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Instructional Design / October 21, 2020
Here at The Instructional Design Company, we’re all about supporting new instructional designers and career changers who want to get started in instructional design. Are you just getting into instructional design? Or you are looking to make a change? I’ve got you covered either way!
So bookmark this post! I’ve gathered the best resources and tips all in one place. Included are all the things that helped me transition to a full-time instructional designer. And, all the things I wish I’d had!
Getting Started in Instructional Design
In the 20 years I have been in education and instructional design, I’ve come across so many tools and articles that I wish I had access to as a newbie just getting started.
I’ve picked through the best of the best, so you don’t have to waste time trying to figure out which resources are good or not. These resources range from the very basics of instructional design to tools that will guide you through your first project.
Here’s my ultimate guide to resources and tips that will help you get started in instructional design.
Become an Instructional Designer: Where Do I Start?
Starting in any new field is exciting, but it’s also a little scary! The best thing to do to get started in instructional design is to observe, learn, try, reflect, and repeat.
This isn’t just true for instructional design. It is true for any new thing you want to try or learn.
Here are some resources and suggestions to help you get on your way to becoming an instructional designer.
What type of Instructional Designer do you want to be?
If you are scratching your head on this one, no worries. You are not alone. There are three main types of instructional designers: the Content Curator, the Full Stack Instructional Designer, and the Jack/Jill of All Trades.
The Content Curator does all the creative writing work. The Full-Stack Instructional Designer does what the Content Curator does plus eLearning development. And, the Jack/Jill of All Trades does everything the previous two do and more. The ‘more’ might include activities like managing the LMS, analyzing data, writing reports, facilitating training, and etc. It could mean anything.
I get asked all the time what certificate programs or degree programs I recommend. So, I am definitely not the authority here but I definitely have an opinion.
At one point, I looked into the CPLP (now CPTD). It is a comprehensive program, but not for beginners. You’ve got to have 5 years experience. At the time, I didn’t see the additional value in it over my Master of Science in Training and Development. ATD has since developed a lower-level instructional design certification that newer IDs can go for but it isn’t cheap.
Let me say this, there are a ton of options out there where you can get educated in instructional design. You can read books, take online courses, like the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator, created by experienced instructional designers like me, read blog articles, watch YouTube videos, follow other instructional designers and observe, learn, try, and reflect. You can volunteer to build some learning experiences for organizations you are a part of.
Instructional design is a lot like riding a bike. You’ve got to understand the basics and give it a try and keep trying until you’ve got it down.
So, here’s that opinion I was talking about. Initially, you need something that shows you have knowledge and/or experience. You do not have to go with the most expensive options to gain knowledge. If you can, pick a variety of resources to learn from. Maybe a couple of online courses, read some books, follow some instructional designers, and join some Facebook Groups like The Hangout for instructional designers and course creators.
You can also explore degreed programs. There are numerous undergraduate and graduate-level programs out there to choose from.
Pursuing a degree in the field is a significant investment of time and money. But for aspiring instructional designers who are serious about instructional design, a degree program might be the right choice.
If you already have an undergraduate degree, you can go right for the graduate degree program. You don’t need another bachelor’s degree. If you don’t have a degree yet, then go for an undergraduate degree.
Let me say this before I leave you thinking you need a degree. In all of my years of leading training functions, I have only had one team member who had an actual academic background (i.e. degree) related to Training & Development.
Get to know real instructional designers
Of course, networking is essential in any job search. But connecting with instructional designers also gives you insight into the field that you don’t get otherwise.
One good way to connect with current instructional designers is through LinkedIn. Join some groups that cater to instructional designers and observe the questions and shared knowledge, and read the posts.
Finally, an in-person mentor, colleague, or coach is hugely helpful. Social media is great, but you can’t beat real-life connections! Does your current company have an instructional design team? Ask around and get an intro.
If you’re a student, guess what? Universities need instructional designers too! In fact, I just read recently that the hottest job in higher ed is the academic instructional designer.
Get connected! Join some groups, follow some IDs, and join some organizations!
3 Ways to Get Instructional Design Experience and Build your Portfolio
The best way to apply what you learn about instructional design is through practice. But how can you get experience in a new field?
There’s nothing more frustrating than searching for entry-level positions that require two or more years of experience. It happens in all job fields! Here’s my best advice to gain instructional design experience that you can add to your resume and portfolio.
Volunteer in your current field
If you can complete projects related to instructional design in your current job, I highly encourage you to try. Even though the work is outside your current position, it is something you can and should add to your resume. And, you get paid to do it!
Many instructional designers got their start because their company needed someone to put together a training and the task fell on their desk. Your first instructional design projects could be simple tutorials you create for a small team or a PowerPoint training you design for your department.
When a company introduces new software or best practices, this is an excellent opportunity to volunteer to build a learning experience and lead it!
Design your own course
This can be fun and functional. Brainstorm ideas for courses you could create based on your expertise. Now take that idea and turn it into a simple training! You don’t need expensive eLearning authoring tools or video editing software. You can create a simple video tutorial for free using Google slides and Screencastify.
Tools like Articulate offer free trials so you could take advantage of those if you want to build a couple of demos.
The Instructional Design and Tech Accelerator certificate program guides you through this process. Are you’re interested in creating your own portfolio pieces but need some additional support? Accelerator offers a deep-dive into instructional design basics and how to use tools like Articulate Storyline. Plus, you’ll get detailed, personalized feedback on your work and the support of an amazing community!
Volunteer with a non-profit
This is a great way to get instructional design experience AND give back to a good cause. Non-profit organizations often have ideas for training their employees or the community; they just don’t have funding to carry out.
Reach out to non-profits in your area and explain the work you can do for them. Bonus points if it’s a cause you feel passionate about! You can also find remote volunteer opportunities posted on LinkedIn.
Make a Plan
Listen, becoming an instructional designer takes time and commitment. For most of us, it doesn’t happen overnight. Make a plan of how you will develop your skills and knowledge and start working on that plan.
Get some experience by volunteering to build learning solutions in your job and the organizations you are a part of.
Build an online portfolio that you can share and fill with samples of your work.
Transitioning to instructional design is attainable. It happens every day. You can do this! If you want to pick my brain, leave a comment below. I am here to help you! Or, join me in The Hangout and learn from a community of other instructional designers and course creators. In my experience, people love to help other people so don’t go this path alone when you could have a community of people supporting and guiding you.
Ready to dive in and become a full-stack Instructional Designer without having to get another degree? Check out my 12-week immersive program: Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator.
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The Testimonials are In:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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).
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
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
President and CEO, The Creative Entreprenuer
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.
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
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.
Academic Quality Assurance Specialist, Abilene Christian University
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.
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.”
Author, Speaker, Strengths Coach
“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.”
Director of Learning Strategy, Caveo Learning
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
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.”
Director of Qualifications and NSD Services, Mary Kay Inc.
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
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!”
Marketing Director, Academic Partnerships
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
“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.
Managing Partner, PHiG
“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!
eLearning Developer/Instructional Designer, Vivos Therapeutics
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
“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!
Training Specialist, LegalShieldCourses