It can be summarized that instructional designers wear many hats. Their job is essentially about identifying training needs and designing learning experiences that will yield measurable results for companies. This can involve anything from micro-learning, extensive eLearning modules to blended online and face-to-face learning experiences. We spoke with Javier Armijo about what it takes to enter the emerging field of Instructional Design and how to navigate four essential parameters for success.
- Train the Trainer.
Effective Instructional Design practices are more than just lectures and power-point. Many companies may have had the unfortunate experience of “bad training” that didn’t result in any meaningful change. Concepts involving adult learning theory, motivation, principles of design, instructional methods, project management and evaluation have been refined over several decades and are shown to be key components of effective eLearning/Instructional Design. They all have an important place. If one is on their way to becoming a trainer in their respective field, it is imperative that they augment their background with eLearning/Instructional Design training. Searching online will yield a range of programs that can suit the schedules of busy professionals.
- Online Networking.
Several opportunities exist online to expand networks in the world of eLearning and Instructional Design. Try searching for keywords like Instructional Design, Learning Experience Design(er), LX Design, eLearning Developer, L&D (learning and development) and Training Coordinator. The field of Instructional Design is still new and many names can refer to similar jobs. Look for Groups, Business Groups and Business Pages that identify with these search terms on sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Remember to boost your profile by liking your own posts, leaving comments on the posts of others and on the comments of others.
- In-Person Networking.
An effective way to be on the minds of those hiring eLearning/Instructional Designers is to have met them in person and cultivated a relationship. “It’s who you know” is as true in this industry as in any other. A strategy worth considering is to join professional groups and associations for industries you’d like to work for. IT and Healthcare, for example, are industries that rely heavily on qualified trainers. If you’ve become familiar with HR staff through a social media site, perhaps you can ask them for “five minutes of their time” in a phone call or over coffee to discuss their industry and experience. When the time is right and they’re in need of an instructional designer, having had personal contact would give you an edge over paper applicants.
- Job Searches.
Besides the usual suspects like LinkedIn, Ziprecruiter or other job search sites, one can peruse job postings specific to eLearning on industry related sites such as The Learning Guild (learningguild.com/job-board) or ATD job bank (jobs.td.org). Also don’t be afraid to reach out to a great recruiter in your area (or an area you wish to work in). They can promote you to a range of companies and negotiate a higher rate of pay on your behalf.
On another note, here is a list of tips for successful eLearning Development. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but a reminder of some of the most important elements to consider when approaching a training initiative.
- Analyze the performance need/conduct a performance assessment. It may be easy to overlook the importance of digging a little deeper to determine if training is even the solution a company needs in the first place. Perhaps changing a communication procedure will do, or publishing a job aid. It may be reassuring to the leadership in your organization that rather than exhausting time and dollars on training that was never needed, they found a working solution by taking time to explore their problems in more detail.
- Know your learner. Be sure to let them know “what’s in it for me,” a key barrier to engaging adult learners. Also address language and accessibility issues early on. Engagement is key and if your learners feel they can’t succeed, they’ll give up. Engage them with appropriate, curated media and interactions that keep them focused on the learning objectives you’ve developed in concert with subject matter experts.
- Scaffold your learning. Break facts, concepts, procedures, processes and principles down to ‘bite sized’ content that can start small, then build as the training Make sure to review prior concepts and include knowledge checks along the way.
- Usability testing prior to deployment is worth doing. Have a range of stakeholders test your module before it goes live. It may surprise you what stands out to them as confusing or needing improvement.
- Provide resources after training so learners can apply what they learned on the job. This is essentially the whole point. Job aids, follow up meetings, focus groups and formal/informal evaluations can all support your learners as they embrace changes to how things are done.
Often, people don’t set out to become instructional designers. They frequently make their way into this role after years of experience in a particular field. Javier Armijo explains that “what’s important is to augment prior knowledge and professional experience with qualified training in eLearning/Instructional Design, to network and continually refine ones craft as a Learning Experience Designer.”
Javier Armijo offers training as an eLearning/Instructional Designer through Antaeus Imaging and Instructional Design. He resides in the Southern California region.