December 9, 2020
Breaking into the Instructional Design Field: Lessons Learned
Comments
(15)
December 9, 2020
Breaking into the Instructional Design Field: Lessons Learned
Mykhaylo is a passionate educator and L&D specialist. He enjoys working on various instructional design projects that are meant to empower learners to achieve success in their professional lives. Originally from Ukraine, Mykhaylo currently resides in the US and is constantly looking for ways to grow professionally. Consider joining his professional network exchange ideas and inspire each other! 
Guide 3 posts
Followers: 0 people
(15)

My journey to become an Instructional Designer is not as clear-cut as some may imagine, but then, again, when polling some of my contacts in my professional network, many instructional designers transitioned into this field with some prior experiences in fields that sometimes have nothing to do with adult learning, or learning and development, or instructional design per se. Many instructional designers do not even have an official Instructional Design degree.

I began my transition into the field of Instructional Design when I started taking some courses from the Instructional Design program in the College of Education at Ohio University in 2013; of course, at the time I was full-time faculty teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) to international students. In 2018, I had amassed enough credit hours, so my advisor recommended I complete the program to be able to be awarded a master’s degree in Instructional Design. I enjoyed taking classes as I was able to transfer all my knowledge back to my classroom. I tested out some theories and designed the curriculum for the classes I facilitated. Being the Writing Lab Coordinator, I also designed our training program for the tutors, which included a comprehensive on-demand set of instructional materials in our LMS system to help tutors continue developing their expertise and provide the most effective tutoring services to our students. 

I have learned a couple of lessons along the way that I’d like to share in this blog post with the rest of the instructional design community in this forum. 

1. Be proactive

Instructional Designers need to be able to present a solid portfolio to their potential employers. Unfortunately, instructional design projects do not fall out from the sky, so one needs to be proactive in identifying opportunities for instructional design project work. If one is taking classes in Instructional Design, certain exemplary projects may be included in one’s portfolio; you are in luck if your program offers a capstone project, where you can present certain work you are proud of. However, if this is not possible, be proactive in identifying opportunities to design and develop instructional materials that can later be added to your portfolio. This excellent resource gives you many ideas for your instructional design projects.

2. Build your network

Another important piece of the puzzle in your success as Instructional Designer is building your professional network. What propelled my success in growing my professional network is meeting a co-host of my favorite podcast Instructional Redesign, Cara North and being introduced to some of her contacts, and then the rest is history. Once I met Cara and got introduced to some of her contacts, I started meeting more and more influencers in the field and learning from them, which has been a tremendously rewarding experience. Check out Cara’s video on growing your network

3. Never stop learning

It would be ironic to be in the field of instructional design and constantly educate others about something and not be a life-long learner yourself. It is especially important to stay on top of the most current technology and platforms available to instructional designers. Many such resources provide free trial periods to help you familiarize yourself with the resource so you can confidently speak about your experience with this platform at networking events or at job interviews.

4. Never give up 

It can be quite frustrating to always have to be on top of all new developments in the field and having to constantly grow and update your portfolio, but the truth is – we in the instructional design field cannot afford to give up! We have to be patient, continue learning and growing professionally, grow our network, and the results will soon follow! 

In the comments below, please tell me what your journey to instructional design has been and what were some of the lessons you learned? What are some good tips for new instructional designers to help them gain experience and confidence in the field.

15 Comments
2020-12-15 13:35:19
2020-12-15 13:35:19

For those who don’t know me, English is my third language, and I find it often very poor, lot of words are missing compared with Dutch, Russian, German… to mention some.

Greg, you forget to mention the differences between countries. I have been a professor, but we use another name, English doesn’t have an equivalent. That was indeed post-secondary but at a level that is higher than the community colleges I see in the USA. Their end result is what is supposed to be the end result here in secondary schools. I don’t tell that it always happens, but in that case students take an extra preparing year, not two-three years in a ‘college’.

We have different words for teaching in primary schools (until 12 years) and in secondary schools. And I have been ‘teaching’ flute and chamber music in a secondary music school. I would never use the word ‘teacher’ there, but again don’t know an alternative in English.

I have been training/coaching in a lot of companies, sent out from the college as expert on several topics. Which word should I use?

But training/coaching/teaching remains my passion even when I am now since several years in eLearning development. Without that passion, even the most creative designer will never develop efficient eLearning assets, or they’ll just remain ‘pro forma’ as lot of eLearning courses are at this moment.

Like
(1)
>
Lieve Weymeis
's comment
2020-12-15 13:50:03
2020-12-15 13:50:03
>
Lieve Weymeis
's comment

I honestly think that usage of these terms are often subjective in nature and that generally speaking, everyone knows what is meant. I was not trying to make any corrections but simply observing something that often fascinates me about language in general.

I agree with you about how some languages will have multiple words to convey a meaning that is not captured well in a single word when translated.

From my viewpoint, I think I would refer to someone who provided lessons for an instrument as an instructor. I would probably use instructor for the community college level (2-year institution) as well and reserve professor for a 4-year institution of higher learning. In any event, I do find it helps when definitions are shared since it can alleviate confusion.

Like
2020-12-12 20:05:34
2020-12-12 20:05:34

I commend you! I had a few classmates who were teachers/educators in my master’s program.

My undergrad is in English: Rhetoric & Composition but I never felt teaching was for me. After 7 years and endless jobs with seemingly no future…I went back to school. No regrets at all, but with so many different paths to becoming an ID, I often wonder how employers perceive prior experience, whether related or not related to instructions.

More curious…I doubt we’ll ever truly know 😉

Like
(1)
(4)
>
InstructionalRy
's comment
2020-12-13 11:06:30
2020-12-13 11:06:30
>
InstructionalRy
's comment

Indeed, it depends as much on the employers who mostly are ‘rather’ ignorant about the requirements for good eLearning developers. Look at some requirements where still Learning Styles are mentioned, a concept which has been declared dead since many years like so many other ‘theories’.

Like
(1)
>
InstructionalRy
's comment
2020-12-13 15:09:11
2020-12-13 15:09:11
>
InstructionalRy
's comment

Strangely enough, for some reason perhaps due to their own ignorance, many employers think of prior teaching experience when transitioning to ID as something negative. It’s hard for me to comprehend why but I’ve encountered that problem.

Like
>
mykhaylozak
's comment
2020-12-13 15:43:08
2020-12-13 15:43:08
>
mykhaylozak
's comment

Negative? Is it not depending on what the original career was? In my case an experience of decades of teaching cannot be considered a handicap. That is the most illogical nonsense I ever heard, but it may be true.  I had also a lot of problems convincing my first manager in research that some ‘intuition’ could lead to quicker results. Until I proved several times that I was correct

Like
>
Lieve Weymeis
's comment
2020-12-13 19:22:17
2020-12-13 19:22:17
>
Lieve Weymeis
's comment

@Mykhaylozak, I don’t think teaching would be a disadvantage. In my third round of interviews this past week on one of the main focuses was my ability to teach and provide instructions effectively. Of course, I can’t say for certain, but I would like to think it would be an asset.

Like
2020-12-10 10:09:05
2020-12-10 10:09:05

Those who have seen some of my comments, blogs, articles, webinars, presentations know that I do not believe in ‘certificates’ nor ‘degrees’, only in results. It is very easy to find bad eLearning courses, and the attitude towards ‘learning’ can be very different depending on geographic location. When I first visited USA, I heard ‘Those who can do it, will do. Those who cannot, will teach it’. I couldn’t believe that but proved to be often the truth.

A teacher who is not a passionate learner, should be licensed right away. This has been my moto in my professional life as teacher/trainer. Second moto: no trainee is a dummy, certainly not for eLearning.  Upsetting when you see some training schedules.

A good eLearning developer needs a combination of many skills, and for that reason it would be great if each eLearning course would be created by a team. Such a combination of skills is not easy to find in one person. Sorry about the language, English is my third language:

  • First requirement: being an excellent trainer/teacher, aware of the new pedagogical methods and the environment, history  of trainees… This first requirement is often completely neglected when you watch eLearning courses.
  • Second requirement: being able to use the necessary tool(s). Depending on the situation that is not limited to an eLearning authoring tool, but will include also use of LMS, webserver and tools for asset creation (to keep with Adobe apps: Photoshop, Illustrator, Audition, Animate, Phonegap, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Character Animator, Capture, Color….). Team?
  • Third requirement: being able to communicate with clients and Subject Matter Experts. That can be very challenging, to persuade both of the best approach after many questions. Communication with team members is of course important as well.
  • Fourth requirement: design skills both visual and auditive. This domain is where team work is also rewarding.

Not really what you wanted in this discussion. I have no ID degree, fail at building a ID-network (have a network in building companies due to my career). My passion at improving the result of teaching/training students in a university college, and adults in work environment (college did send me out a lot) have resulted in finding eLearning assets (and tools) to be very useful both in live (flipped) classes, distant learning, project-based learning, problem-based learning, peer teaching. Since I am retired from college, I try to transmit my passion as freelancer in Consultancy and Training jobs to other Adobe application users, with Captivate as most asked for tool.

Like
(2)
(7)
>
Lieve Weymeis
's comment
2020-12-10 13:46:05
2020-12-10 13:46:05
>
Lieve Weymeis
's comment

Funny you mention that phrase you heard in the U.S.

“Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.”  was actually the title of a textbook for one of the courses I had to take while pursuing my license to teach.

Like
(1)
>
Greg Stager
's comment
2020-12-10 13:53:28
2020-12-10 13:53:28
>
Greg Stager
's comment

Greg, I was really blown away when I heard that saying the first time.  This is totally the opposite of my idea about being a good or excellent teacher. I was co-responsible at that moment for hiring new professors in our department.

Like
(1)
>
Lieve Weymeis
's comment
2020-12-10 22:34:12
2020-12-10 22:34:12
>
Lieve Weymeis
's comment

Thank you for sharing this, Lieve!

Like
>
mykhaylozak
's comment
2020-12-11 08:47:26
2020-12-11 08:47:26
>
mykhaylozak
's comment

You’re welcome! One of the most interesting features of a community is to be able to discuss with other users. That is what I tried here. Please tell me more…

Like
>
Lieve Weymeis
's comment
2020-12-15 04:17:26
2020-12-15 04:17:26
>
Lieve Weymeis
's comment

I have to agree with you Lieve has said about the way she thinks about teaching. A good teacher has to be engaged and committed to the craft. I still consider myself a teacher even though I have moved to Instructional Design, and while I am not going to say that being a teacher makes me a better designer, I do believe it helps when thinking about a classroom. Just my two cents anyway.

Like
>
ryc84048636
's comment
2020-12-15 08:44:31
2020-12-15 08:44:31
>
ryc84048636
's comment

Sure! I am always very sad when I see the amount of work getting into  a nicely designed elearning course (finding them is easy) which totally misses the primary goal: learning. I remember a course (here) for adults, where an image of a human body is shown, asking to click on certain parts for more clarification. What shows up then is the name of that part (knee…)! That would be fine for young kids to learn the correct name, or for a language course but is condescending for adult learners when it is about a totally different topic.

You experience as a ‘good’ teacher (sorry but there are lot of bad teachers/trainers) is simply VERY important, not for the design, but for the real goal of each learning asset.

Like
>
Lieve Weymeis
's comment
2020-12-15 13:19:51
2020-12-15 13:19:51
>
Lieve Weymeis
's comment

Isn’t it interesting how similar words can have subtle differences in meaning? So many words for one who imparts knowledge to others. I no longer consider myself a teacher. For me, a teacher is found in the K-12 or primary/secondary school levels, a professor is the term used for those who have the same role but at the post-secondary level, and educator/trainer would be used for folks out in the corporate or private sector. One could also simply use the term instructor. Some professions might prefer advisor or consultant, and of course, in sports, we call them coaches.

Regardless of how you phrase it – I think there is a clear overlap with instructional design. Part of going through my teaching undergrad was learning how to design lessons for the students. There is a huge range of ability between 1st and 12th grade and a teacher needs to make age appropriate lessons. Likewise – for instructional designers, the phrase is more along the lines of “understanding your audience”. When I went through my instructional design program – there was more information related to adult learning compared to my teaching program but I cannot say that I picked up some new earth-shattering trick. Teaching and ID are extremely complimentary.

I was once asked to lead an effort to revise one of our week-long training seminars because I used to be a teacher, LOL,- One of the first things I did with the group of instructors was to help define and understand our audience. The big problem as I saw it was that we were presenting college level information to a bunch of 4th graders. We needed to tone it down a bit. Once we properly tailored the information to meet the learners where they were, they were more engaged and the course was more effective as a whole. At first I was accused of dumbing it down too much but the results speak for themselves. I was like, “Hey, that is what our advanced courses are for.”

Like
Add Comment