What I Wish I’d Known Before I Became an Instructional Designer

Like many in the world of eLearning and Instructional Design, I entered the field through a wandering path. Finally, I’d found a job that benefits from my “jack-of-all trades” skill set, including:

  • customer service
  • design thinking
  • information literacy
  • marketing
  • problem-solving and troubleshooting
  • research
  • technology, including social media
  • training and teaching
  • technical and web writing
  • user experience

Also, I’m good at Tetris—a skill that comes in handy when you’re trying to fit content together.

While this broad experience is useful, instructional design requires some extra dedication. Before I started as an ID, it would have been nice to know the following things:

You’ll always be learning

Our job requires us to continually learn in order to be relevant. I’ve always been a motivated learner—I’m an avid reader, curious, and fond of “useless information.”

But I’ve had to step it up a notch. I’ve had to set goals to learn not only for my job but also for professional development.

To learn and keep relevant, I’m constantly:

  • Seeking out discussions with my co-workers and networking with professionals on social media
  • Reading books and blogs about instructional design and related topics
  • Watching instructional videos on Lynda.com and YouTube
  • Adapting what I learn into my instructional design
  • Researching professional associations to join

While I haven’t joined a professional association yet, it’ll be to network and keep up-to-date on eLearning and instructional design trends.

You’ll juggle many hats

While our team regularly collaborates, much of my time is still spent on my own projects. Whether it’s developing or redeveloping a course, communicating with a Subject Matter Expert (SME), instructing our student workers, or working on a special project, I always have something to do.

Also, we have an open concept office, so I’m often asked to troubleshoot an issue or help others on their project.

In other words, I’m never bored.

It’s worth it

When you’re down to the wire and trying to finish a course development before a deadline, it’s sometimes hard to see the bigger picture. (Read 4 Tips for Rapid Development.)

When I get feedback from the SME, instructor, and students, it’s easy to put it into perspective. The work I do is rewarding.

Final Thoughts

I’m at the beginning of my instructional design journey, but I’m encouraged by what I’ve learned so far. And I’m glad I’ve discovered instructional design: I’ll always be learning, always be involved in interesting projects, and yes, all of the work is worth the reward of knowing I’m helping others in the learning process.

Did you know what you were getting into when you became an Instructional Designer? What do you wish someone told you before you started your instructional design career? Let us know in the comments.

3 thoughts on “What I Wish I’d Known Before I Became an Instructional Designer”

  1. Love your post Jessica! I didn’t realize that as an instructional designer I would need to be teaching others about pedagogy and strategies for making learning stick. When I look back at my first course development projects, I wish I would have known to take a more active role in discussing the “why” rather than “what” of the activities and assessments I was given for the course.

    1. That’s so true, Gwen! We teach our subject matter experts and instructors the best way to use our learning management systems, like Blackboard, as well as the ways different tools can build community and enhance learning. It takes some time to learn the nuances of why an activity works in online and blended, and I’m lucky to have a great team to support my learning.


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