9 Tips for Success as an Instructional Designer — Campus Technology

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9 Tips for Success as an Instructional Designer

These best practices from the Learning Design and Technology program at the University of San Diego will help practitioners create the best possible learning experience for students and develop a rewarding career in instructional design.

It’s official — e-learning continues to rise in popularity as the go-to method for delivering online courses and training programs. While the explosive growth during 2020 should come as no surprise, the truth is that demand for online education has been steadily building, and institutes of higher education, ed tech companies, and venture capitalist investors have all taken notice. 

As the education and corporate training sectors continue to develop their e-learning programs, instructional designers are increasingly in-demand. If you enjoy building effective content that will engage learners, boost retention, and improve outcomes, you’re entering the field at a great time. However, increased demand can also increase competition, so you’ll need to ensure that you can stand out from your peers.

In our Learning Design and Technology program at the University of San Diego, we train aspiring learning and instructional designers to apply best practices and work with the leading technology tools to develop the best possible learning experience. Let me share some of the top advice taken from our blog post on 12 Best Practices for Instructional Designers to highlight the areas you’ll want to focus on in your professional development.

1) Identify learning outcomes.

Effective instructional design solutions begin with clearly articulated learning outcomes. Consulting with stakeholders will help you determine what knowledge and skills learners must acquire and what they must do to demonstrate knowledge gain.

You should be able to:

  • Write specific and measurable course objectives aligned with the learning need.
  • Determine which instructional design model will work best to achieve your outcomes (i.e., ADDIE, SAM, or Backward Design).
  • Select the most appropriate learning theory to inform your design choices.
  • Demonstrate project management skills to balance the scope of the course, account for your budget, and ensure that everything gets done on time.

After establishing the learning outcomes, there is one last — and certainly not least — important consideration that’s fundamental for your course design…

2) Know your audience.

Knowing your target audience — students’ skills, prior knowledge, and preferences — is essential for designing a course that meets their needs. Gather demographic data such as level of education, age, and whether they are second language learners.

Regardless of learner demographics, you’ll need to set clear learning outcomes so learners are aware of what the instructor expects them to know or do after completing the course. Articulating clear learner outcomes also helps learners feel comfortable contacting the instructor if they need clarification or have questions.

3) Show that you’re open to communication and feedback.

Good professional practice requires taking the initiative to ask questions and communicate with the other professionals you’ll be collaborating with.

  • Be comfortable in reaching out and discussing all elements of the course with the stakeholders until everyone is on the same page about the instructional goals. Don’t be afraid to offer suggestions or insights — your expertise could be key in helping stakeholders think outside the box or encouraging them to consider different approaches.
  • During the course design process, cultivate open communication with instructors and any members of your development team. They’ll need to fully understand your intentions since anything left up to interpretation may turn out differently than planned.
  • The instructors are ultimately responsible for facilitating content delivery to the students. Proactively reach out to clear up any misconceptions or answer questions about the content delivery method and keep an open mind when considering their insights and preferences.
  • Finally, set aside time to listen to the learners themselves. If possible, observe a course to take note of what’s working well and what may need to be improved. At the end of the course, gather learner feedback and analyze the results to inform future course revisions.

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