8 sought-after abilities in an Instructional Designer

An Instructional Designer (ID) is paramount in the learning and training process of an organization and is often considered to be at the intersection of teaching and design. This role is typically tasked with redesigning courses, developing new courses or curriculums from scratch, and creating training materials such as manuals, user guides and learning modules.

Naturally, many ID jobs are dependent upon the growth of an organization and the level of importance that org places on its training needs. The more hiring, onboarding and continued education and training a company is doing or planning to do, the more likely they are to be adding headcount to its Learning and Development team.

And many of our clients are looking to fill this type of role. If you want to go into this sought-after field, here are the must-have skillsets.

1. Understand key learning models.

Many IDs begin their projects by meeting with stakeholders to conduct a needs assessment, and they follow a 5-step process called the ADDIE model. The five phases – Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation and Evaluation – represent a dynamic, flexible guideline for building effective training. Strong knowledge and execution of the ADDIE model is a critical qualification for any ID role.

2. Know eLearning technology.

During the design and development phases of the ADDIE model, many IDs are also using software programs and tools to develop “eLearning,” which simply put is “electronic learning” or online learning. eLearning utilizes electronic technologies to access educational curricula outside the traditional classroom setting. In most cases, it refers to a course or program delivered completely online. Popular eLearning software includes programs such as: Adobe Captivate, Articulate Storyline 360, Camtasia and Premier Pro for multimedia (video) development.

3. Instruct in the classroom.

Many IDs are skilled not only in the design and development of eLearning modules, but they are also delivering training to a live classroom audience, commonly known as “Instructor-Led Training.” So, having good presentation skills is crucial.

4. Exhibit soft skills.

No matter what the ID scenario is, superior communication, organization and knowledge of adult learning theories are critical. This includes being able to communicate complex topics to all types of audiences.

5. Develop learning materials for all.

Depending on the client or the role, an ID might be developing learning materials for a varied audience. The audience may be technical like engineers or developers, it may be more related to soft skills for sales reps or customer service, or it could be related to compliance, safety training, new hire onboarding, leadership development and so many other topics.

6. Showcase your work.

Many of our clients distinguish a good ID from a great one based on the examples of work a candidate can show in an interview. Similar to a web designer or developer, many good IDs create a portfolio or personal website with samples of the learning modules and training they’ve developed for clients in the past. They may include a homepage with a bio, contact information, a resume, as well as a portion dedicated to examples of their work. We work with many clients who will not even consider a candidate without seeing a portfolio first, because so much of this role can be based on a candidate’s design process and aesthetics of their work.

7. Attain higher and continuing education.

A Master’s Degree in ID or Educational Technology will likely be the most effective way to receive a comprehensive education on the subject. Many people who cannot make the time or financial investment of a master’s degree often opt for online courses like Lynda.com or they receive an ID certificate, which generally takes 2-3 days. Many people also take continued learning courses related to eLearning tools like Captivate or Storyline, or they will study the Adobe Software Suite as a whole.

8. Know ID software tools.

Being well versed in ID software will help you land that next job. These include: Adobe Captivate, Camtasia Studio, Articulate Storyline and Articulate Rise, Lectora, Photoshop, InDesign and the Adobe Creative Suite. Oftentimes, an ID will have foundational knowledge of coding and web technologies such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript as well.


Almost any organization we know of can benefit from having a strong Learning and Development team, which usually consists of IDs, Training Project Managers, LMS Specialists and more. However, some of our clients place more of an emphasis on hiring L&D consultants than others. Either way, if you need to build a Learning and Development team, or just need someone on a project basis, we can help. Contact us to find out how.



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