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10 Steps To Become an Expert Instructional Designer

10 Steps To Become an Expert Instructional Designer
There is an ongoing discussion within the instructional design community as to whether a degree is needed to be most useful in this field. Sure, having a solid foundation in learning theory and cognitive science enables the designer to adapt learning procedures to varied audiences and content. On the other hand, some degreed instructional designers create poor learning products.

Step #1: Do Instructional Designers Need a Degree?

Perhaps what is most important is that an instructional designer is a self-did act. That the designer is motivated to read cognitive psychology, instructional design and eLearning textbooks, trade books, journals and blogs. That the person takes advantage of tutorials, podcasts and certification programs. That he or she can learn something in a completely different field and transfer this knowledge to instructional design. As professionals in a learning field, we should be able to get the experience needed to fill in our gaps as well as to grow and expand.

Step #2. Determine your primary objective and/or speciality

The first thing you'll want to think about is what niche you'd like to specialise in and/or your primary intention of becoming an Instructional Designer. Is there a specific skill that you feel needs to be taught and may be currently undervalued? Are you planning on specialising in the educational sector or the corporate sector? Are you an expert in a particular field and want to share your knowledge with others? Determining your primary goal will allow you to begin narrowing down what content you will offer and which learning materials you will use.

Step #3. Gain priceless experience in your niche

If you aren't already intimate with the subject you are going to be specialising in, then you will need to study as much as likely about its core ideas, principles, and concepts. Furthermore, you will also have to gain experience in Instructional Design, in general. If there's an eLearning course that your organisation suggests that it needs to be fine-tuned, then offer to improve it. If an organisation is in need of a new eLearning course, let them know that you'll do it free of charge, to gain that invaluable experience. On the other hand, if you prefer testing the waters before actually working for an organisation, then why not merely design an eLearning course based upon a hobby or a point of interest that you may have, such as music theory or gardening, to try out the eLearning tools and practical applications.

Step #4. Study the Instructional Design models and theories

After you've begun gathering all-important experience, you may want to consider learning about the methods and models of Instructional Design. These theories will often attend as the backbone or the structure of your eLearning courses and will help you to build eLearning courses that engage and motivate the learner to acquire and retain the information you are offering. For example, cognitive load theory suggests that learning should be presented in “bite-sized” modules or lessons that allow the learner to sufficiently obtain the information, rather than overloading them with the affluence of information at once. Read up on the multiple theories and models that are required in Instructional Design and figure out which ones will help you to create meaningful and useful eLearning courses.

Step #5. Consider Instructional Design training (such as certificate programs or training courses)

There is a diversity of Instructional Design programs and degrees that offer you the chance to gain an in-depth understanding of the core concepts and principles of Instructional Design. When trying to select the right program, you may want to opt for one that offers real-world knowledge, rather than just basic knowledge of Instructional Design theories. This will allow you to learn from other eLearning design professionals and gain on-the-job practical training. You may find valuable the How to Choose the Right Online Instructional Design Certificate Program article.

Step #6. Learn about eLearning tools, design principles, and multimedia aids

Get familiar with eLearning authoring tools, Learning Management Systems, policies, and multimedia aids that are available to you as an Instructional Designer. These will be your “tools of the trade” that you are going to use once you develop your eLearning course design strategy. If you'd like to learn more about the best eLearning authoring tools and cloud-based films, this article features a list of HTML5 eLearning authoring tools and here is a list of Cloud-Based Learning Management Systems that you may want to consider.

Step #7. Begin growing an Instructional Design portfolio

Your portfolio is going to be your first impression as an Instructional Designer. Employers and clients will get a glimpse of your past work, regardless of whether it was paid or volunteer and their hiring decisions will be based upon what they see. So, developing a robust portfolio should be a top priority. Be sure to include explanations for each project that you include in your collections, such as your design strategy or the primary goal of the project.

Step #8. Stay up-to-date with the latest eLearning technology.

The world of eLearning and Instructional Design is always changing and evolving. Educational technologies that are cutting edge today may give way to bigger and better methods and tools tomorrow. As such, it's essential to stay on top of the latest eLearning course design technology, so that you have the possibility to provide your learners with the best possible eLearning experience possible. Not to mention that this also allows you to improve your eLearning course designs while simplifying the development process, thanks to the fact that emerging technologies tend to offer a wide range of time (and resource) saving benefits.

Step #9. Develop Business Savvy

Focus on expected business outcomes and design as cleanly as possible to reduce time to proficiency and control costs. To be able to build a business case for learning and demonstrate why their solution will work cost-effectively. Create a compelling design within the constraints of a project regarding available technology, budget, time and human capital.

Step #10. The successful instructional designer should

Conceptually and intuitively assume how people learn. Know how to correlate with an audience on an emotional level. Be competent of imagining oneself as the learner/audience member. Be obsessed with learning everything. Brainstorm creative strategies and innovative instructional strategies. Visualize instructional graphics, the user interface, interactions and the finished product. Write compelling copy, instructional text, audio scripts and video scripts. Meld memories with Subject Matter Experts and team members. Know the capacities of eLearning development tools and software. Understand related fields—usability and experience design, information design, communications and new technologies.

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