Instructional designers come from many different fields – teachers, authors, corporate trainers, industry experts, just to name a few. What brings these different backgrounds together? They have these qualities that make an ideal instructional designer!
Over the past few years, the demand for instructional designers has been at a constant rise as new learning methods are being embraced. Hence, there is no one better than those who specialize in designing practical learning courses to provide much-needed assistance in this new age of online learning.
10 Qualities of an Ideal Instructional Designer
You already know that an instructional designer’s job is to create instructional experiences that meet clients’ business goals. Check out this in-depth article to learn more about what an instructional designer does on a day-to-day basis.
Even though instructional designers are in demand, there are many new professionals entering the field. So to set you up for success in your job search, we’ve compiled the top ten qualities that make an ideal instructional designer.
Knowing the Audience
One of the most important qualities that make an ideal instructional designer is understanding their audience. They should be able to put themselves in the learner’s shoes and design an instructional experience that factors in all elements of learning. Every learning experience is directed towards a specific audience; hence an instructional designer should pay attention to the learner’s skills, interests, and needs and develop an approach that will get the desired results.
Passion for Learning
It’s no secret that instructional designers have a passion for learning, but what differentiates an excellent instructional designer from an average one is the passion for education and everything related to learning. They are continually searching for new topics to learn and teach regardless of the industry and the area. They stay at the top of their game by reading scholarly articles, researches, eLearning blogs, tech blogs, and all things educational. Moreover, they don’t just read but also implement all these techniques in their everyday instructional design work.
Solid Technological Skills
An instructional designer should have a solid command over content management and various eLearning software. Some tools (like eLearning authoring software) can be learned over time. But with such immense competition in the industry, instructional designers who already know their way around a few basic tools will definitely stand out.
Here are some ideas for tools to familiarize yourself with. If you already know how to use these, be sure to include them in your resume. If you haven’t used a tool, you can try out free-trial versions or watch free tutorials online. Remember: your passion for continued learning is one of those desired qualities of an ideal instructional designer!
- Image editing tools like Snagit
- Screen recording tools like Camtasia
- Familiarity with Learning Management Systems like Litmos or Lessonly
- eLearning authoring tools like Articulate or Captivate
An instructional designer’s main job is to create a systematic approach to learning. In order to fulfill this task, they must have a similar mindset for their own workload. A well-organized instructional designer is efficient, hence can easily manage strict deadlines. Healthy organizational habits, focus, and time management are important qualities that make an ideal instructional designer.
Another trait that can be included with the organization is consultation. Instructional design is a highly consultative process. It’s so important to communicate and brainstorm with clients and stakeholders in order to understand their training needs. Successful instructional designers are prepared with all the right questions to ask during meetings so they can suggest the best training solutions.
You can check out my training analysis template as part of The Instructional Design Lab for a step-by-step guide to effective communication with clients and stakeholders.
Strong Visualization Skills
The human brain is primarily visual, and we all are visual learners. An instructional designer should be aware of this and remember that people tend to retain more information through sight compared to any other sense. Therefore, the instructional designer needs to look at the bigger picture and keep the learning goal in mind at all times.
I always say, visual design can be learned! You don’t have to be a graphic designer to know how best to use imagery to support learning.
This one can sound scary for beginning instructional designers. You’re just looking for your first instructional design job, who said anything about management? But project management has a huge place in the instructional design process.
The best instructional designer knows how to manage time, resources, tasks, and people tactfully. Those are all project management skills! Check out this guide to project management for instructional designers to learn more.
Exceptional Writing Skills and Active Listening Skills
An instructional designer should be able to convey information in an understandable, concise way. American psychologist Jerome Bruner says, ‘You’re twenty times more likely to remember information if it is delivered in the narrative format’. Hence a successful instructional designer has to be a phenomenal storyteller. What better way to break the forgetting curve than by using storytelling to engage the learner!
Most instructional designers partner with subject-matter experts for each project. The subject-matter expert has all the content knowledge your audience needs to reach the learning goals. The only problem? Experts aren’t always the best teachers. It will be your job to take the SMEs content and organize it in a way that is easy to understand and remember. That’s why writing is one of the top ten qualities that make an ideal instructional designer!
An instructional designer should also be able to understand their subject. Hence the importance of strong listening skills. Listening skills allow the instructional designer to understand their clients’ needs. This also includes addressing and asking relevant questions at the right time to clarify situations and ultimately contribute to the learning outcome.
Creativity and Innovation
Instructional designers can’t be successful in their careers if they don’t have creative and innovative traits.
This industry’s dynamic requirements expect the instructional designers to think of different creative ideas that keep the learners engaged. Another tricky thing here is that you need to be able to think creatively, considering the budget limitations.
Creative inspiration comes from everywhere. You can learn a lot about keeping an audience’s attention from social media and advertising. There’s a reason so much marketing money goes into those campaigns!
You can also borrow ideas from past projects, even if you’re new to the field. Techniques you use to present information in a meeting or in lesson plans can all be sources of inspiration in instructional design.
In the current tech-savvy world, the importance of data can’t be ignored or underplayed. Suppose instructional designers don’t have access to data. In that case, they’re left in the dark about whether the experience created by them was useful or not. All you have to go on is the client’s feedback.
An effective learning experience needs to gather information from multiple sources. Instructional designers can create their own sources of data collection by creating post-course temperature checks. This can be a simple survey to gauge the learner’s immediate reaction to a course.
Depending on your relationship with the client, you may be able to use data collected via course quizzes to determine if the audience is meeting learning objectives. What you do with the data is the most important part.
Effective instructional designers use data to improve their practices and identify areas where your courses can be improved.
Instructional designers should empathize with the learners, as this would allow them to generate content that is meaningful and relevant. They should be able to comprehend and relate to the potential obstacles that the learners can face while grasping complicated subject matters. Empathy might appear as an unusual trait, but it is one of the essential skills in this field.
Wrapping it up
It is no secret that instructional design and eLearning are rapidly growing fields.
Any instructional designer’s main goal should be the three E’s – effectiveness, efficiency, and engagement. A phenomenal learning experience can only be constructed by implementing the three E’s as instructional designers need to incorporate various aspects like stakeholder input, learning analytics, knowledge of their audience, and instructional theory to ensure the experience has a real impact.
Be sure to leverage these skills in your resume, cover letters, and job interviews. You can also choose projects to include in your portfolio that highlight these qualities that make an ideal instructional designer.
Looking for more motivation? Check out this free masterclass on getting started in instructional design!