Becoming an Instructional Designer, Part Two

As in many fields, an instructional designer can specialize and devote all professional energy to going in the core of the profession, or he or she can generalize and complement instructional design skills with skills in other areas such as graphic design or programming.

Personally, I think augmenting a core of instructional design with one or more complementary skills is not only a good career move, it can make you a stronger designer. Every new skill allows you to see the world a little differently, and the heart of any design job is the ability to look at the problem from multiple perspectives.

I’d suggest that designers think about their skill base along a number of continua*.

Skill Category Novice Mid Expert
Instructional Design Core Newbie Designing courses that address major principles of instruction Designing courses that delight learners and show tangible evidence of effectiveness
Project Management Managing self Managing ID and writing resources on a fairly complex project Managing an array of resources, including subject matter experts, artists, and programmers, across multiple competing projects
Graphic Designer Using clip art and smart objects Creating or combining simple visual elements in a clean, attractive manner that clarifies rather than distracts from the content Creating art that is beautiful in its own right
Media Producer Basic scripting Scripting, lighting, recording, and editing media Producing broadcast quality media
Programmer Authoring with tools like Storyline Scripting simple HTML, CSS, and JavaScript Developing custom apps
Writer Coherent Clean and economical Elegant
Assessment Expert Writing basic multiple choice items Writing a wide variety of effective assessments Psychometrician

The question then is one of gap analysis: if you are an instructional designer, where are you on these continua? Where do you want to be? What will you do to get there?

* Each of these categories are obviously simplifications. Each category would naturally have a number of sub-categories. For instance, the core instructional design category would have sub-continua of needs analysis, content analysis, task analysis, and so forth. This set of continua also does not attempt to represent the kinds of professional skills that are common to any career, not just instructional design, such as people management, communication skills, presentation skills, and so forth. One skill I’m trying to decide whether it belongs on the instructional designer inventory is instructor. Is that a complementary instructional design skill, or a completely different job?


2 thoughts on “Becoming an Instructional Designer, Part Two

  1. Ellen

    You say “One skill I’m trying to decide whether it belongs on the instructional designer inventory is instructor. Is that a complementary instructional design skill, or a completely different job?” If by “instructor” you mean someone who has taught face-to-face the subject matter being designed, or at least the age level the design is intended for, I think it’s significant. I have seen computer-based instruction that prompts me to wonder, “Has the person who designed this EVER dealt with a real class?” I realize that CBI and live teaching are very different; perhaps CBI comes closer to one-on-one tutoring. But the live experience informs the designer about likely misunderstandings, the impact of specific feedback, and so forth.

  2. Pingback: Becoming an Instructional Designer, Part Three | Engaged

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