Let’s be honest — not all instructional designers are created equal.
There are many great instructional designers out there who create captivating, engaging courses students love and benefit from taking.
But there are also some instructional designers who just aren’t cut out for the job.
What is it that separates a great instructional designer from a bad (or even average) one?
In the guide below, we’ll discuss the different instructional designer skills that make them stand above the others.
What are the Most Important Instructional Designer Skills to Have?
Whether you’re a newbie looking to break into the industry or a seasoned veteran, being truly great at instructional design means you possess certain key attributes.
1. Passionate About Education
The best instructional designers are passionate about their work. They love learning and they love helping others learn.
This passion for learning and teaching shines through in their courses, making them more engaging and enjoyable to take.
A great instructional designer is obsessed with learning everything there is about learning. That means following the latest industry studies and research, reading eLearning blogs, studying the different instructional design models, and even taking instructional design courses on an ongoing basis to stay on the cutting edge of the industry.
2. Constantly Upskilling
A great instructional designer is not only passionate about learning and teaching, but they are also skilled in their field and are always getting better, keeping up with education as it changes.
After all, passion will only get you so far. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re not going to be very successful.
This is why it’s so important for instructional designers to constantly upskill and learn new things. You need to be familiar with learning management systems, popular instructional design models and best practices, new instructional strategies others are trying, the latest technology, and more.
The best way to do this is by taking online courses, attending conferences and workshops, and networking with other professionals in the industry. Not only does this make you better at your job, but it also comes in handy for keeping your instructional design portfolio, cover letter, and resume looking great!
Good instructional designers have a deep understanding of how to create effective courses that engage students and help them learn.
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3. Creative in Their Work
The best instructional designers are not afraid to be creative in their work. They know that it’s important to constantly try new things and experiment with new ideas in order to keep their courses and training programs engaging.
The truth is eLearning is a young industry that’s constantly evolving, and that requires creativity to push the boundaries and stay ahead of the curve.
Great instructional designers are always experimenting with new ways to gamify their courses, add multimedia elements, and make their learning materials more fun and interesting for students.
4. Collaborative in Their Work Style
The best instructional designers know that collaboration is key to a successful course.
While it’s certainly possible to create an online course on your own, collaboration is often the key to taking a course to the next level.
Good instructional designers are always open to feedback and collaboration, and they work closely with other team members (e.g. subject matter experts, graphic designers, eLearning developers, and other instructional designers) and even their students (asking for feedback, surveying them, etc.) to create a course that is truly top-notch.
5. Focuses on Results
The best instructional designers understand that results are what truly matters in the end.
Are students actually interested in taking your course? Are they completing it from start to finish or giving up along the way? Do they actually seem to be learning the materials? In short, are the desired learning objectives being achieved?
These are the types of questions that great instructional designers constantly ask themselves in order to measure the success (or failure) of their courses.
They’re not afraid to make changes and adjustments along the way based on what they learn, in order to create a course that truly delivers results.
6. Detail Oriented
The best instructional designers are detail-oriented.
There are tons of moving parts and fine details that go into developing eLearning courses and curriculum, so you have to have an eye for detail in order to be successful.
Good instructional designers are meticulous in their work, checking and rechecking everything for accuracy and ensuring that all the little details are taken care of.
This attention to detail often pays off in the end, resulting in a course that is well organized, polished, and professional.
7. Thinks Visually
Many people are visual learning, and when it comes to creating a great eLearning curriculum, you need to have plenty of eye-catching, engaging visuals to keep learners interested.
The best instructional designers know this, and they think visually when creating their courses.
They use multimedia elements, graphical elements, and engaging visuals to keep students interested and engaged in the learning process.
8. Highly Organized
Creating and managing an eLearning course requires organization and project management skills.
Good instructional designers are able to keep track of all the moving parts and stay on top of everything, from developing the course outline to ensuring that all the materials are in order.
They’re also good at organizing their own time and resources, so they can stay on schedule and meet deadlines.
9. Great Listeners
It’s not all about you as an instructional designer. You have to be willing to listen to others, particularly your students, if you want to create a great eLearning environment.
Good instructional designers are great listeners, and they’re always open to feedback (both positive and negative) from their students.
They also take the time to really understand the needs of their students and what they’re hoping to get out of the course.
But it’s not just about passively listening.
A key part of being a good listener is asking the right questions of your target audience.
Some designers prefer to survey their students regularly, others rely on more informal methods such as asking questions during class or conducting interviews.
It’s important to find the method that works best for you and your students and to continually seek feedback in order to create a course that meets the needs of everyone involved.
10. Truly Understands Learning Theory
Instructional designers must know how to apply different learning theories to their courses.
The best instructional designers have a deep understanding of different learning theories and how to apply them in an eLearning setting.
They understand that not all students learn the same way, and they use different teaching methods and strategies to accommodate their students’ needs.
11. Embraces New Technology
eLearning technology is constantly evolving, so a good instructional designer is someone who is very comfortable with assessing new technologies to see if and how they might be useful.
They’re not afraid to try new things, and they understand that new technology can be a powerful tool for learning.
The best instructional designers are tech-savvy and are the type of people who can quickly learn new software and technologies quickly and without extensive training.
If you’re not comfortable with change or new technology, then this isn’t the career for you.
12. Good Communication Skills
Being a good instructor requires excellent communication skills.
Instructional designers need to be able to communicate effectively with their students, their team members, and others.
They must be able to articulate their ideas clearly and concisely, whether in their written course materials, video lessons, and interactions with students.
Good communication skills are essential for success as an instructional designer.
13. Strong Writing Skills
This goes hand-in-hand with having good communication skills, but it deserves its own point on this list.
To create great eLearning materials, you have to be a good writer. There’s no way around it.
Instructional designers must be able to write well, both in terms of their grammar and their ability to express themselves clearly.
You need to be able to create engaging course materials that will hold students’ attention from beginning to end.
Final Thoughts on Key Skills for Instructional Designers
There’s a lot that goes into being a top instructional designer. It’s a mix of skills, passion, creativity, and key personality traits.
Do you have what it takes to be a great instructional designer? If you possess these qualities, then the answer is most likely yes!
But if you don’t currently have all of these instructional designer skills, don’t worry – with hard work and dedication, you can develop them over time. Just remember to always stay passionate about learning and teaching and continue experimenting with new ideas!