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They may also help faculty maintain their existing courses. Also, rather than using rapid eLearning authoring tools, higher education instructional designers develop and modify courses in a learning management system LMS , such as Blackboard or Canvas. As a side note — government agencies often reflect the corporate instructional design experience more than the higher education instructional design experience. It does depend on the organization, though; these are just the general differences. Another way to distinguish between the daily tasks of an instructional designer is to consider whether they work in-house or for an external vendor.

At external vendors, instructional designers are more likely to have differentiated roles. Performance consultants may conduct the analysis, instructional designers may design the instruction, and eLearning developers may convert the instruction into an interactive online experience. When working in-house, instructional designers are often expected to wear all of these hats and sometimes more, such as LMS administration and program evaluation!

The daily tasks of a self-employed instructional designer may look quite different from those of a full-time instructional designer. Self-employed instructional designers can also operate as freelancers, working remotely for multiple clients at any given time. This article focuses exclusively on developing the skillset necessary to work as an instructional designer and land your first instructional design job.

It does not delve into all of the skills necessary to build a successful freelance instructional design practice. This section covers some of the most common psychology theories, design principles, and instructional methodologies that employers will expect you to discuss in interviews and use on the job.

However, this list is not exhaustive.

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So, despite each phase fitting nicely into its own box on paper, you may not want to talk about them as if they definitively occur one phase after the next. Despite Robert Gagne completing this work in , his principles are built upon research that still holds strong today.

As you can see, Gagne mapped out each element necessary for an effective instructional experience. These nine events do not need to occur in order, but doing so is often the most logical approach. Action mapping is a performance consulting approach to training design developed by Cathy Moore. For example, many organizations spend large budgets to churn out training courses, but these courses rarely address real business or performance needs.

This is where action mapping comes in. It advocates identifying a clearly defined business goal , identifying the high-priority actions that employees must perform to achieve that goal, and then designing interventions to help employees perform those actions correctly. This is of utmost importance in corporate settings, especially when training is being designed under the pretense of solving a human performance problem.

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It keeps you focused on the actions that people need to perform on the job, not just the information that subject matter experts SMEs and other leaders think the employees should know. You can read my full review of Map It here. Behaviorism is an approach to psychology that focuses completely on external, measurable behaviors.

It also dives into the specifics of behavior modification conditioning via rewards and punishments. This approach to learning argues that you can increase the frequency of a given behavior by rewarding people for performing it, and you can decrease the frequency of a given behavior by punishing people for performing it. Cognitive information processing is another body of thought in psychology literature. It posits that you must look at the processes occurring within the human mind to truly understand human behavior, and it relates human cognitive processes to those of a computer.

For example, this is a simplified version of how cognitive information processing theory explains human learning:.

Cognitive load theory states that humans have a limited cognitive capacity at any given time — this is why we can often hold seven digits in our short-term memory, but not Because of this, you should definitely familiarize yourself with this model. I recommend quizzing yourself every now and then to ensure that you know the levels; these terms are thrown around frequently and, as discussed, you will be expected to know them.

Richard Mayer highlights 12 research-backed principles to follow when designing multimedia learning. Writing learning objectives is a cornerstone task of any instructional designer. These objectives outline exactly what you intend for participants to achieve by the end of the learning experience, and the stem often follows this format:.

However, there are some very important guidelines that you should follow when writing objectives. Most importantly, your objective should be measurable. Consider the following objective:. Is this a good objective? If you answered yes, then think about how you might determine if someone has achieved this objective satisfactorily. Do they need to turn on a computer? The objective above does not make this clear.


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We will not dive further into learning objectives here because there is such a wealth of information on how to write them well, and reputable graduate programs devote a good deal of time to this. Instructional alignment is a related concept that is absolutely essential for instructional designers. You need to imagine a straight arrow going right through your objectives, content, practice activities, and assessments.

However, this does put a lot of pressure on you to ensure that your objectives are instructionally sound and worthwhile. As I mentioned earlier, the theories, principles, and methodologies covered above are not exhaustive.

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While not all instructional design roles require you to know much of the technology, the vast majority of them do. This is because, as discussed, most instructional designers are expected to not only write the instruction, but also develop it into its final online or face-to-face format. So, acknowledging that the tech climate can and does change somewhat frequently, I assure you that learning these skills will make you valuable to most companies that are seeking instructional designers today.

Articulate Storyline is widely regarded as the best rapid eLearning authoring tool on the market. Storyline is also quite easy to learn. Think of Storyline as a more powerful version of PowerPoint. It has a similar user interface to PowerPoint, but in Storyline you can also add layers to each slide like in PhotoShop or Illustrator , add variables and conditions to create a dynamic user experience, and add triggers to make the experience interactive.

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Articulate also offers a free day trial for Storyline This is more than enough time to develop your skillset with the tool and create a few practice projects. In fact, you can learn the basics - such as adding photos and text to a slide, adding interactivity with triggers, and using the built-in quiz functionality and interaction types - in just a few days. What separates an average Storyline developer from a good Storyline developer is the ability to use variables and conditions to build more complex custom interaction types.

Every week, David Anderson posts a new eLearning challenge for everyone in the community to respond to. That being said, you will need to know how to manipulate vector graphics, and Illustrator is a great tool for doing so. For example, freepik. Imagine that you want to take the cafe building from this city street vector. With Illustrator, you can download the file from freepik, grab the cafe storefront, change the colors and text, and export it for use in Storyline — all in a matter of 5 minutes or less.

You will learn some key information about working with digital files in general, and you will also set up your Illustrator user interface in a way that maximizes efficiency. Also, many public libraries in the USA offer access to LinekdIn Learning formerly known as Lynda for free, so you can inquire with your local library to see if this is an option.

As a side note, you may also want to learn Adobe PhotoShop.

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There are also alternatives to Adobe products, such as those in the Affinity design suite. In fact, if possible, try learning as many tools in the Adobe Creative Cloud as you can.

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They will only make you more valuable, and learning them will round out your skillset as a creative digital professional. It lets you take extremely precise screenshots, rapidly edit them immediately afterwards, and then share or export them as you please. Instead, I recommend picking it up and using it as your default screenshotting method going forward.

Camtasia is a great tool for instructional designers to create and edit videos. While I often use Snag-It to conduct simple screen recordings and Storyline has screen recording functionality, too , Camtasia is great if you need advanced functionality and more control over your screencasts. I recommend downloading the trial, learning your way around the tool, and then tabling it until you find a need for it in your daily work. HTML5 is a set of tags and syntax that provides structure to web pages. CSS makes it possible to style web pages, and JavaScript is used to modify the functionality and interactivity of web pages.

Before rapid eLearning authoring tools hit the market, software developers had to web development languages like these to develop eLearning from the ground up.


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To learn these skills, Free Code Camp is an excellent resource. I also recommend checking out Scrimba. You can take courses on this platform where an instructor guides you through the code, and you can pause the experience at any time to play around with the code and see how it affects the output. When you analyze these streams of data, you can draw powerful conclusions about the effectiveness of your learning programs.

As far as the skillset is concerned, you can use JavaScript to send custom xAPI statements from an eLearning interaction. Without knowing how to do this, you are extremely limited in the type of data that you can collect. If you have no JavaScript experience, sending custom xAPI statements can seem like a somewhat daunting and highly technical task. Fortunately, there are some great resources that will make this process much easier:.

Vyond formerly known as GoAnimate is a rapid video authoring tool that you can use to create animated videos relatively quickly. The tool lets you develop in 3 different art styles: business, contemporary, and whiteboard. Videos like this are excellent for soft skills training, explainer videos, microlearning, and much more.

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They do their best to lock you and your clients onto the platform, so I do not recommend using your own Vyond account if your clients expect to receive an editable source file. Finally, you should know your way around an LMS.

The reason for this is that virtually every mid- to large-sized company uses an LMS to host their eLearning content and deliver it to their employees. Instructional designers in full-time in-house roles are often expected to manage courses and users with these tools, so LMS experience is a common requirement for instructional design jobs.