has the learning experience expertise.  As an instructional designer, you will work with your subject matter expert to identify need-to-know information and build a quality learning solution from the information you collected from your subject matter expert.  It will be up to you to get that information, decide what’s necessary to meet the learning objectives, and organize the learning solution in a way that maximizes learning and makes sense for the learner. 

 

Lesson Plan vs. Instructional System Design Model

 

Teachers are experts at creating engaging lessons. They know how to fill a day or a class period to maximize learning without overwhelming their students. In addition, a teacher’s ability to write lesson content and imagine how that lesson will play out in the classroom has huge benefits in instructional design. 

 

Like teachers, instructional designers follow a process when they design learning solutions. They use an instructional system design model.  ADDIE is one of the most popular instructional system design (ISD) models in use. 

 

 

As you prepare to change careers from teaching to instructional design, you will need to learn this ISD model. Here are a few resources that can help you: what instructional design is and breaking down the ADDIE model.

 

Project Management

 

Stick with me as I know this term is new or different for teachers. I know when I was a teacher, I would have looked at this job requirement and thought, “Nope, can’t do that!” But, now that I understand what it is, I know that teachers have project management skills. 

 

Teachers are skilled at managing multiple projects simultaneously. They have their own system to make sure they plan their lessons, prepare the resources they need for those lessons, get grades posted on time, and respond to requests from parents and administrators in a timely manner. 

 

With instructional design, the project management process is formalized. Instructional designers typically have a project deadline that their manager or client dictates. Within that deadline, they’re responsible for dividing up tasks and making sure all the pieces of the training puzzle come together in time. 

 

There are a few different popular methods of project management that you can learn about here. You can also dive deeper into the instructional designer’s role as project manager in this article

 

Education Methods

 

How to Change Careers from Teaching to Instructional Design methods

 

Teacher education focuses on pedagogy, or how K-12 students learn best. All your lesson planning is done with pedagogy in mind.

 

With Instructional Design, the focus is on andragogy. Andragogy centers on adult learning and how adults learn best. 

 

The biggest difference between the two is in learner involvement. With andragogy, instructional designers must consider that adults tend to have more stake in their learning and want their input to be considered. 

 

To learn more about adult learning theory, teachers can check out The Adult Learner by Knowles, Holdton, and Swanson. Another great book that’s one of my personal favorites is Training from the Back of the Room by Sharon Bowman. Every new instructional designer who joins my team gets a copy of this book!

 

Lesson Delivery

 

In teaching, lesson delivery is pretty straightforward. You plan the lesson, prepare your resources, and you deliver the lesson yourself. Of course,  if you have a substitute teacher, there’s a little more that goes into the planning since you’re not going to be there to implement the lesson. 

 

When you change careers from teaching to instructional design, the biggest difference is that instructional designers are rarely in front of their audience. Instead, instructional designers work behind the scenes. They’re tasked with creating learning experiences in a way that anyone can deliver the training (or so that the learner can move through training independently). 

 

Tools

How to Change Careers from Teaching to Instructional Design tools

 

The last difference I’ll address is the tools that are used in each field. Teachers use a lot of Ed Tech tools. Things like Google Workspace, Peardeck, and the ever-changing list of applications that trend from year to year. On top of that, you’ve got an online grade book, a learning management system (like Canvas), and support resources like online textbooks. 

 

The tech-savvy you develop using those tools will definitely come in handy as an instructional designer. And, some of the tools are the same. For example, teachers and instructional designers use tools like Google Slides and PowerPoint, and sometimes Canvas. 


Instructional designers, on the other hand, also need to know how to use eLearning authoring software like Articulate Storyline 360, Adobe Captivate, iSpring, etc. In addition, many instructional designers also work with audio and video editing tools like Adobe Premiere Pro, Audacity, or Camtasia.

 

Many of these tools have free trials that you can take advantage of in order to experiment. There’s also no shortage of helpful tutorials on YouTube. If you’re looking for a more structured way to learn how to use instructional design tools, you might consider a certificate program like The Instructional Design and Tech Accelerator Certificate Program

 

Wrapping It Up

 

Hopefully, all my teachers out there who are looking to change careers from teaching to instructional design have a little more clarity about the differences between the two fields and how to get started. 

 

Take the time to identify areas you’d like to work on to fill in the gaps in your skills based on the instructional design career opportunity that interests you the most.

 

If you haven’t already, join our community of aspiring instructional designers and instructional design lovers (many of us former teachers!) in The Hangout. Drop all your questions about making the transition and we’ll be happy to help you out!

The Testimonials are In:

Client

Shola Richards

Working with Shanwtay and Katie at the Instructional Design Company was a dream come true. Their creativity, expertise, and professionalism throughout the entire process was beyond top notch. I engaged them to help turn my first book into a training course, and I could not be happier with how the final product turned out. If you have an instructional design project and you’re considering which company to work with, you can stop your search and thank me later. They are truly the best in the business.

Shola Richards

Student

Graphic Designer

I joined the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program because I struggled to find jobs in instructional design beyond the development phase. I’ve done a couple of training programs with lots of random projects, but I was overwhelmed, not connecting the dots, and not good at structuring my writing to hit learning objectives. I was looking for motivation and direction at beginning a better Instructional Designer.

After taking the Instructional Design & Tech Certificate program and joining my fantastic team for support, I found the structure and approach to be what I need to take my next steps, evening improving my skills in the development stage.

Gayle Bower

Student

Teacher, Future Instructional Designer

I love how this course let’s you work at your own pace. I got great tips and learned many things. The ongoing support for multiple people and groups is what I love the best. You are never alone in this process. I have been able to adjust my resume and began creating a portfolio of work I’ve completed to add when applying for jobs. I use many of the PowerPoint skills in my lessons and trainings. I would highly recommend this for anyone wanting to become an instructional designer.

Laurie Henderson

Student

Teacher, Future Instructional Designer

I have searched for the last few years to find some suitable career change where I wouldn’t have to earn another degree and where I could use the talents and skills I already have as a teacher. When I came across the Instructional Design Accelerator course, I loved the fact that Shawntay was a former teacher and could relate to a teacher’s need to transition from the classroom. This was what sold the course for me. Her experiences are invaluable especially when translating teacher duties to instructional designer duties. I would (and have) recommended this program to other teachers I know who are looking to transition out of the classroom. I do appreciate ALL of her feedback on my projects!

Wendy McMillian

Student

L&D Project Manager

The Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator certificate program is one of the most comprehensive ID programs out there for beginners. If you’re looking to grow your schools in ID and development then I highly recommend this program. Not only will this program give you an overview of theory, but you will receive a thorough walkthrough of how to apply what you have learned. Although I had already secured a position in Learning & Development when I bought this course, it helped me to move up into a new position as a Learning & Development Project Manager!

Gabby Grimaldo

Student

Future Instructional Designer

If you have any interest in ID, sign up for this program NOW! Shawntay and her team are top notch! The course content exceeded my expectations in a big way and the encouragement and support continues to be so valuable. You will not feel alone going through this course, you will learn so much, you’ll have many cheerleaders, and you will have fun!

Shanna Howe

Student

Future Instructional Designer

I am really enjoying this program! It’s prerfect for someone who is thinking about a career shift to Instructional Design and does not have a lot of experience. This is my first real introduction to Instructional Design and it’s been the perfect beginner course to help me get my feet wet. The modules are broken down well and it’s great to go at your own pace and at your own time. The modules themselves are very comprehensive and you learn a lot from all of them. I really like how each one build upon each other and you’re working towards the bigger project of designing your first training course from scratch. I’m learning so much from going through this course! I was provided great feedback from Katie and Shawntay through the process via Trello Boards, comments on the Google documents, and Facebook group. This course has been well worth the time and effort and I appreciate the fact that I will always have the resources available to me after I complete the training (just in case I’m not quite ready to transition yet).

Aviva Berkowitz

Student

Future Instructional Designer

I can’t say enough great things about the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program! The length of the program is perfect; it doesn’t feel rushed and there’s just the right amount of structure to give you the accountability you need. There are so many opportunities to get live answers to any questions you have related to the course content or anything ID-related! This program gave me the support and structure I needed to both feel affirmed in the relevant skills I already had coming in and to fill in the gaps I had as a career-changer going into ID. Shawntay, Katie, and all the coaches are super helpful and supportive. I now feel confident that I have the tools and access to resources I need to apply for ID jobs without wondering if there’s something I’m “missing” in the preparation process. I’d highly recommend this program to anyone wanting to transition into ID or who just wants to brush up on their skills in the field.

Krista Johnson Awomoyi

Student

Freelance Instructional Designer

I’d highly recommend the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program. I’m blown away by how much I learned in just 12 weeks. I had ID experience prior to taking this course and was just looking to get a better understanding of applying adult learning principles. This course well exceeded my expectations! Not only did I gain a clear understanding of adult learning principles, I was also able to apply those principles by creating assets for your portfolio using PowerPoint, Adobe Premiere Pro and Storyline. The hands on support that we received was top notch.

Darlene Dalgleish

Student

Instructional Designer

This program is one of the most robust yet fulfilling L&D programs I’ve seen. I learned so much about the industry and about the limitlessness of my own capabilities. I am so appreciative of Shawntay and all of the trainers who took part in the program. They went above and beyond with not only guiding, but communicating live and working one on one or in small groups. If you are on the fence, I say take the leap and you will not regret it! There’s so much to learn, not only from the trainers, but also the learners in your group. Everyone comes in with their own skills and can be additional support and guidance for you. Thank you for creating this program!

Shawnice Edge

Student

Instructional Designer Training Facilitator

Shawntay is an amazing individual. She is very knowledgeable in all aspects of ID and eLearning. She is also very compassionate and loves to help and see everyone around her grow and prosper. Shawntay has been a great mentor to me and she has helped me mature as an instructional designer and eLearning developer. She has provided me with opportunities when others have overlooked me. I am very grateful to have met and built a lifelong relationship with Shawntay.

I recently got hired into my first instructional design / training position and Shawntay was one of the first people to congratulate me!

Brian Hightower

Student

Freelance Instructional Designer

My teacher-to-instructional-designer journey began two years ago when I left my teaching comfort zone and started my first freelance ID job. Now, I’m stepping out of the classroom and taking my freelance work full-time, so I’m thrilled to be joining the Tech Accelerator program. Adding technologies like Articulate 360 and Adobe Premiere Pro to my qualifications will help me take my courses to the next level and attract more clients!

Sarah Smith

Student

Teacher Transitioning into Instructional Design

I am genuinely grateful for this course. I wanted a real-world perspective and feel like I got it. I’m teaching now, but nearing retirement age but can see myself working as an instructional designer well into my retirement years. My other goal is to take as many courses in statistics as possible in hopes of bringing some mathematical precision to the ROI question. Like you say, getting accurate metrics to measure ROI can be a challenge, but I intend to work on that part. That’s unimportant right now, what is important is the fact that I feel like this course was well worth every penny I spent and I would to it again in a heartbeat. I have too much going on right now, but as soon as I get some time freed up I intend to take your course in project management.

Lee R

Client

Turns Your Written Thoughts Into a Masterpiece!

Shawntay Skjoldager can turn your written thoughts into a masterpiece. She is great to work with and the most organized person I know!

Sheryl Rhoades
President and CEO, The Creative Entreprenuer

Client

Shawntay has been incredible!

Shawntay has been incredible and her team is responsive and effective in translating my training programs into professional presentations. Don’t hesitate to contact her for your project.

Beth B. De Lima, MBA, SPHR-CA, SHRM-SCP
President and Principal of HRM Consulting, Inc.

Client

IDC is My Secret Weapon to Soar Above My Competition!

The IDC team has been my secret and special weapon of success. They have delivered above and beyond with every single project out in front of them. They have met and beat timelines. They have been Uber responsive every step of the way. I keep them on speed dial and have and continue to recommend them to friends and clients. If you are in need of instructional design and plenty more, this is THE ALL-STAR team that will more than deliver and help make you and your project soar above the competition.

LT. COL. Jason O. Harris
U.S. Air Force Officer, Special Operations Pilot, U.S.A.F. Academy Instructor, Motivational Speaker

Client

A Tremendous Asset to the Project Team!

Working with Shawntay and the Instructional Design Company has allowed our university to meet the growing demands of our programs. Shawntay’s expertise allowed for the course development to be completed on time and met all of the university requirements. Shawntay’s project management skills were phenomenal and allowed my team to work on other areas while she completed this project for us. Her work is of high quality and her professionalism and willingness to help made her a tremendous asset to the project team.

Amanda Buckley
Academic Quality Assurance Specialist, Abilene Christian University

Client

Creative & Highly Talented!

Shawntay is a creative and highly talented instructional designer.  She brought a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and leadership that enabled her to own the design and creation of a full scale facilitator curriculum and train-the-trainer program.  It was a pleasure to partner with Shawntay, her project management and communication skills ensured the project was on time and on budget.

Susan Gatti
President, IMMIXID

Client

Breaks Down Mammoth Projects

“Shawntay is quick study and carefully synthesizes information for presentations that are clear, concise and captivating. Her personality draws the audience in and her content mastery is excellent. A team player and organizer, Shawntay has the ability to break down mammoth projects, keep everybody on time and on task.”

Rick Miller
Author, Speaker, Strengths Coach

Client

eLearning Development

“I have had many opportunities to work with Shawntay—mainly in the support of implementing new eLearning initiatives. I have been very impressed by her ability to quickly learn how to use rapid eLearning development tools and effectively use them to create multiple courses within a short timeframe. Shawntay’s enthusiastic nature, attention to detail, and dedication to her work make her a pleasure to work with and a great asset to both Texas A&M University-Commerce and the broader training community within the Texas A&M University System.”

Ashley Christian
Director of Learning Strategy, Caveo Learning

Client

Top Notch Professional

Working with Shawntay has been an immense pleasure. She is atop notch professional who brings enthusiasm and extensiveexpertise to professional curriculum development and execution. Her knowledge of tried and true techniques to maximize the effectiveness of presentations is invaluable.

Nancy Drapeau, PRC
Vice President of Research, CEIR - Center for Exhibition Industry Research

Client

Fortunate to Find Shawntay!

“I was fortunate to find Shawntay when our organization was looking to expand and update our educational offerings. Shawntay proved herself to be an educational and personal development expert who immediately made an impact with our clients throughout Europe. Everyone who came into contact with Shawntay was immediately impressed by her level of expertise and willingness to share her knowledge with those around her. I would not hesitate to recommend Shawntay to anyone looking for an education subject matter expert.”

Jonathan Burt
Director of Qualifications and NSD Services, Mary Kay Inc.

Client

Short Turn Around. On Time. Under Budget!

“We hired Shawntay to develop a training facilitator’s guide and PowerPoint slide deck for an operations manual heavy with technical content. The project was made more challenging by a very short turn around, 5 business days, and the fact that the operations manual wasn’t complete and was being updated simultaneously with the facilitator’s guide and slide deck. Despite these challenges, Shawntay delivered as promised. On time and under budget.”

Dave Beeman, CPP
Vice President, Andy Frain Services

Client

Need an Expert Who Consistently Delivers?

“Working with Shawntay you will immediately notice her professional presence and poise, but over time her tenacious pursuit of excellence and her skills in instructional development and adult learning will really impress you. I worked with her at Mary Kay, and was able to experience firsthand her great rapport with regional partners in Europe, understanding their unique sales force training needs. In addition, Shawntay consistently exhibited grace under pressure, made executive decisions to move business forward. If you are looking for an expert who consistently delivers and goes the extra mile to get things done, contact Shawntay!”

Mellora Moore
Marketing Director, Academic Partnerships

Client

Quality Products & Solutions!

“I had had the pleasure of knowing and working with Shawntay on more than a few occasions. I found her to be a very good business partner and very committed to delivering a quality product or solution in a timely manner. I have always had a positive experience in partnering with Shawntay and would recommend that you consider leveraging her talent.”

Judy Owen, CPC
Transformational Leadership Coach

Client

“Invest in yourself and take your skills to the next NEXT level!”

Get yourself signed up for Shawntay Skjoldager’s Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program today and be on your way to success! Within the first week of taking her course, you will experience growth! Be sure to plug into her Facebook Q&A sessions for personalized help, too. This is THE course to take if you are new to instructional design or have landed on the training team and need help getting started.

Patrick Hodges
Managing Partner, PHiG

Client

“Her enthusiasm for adult learning is contagious!”

Shawntay has exceptional knowledge and experience with all aspects of creating and implementing effective, performance based training for adults. She is exceptional at needs analysis – identifying target audiences and collaborating with business owners to keep training focused on business needs. And she is great to work with – always providing great support to get projects done on-time and on-target. She is always on the look-out for new and more effective ways to engage learners. Her enthusiasm for adult learning is contagious!

Mike Stubblefield
eLearning Developer/Instructional Designer, Vivos Therapeutics

Client

“Spot on”

I have known and worked with Shawntay  as a education program director and use the expertise of ShawntayMichelle for the development of my presentations.  The service has always been “spot on” with professionalism, care and attention.  Shawntay’s recommendations to my ideas make me look good to my clients.

Al Lomas CMP, CEM, CMM, CFE
Owner, Certified Consulting Services

Client

“Shawntay Skjoldager reached in and made my training life so much easier!”

I am new to the training design and development world and I was SO excited to get in there, but I really lacked the real-world knowledge that would set me apart from my peers. And, then Shawntay Skjoldager walked into my life with an outstretched hand and a seemingly endless list of ways to knock every training out of the park. From the Training Analysis Form to the Tay Tay tips, this course made my life so much easier and even ironed out the review process that I had been struggling with for months.

Take time to invest in your own learning and make sure to put Shawntay Michelle at the top of your personal development list!

 

Katie Carter
Training Specialist, LegalShield

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