Project Management Skills for Instructional Designers and L&D Professionals

Successful instructional designers all have and need project management skills. So what are these project management skills you need? In this post I’ll walk you through what project management is, some common methodologies you should be familiar with and tools you might be asked to use as an instructional designer.

Of course, we’ll also run through the project management skills you need to highlight on your resume! So, let’s dive into this episode of AcceleratedID!


What is Project Management?

It might be surprising for you, as an aspiring instructional designer, that I’m devoting a whole episode to project management. Maybe you’re not even sure what project management is yet, and that’s okay!

You very much wear a project management hat as an instructional designer, and even if you’re a newbie, I guarantee you already have some of these required project management skills.

Project management is the process of planning, organizing, and controlling resources to achieve specific goals within a specific timeframe.

Let me put that into plain language you can relate to. Everyday I plan my morning and figure out what needs to be accomplished. In doing that, I also think about what resources I need in order to accomplish those tasks. When it comes to my morning routine I’m thinking about getting the family breakfast, packing lunches, making sure my car is fueled for dropoff, etc…

In other words, every morning I’m managing a project. I use my resources to make sure the task of getting my family prepped for the day is complete.


What Does Project Management Look Like in Instructional Design and Learning & Development?

So now you have the formal definition of project management as well as my everyday example. Let’s apply project management to an instructional design or learning and development environment.


Project management gives instructional designers a structured approach to planning a project. Without this structured approach, it’s really difficult to take a project from idea to implementation. There are a few different aspects of this structured approach that are important to consider.

Resource Management

In learning and development, your resources might fall into a number of different categories. 


Your subject matter experts, stakeholders, and the team that helps you design and develop a learning solution.


This includes the software you need to successfully implement your learning solution. Not to mention the physical tools like printed materials for your facilitators or participants. Even the rooms you might need to meet in before, during and after implementation of the learning solution.


When are those people and tools listed above available to you? When does the training solution need to be delivered? These are important dates you’ll have to bear in mind as part of your project management skills in instructional design.

aching, and a whole community of like-minded instructional designers ready to cheer you on. You’ve got this!


Risk Management

In an instructional design project it’s important to consider what the potential blocks are to successfully designing, developing, and implementing a learning experience. Are there team members who have upcoming vacations? Identifying obstacles ahead of time is crucial.

Another important part of risk management is in identifying the impact on the company if the learning solution does or does not successfully happen. Is there a safety risk involved if training doesn’t occur asap?



Project management is not complete with collaboration. In learning and development projects, instructional designers may collaborate with an instructional design team, SMEs, external stakeholders, and other departments.

The process of project management ensures formal lines of communication so that everyone has the information they need to successfully implement the learning solution.



Quality Assurance

The last aspect of project management in an instructional design project is the review process. Determining what deliverables need to be reviewed and by whom. How long does each person have to review a deliverable? How many layers of edits will there be? Setting these expectations ahead of time sets you up for success.

Project Management Methodologies

There are three primary methodologies that are popular frameworks for project management.

Waterfall, Agile, and Lean. If you want to dive deeper into each of these methodologies, check out this article on project management methodologies.


Roles and Tasks Instructional Designers Manage

So what does all of this mean for you as an instructional designer? The truth is, it depends on the project and the organization you’re working for. In some instructional design jobs, there might be a designated project manager. 


If there is not a project manager role, it may just be quietly assumed that the instructional designer will take care of the project management tasks needed to get the project off the ground. 


Just like no one in my family is calling me project manager when I get them out the door in the morning, there might not be anyone in your organization formally acknowledging this project management role you take on. It’s just an expectation of the job. 


So let’s look at some of the project management responsibilities you might have as an instructional designer.



The instructional designer needs to manage the client and/or stakeholder relationship. You’ll be responsible for making sure the learning solution aligns with their expectations. It will also be up to you to make sure that they’re looped in on decision-making and deliverable sign-off. 


You may need to manage project timelines based on when the stakeholders expect to provide their opinion. Some stakeholders want to sign off on every detail while others would be happy to wait and give their opinion on the final product. For the record, neither of those options works for successful project completion! So the instructional designer might have to drive expectations (which deliverables need review, how long can they take to review before the project reaches a standstill).


Project Team

The instructional designer also has a responsibility in leading the project team. This may include other instructional designers and developers who will help take your designs and turn them into assets. 


You’ll need to make sure the team understands the expectations set by stakeholders and is ready to work using whichever methodology is the best fit for the project. 


Just to be clear- sometimes the project team is only the instructional designer! But if you’re lucky enough to work on a team, communicating with them is key.



Subject Matter Experts

Your subject matter experts (or SMEs) are masters of the content. Without their buy in, your learning solution design comes to a halt. The instructional designer is responsible for drawing the need-to-know information out of the SMEs. A good relationship with SMEs is important, we have a whole resource devoted to working in partnership with them that you can check out. 


Project Tools

Remember the tools I mentioned earlier? To remind you, they include both physical resources and rooms and digital resources. It will be up to the instructional designer to make sure the team has access to all the tools they need in a timely manner.


This might mean requesting software purchase from human resources. It might mean scheduling offices or classrooms to ensure their availability. Technology plays a huge role in learning and development, so making sure these tools are squared away is a big task.


Tasks (Who, What, & When)

Now that we’ve talked about your team and your tools, the next big project management task that you’ll need to manage are the project tasks. 


What granular tasks need to happen, who will do those tasks, and by when will they have them complete? Defining those tasks, identifying dependencies, and establishing a timeline for them is key. Once you have that list you must communicate it with the team, SMEs and loop in your stakeholders. 


Draft Reviews

Once a task is complete, who will review it? Quality assurance is integral to project success. The instructional designer can help drive who reviews which assets and which assets need to be reviewed by stakeholders before they can move forward.



This one depends on the method you’ve chosen for implementing the learning solution. If you’ve designed an instructor-led training or virtual instructor-led training, you need facilitators. 


You can’t wait until the learning solution is complete to loop in the facilitator. You’ll need to schedule them for a pilot and possibly set up train-the-trainer sessions prior to launch.


LMS Admins

If your learning experience is a video-based training or elearning experience, you’ll need a formal way to host the content. This means making sure you have access to an LMS and are in touch with the person in your organization who can set everything up. 


Now, it’s possible that you as the instructional designer will be responsible for the LMS! In that case, check out this article for everything you need to know about learning management systems. 



Project Management Skills for Instructional Designers

Now, I hope you’ve noticed a trend in all the roles and responsibilities involving project management. The number one project management skill you need is communication! Communication is key to setting up a successful, collaborative team that produces a quality learning solution. 

Here are some other important project management skills you should have as an instructional designer:


  • Identify tasks that need to be completed
  • Determine who is responsible for each task
  • Estimate how long tasks will take
  • Prioritize task work
  • Communicate project updates and issues
  • Use tools to manage work tasks and collaboration


Project Management Tools

As you can see, project management is a crucial aspect of good instructional design. If your head is spinning with all the tiny tasks that make up project management, don’t worry! No one can successfully project manage without some tools to keep organized. 


Here are a few popular tools that organizations use to keep track of project tasks and progress. Many of these tools offer free trials or have free versions you can use to keep track of your personal or professional projects. 



I highly recommend getting started with a free Trello account (check out my guide to using Trello). You can use it to plan a party, plan your week, plan a portfolio project, the possibilities are endless! What’s important is getting some practice in!



Wrapping it Up

Project management skills are instructional design skills. Now that you know more about project management skills, take a look at some instructional design job postings and see if you can identify required skills that fall into project management.

I personally love and thrive in project management. Breaking down and estimating projects is my passion. That’s why I love coaching my Instructional and Design and Tech Accelerator students. Watching them go from little knowledge of the term to fully project managing their entire portfolios and getting job interviews is thrilling!



The Testimonials are In:


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.

Darlene Dalgleish


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


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


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


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


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


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.

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.

Amanda Buckley
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.

Susan Gatti
President, IMMIXID


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


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


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.”

Jonathan Burt
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!”

Mellora Moore
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.

Patrick Hodges
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!

Mike Stubblefield
eLearning Developer/Instructional Designer, Vivos Therapeutics


“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.

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!


Katie Carter
Training Specialist, LegalShield

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