Characteristics of Great Instructional Designers

characteristics instructional designers

This article is one in a series on becoming an instructional designer and tips on performing in this role at a high level.

Instructional design attracts people from all walks of life and with all types of backgrounds. From teachers to computer scientists to writers and artists, there is no single defining characteristic that can be used to identify someone who would make a good instructional designer. However, there are a few characteristics, traits, and interests that can be used to determine whether or not someone would be a good fit for this particular role.

Understand How People Learn

Now, more than ever before, it’s crucial for anyone considering the career of instructional designer to understand how people learn. This doesn’t just apply to the traditional learning models, such as those who learn by doing, hearing, or seeing. It also applies to how they prefer to learn – on the job, during their downtime, on a PC, or maybe on a smartphone.

Connect with their Audiences

It’s also essential that anyone interested in becoming an instructional designer knows how to connect with different audiences and to do so on an emotional level. Anyone can write a series of pages highlighting the importance of safety in the workplace, but someone who understands how to connect with their audience emotionally could achieve even better results by creating something like a short animated video that shows the repercussions of poor workplace safety using a relatable or emotionally connectable character (a cuddly bear or a brightly colored bird, for instance).

Put Themselves in the Learner’s Position

Instructional designers must be able to put themselves in the learner’s position. Would a particular type of content connect with them? Is the user interface not merely “usable” but compelling and streamlined? Is the course material compelling and interesting enough to engage them for longer than a few minutes? Without the ability to put themselves in the learner’s position, instructional designers cannot create compelling, engaging courses that further organizational goals and impart the necessary knowledge and skills.

Write Effective Copy characteristics instructional designers

An instructional designer does not necessarily need a background as a professional writer, but he or she must be able to write effective copy. This applies to everything from brief training course screens to entire manuals and other reference materials. It also applies to much more than just online course copy, and can include video and audio scripts or instructional text.

Establish Rapport with Subject Matter Experts

Instructional designers need to get their source material from somewhere. That often includes industry research and organizational research, but it also includes being able to gain extra crucial information from subject matter experts (SMEs). It applies to team members, managers, stakeholders, project managers and many others, depending on the organization and the project in question.

May or May Not Have an Instructional Design Degree

Here’s one that is getting a lot of attention recently – do you need a degree to become an instructional designer? The short answer is “no”, but there are a few caveats. Anyone interested in instructional design should themselves be lifelong learners, passionate about all aspects of education, and dedicated to pursuing developments in the field of online training and ongoing education. Without that passion and drive, no amount of education or training can really help.

Knowledge of Multiple Tools

An instructional designer doesn’t create courses out of the ether. A wide range of tools must be used, from LMSs to development tools and authoring platforms. Any instructional designer should be more than conversant with all the tools out there.

Becoming an instructional designer can lead to a rewarding career, but it’s important that anyone aspiring to this profession have some specific traits, capabilities and characteristics.

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