5 Attributes Of A Effective Instructional Designer
Anyone working in the field of Instructional Design understands that success as an Instructional Designer is not guaranteed. It is a skill that must be honed via practice, exposure, and teamwork.
What Is Required?
With more people transitioning from other fields, the field of Instructional Design is thriving. It is critical to understand that Instructional Design is not like most other fields. Theory, science, application, creativity, and pure knowledge are all combined. The following are five characteristics of effective Instructional Designers.
- An understanding of how they fit into the “big picture” to define success
I’ve encountered Instructional Designers who work for a customer success organization (like me). Others work in human resources, while others work in IT, product development, and so on. Some are even complete structures in their own right. Our position within the larger organizational structure can influence resources, priorities, how success is defined, our level of autonomy, and crucial relationships. I understand that as a member of a client success organization, my success is defined in part by client engagement. This implies I’ll have to prioritize measures like client satisfaction and engagement. I work closely with others in the CS organization to monitor comments and interact directly with clients. Employee performance and/or retention data may be prioritized by someone in HR. They may need to cultivate relationships with managers and other positions of authority to carry out the organization’s developmental goals.
- An Insatiable Desire to Learn
This is a two-fold statement. To begin with, new technological and research advances in Instructional Design and EdTech are always being produced. Furthermore, some of the methods we swore by five or 10 years ago are being put into question (I’m looking at you, VARK, lol). To provide the finest learning experiences for our students, we must stay on top of these changes and advances. Second, we are learners just by our position. To create experiences, we collaborate with Subject Matter Experts. We are occasionally our Subject Matter Experts and must digest and synthesize vast amounts of content. We inadvertently absorb some of the knowledge gained during the design process.
- The ability to read and adapt to the learner and the learning environment
Nothing destroys a learning experience more than a learner who sees no advantage from engaging. Relevance is one of the most important motivators. For an experience to be relevant, you must not only understand your learner’s qualities at the outset, but you must also be willing to pivot based on the real-time circumstances (especially in synchronous ILT situations). I’ve built training workshop experiences in which the student walks away with X, Y, and Z. Based on an instructor/learner connection, my design outlined the achievement of that outcome. In the real-world situation, we discovered that peer learning provided the best experience and retention, so we pivoted and included that in our future design.
- A Passion for Technology
Although I consider technology to be a variable in effective instructional design, it is extremely difficult to create a meaningful learning experience without incorporating technology. I specifically mean computer-based learning, computer-based development, and web-based distribution when I say technology. Many designers have been scrambling to develop ways to connect and engage this new wave of distant learners, who are replacing their traditionally face-to-face synchronous methods, especially since the onset of the epidemic. As more children are homeschooled, and more adults work and learn from home, face-to-face delivery is becoming less of an option. Given the limits and characteristics of their learners, the designer’s responsibility is to determine the optimum ways for delivery and engagement. Technology is rapidly being employed to create the finest experiences for the majority of people.
- A Creative Mind
A successful designer must be able to think “beyond the box.” Previous solutions are less likely to deliver the best learning experience when learning situations get more complicated. In this way, I compare an Instructional Designer to a chef. The learning experiences we generate are like recipes that we use to make a wonderful meal using the components we have on hand. There may be a common way to mix all of the elements to make a “good” dish, but to satisfy a more refined palate, chefs must often think outside the box and combine those ingredients in novel ways. It’s the same thing with design. When presented with the same combination of “ingredients,” learners can easily become disengaged. It is up to us to blend those ingredients in novel and interesting ways to deliver an excellent learning experience for our students.