When I grow up I would like to be a… doctor… racing car driver… astronaut… pop star.
According to a survey by the professional networking site LinkedIn, only 9% of people actually went on to land their childhood dream job. But rather than worrying about whether or not we achieved our youthful career aspirations, perhaps it is more important to keep asking the question of ourselves. What is my dream job? After all, as we move through life, our experience and self-knowledge deepens so it seems much more logical to ask the question having established what we are good at, what we enjoy doing and what job best suits our lifestyle.
It is this journey of discovery (or chance) that has led people from a diverse range of backgrounds into the role of Instructional Designer (ID). Within the Sponge team, we have IDs who used to be teachers, journalists, ICT trainers and even a Yurt site manager!
So what do we mean by instructional design within the elearning industry? The respected ID, Connie Malamed, has come up with a useful definition. “Instructional design involves the process of identifying the skills, knowledge, information and attitude gaps of a targeted audience and creating, selecting or suggesting learning experiences that close this gap, based on instructional theory and best practices from the field,” she writes.
You can study instructional design at both undergraduate and postgraduate level these days but for many working in the field such courses simply did not exist when they first started out. A relevant qualification is always worth considering but for career changers it may be more helpful to focus on the key transferable skills needed for instructional design?
Here’s a list of six desirable attributes for an elearning Instructional Designer:
Creativity is important in a wide range of roles and the same is true for instructional design. Imagining new ways to approach a topic, thinking afresh and the ability to be inventive can make the difference between a pedestrian ID and an outstanding one. But creativity within instructional design needs to be based on a deep understanding of the audience and what they require.
An excellent command of the written word is a prerequisite. However, the real skill is turning complex (often dry) text into concise, compelling and engaging copy. This must be combined with the ability to prioritise information and focus on what is really important.
It’s a visual medium so awareness and skill in this area is essential. You must be able to select suitable images, graphics, animation or video which add meaning and value to the learning.
A good ID is a curious, quick thinker. They will be able to assess information, prioritise and communicate the key messages so they make sense to the audience. Strong attention to detail is required as well as the ability to analyse and evaluate. If you are dis-organised or poor at time management you will struggle.
You cannot do this job alone. Instructional Designers need the ability to work with a wide range of people and get the most out of them. Whether it is meeting with a client or liaising with a designer in your team, you will need to have the interpersonal qualities to create successful work relationships. Good listening and understanding skills are vital and also a strong sense of empathy so you can put yourself in the shoes of your target audience.
Part of an Instructional Designer’s role is writing engaging and interactive content but this must be within the boundaries of the software available. It’s an exciting and growing industry so having an interest in new technology, and being able to understand the technical capabilities of various elearning programs, can be a great help when designing a course.
It’s a great skill set and useful for a wide range of careers so why even consider instructional design?
It’s a job which allows you the satisfaction of making something which helps others to learn and grow. Each project is different with its own unique challenges so there is no fear of getting bored. There is ample opportunity to let your creativity flow. You have the best of both worlds with periods of working under your own steam as well as collaborating with a team. It is a growing sector; according to estimates, the global elearning industry is set to grow by around 7.6% and reach revenues of more than $50 billion by 2016.
So if you have yet to find your dream job and have all the necessary transferable skills, it’s well worth considering the possibilities on offer within instructional design.
To find out about job opportunities at Sponge visit our current vacancies page or give us a call on on +44 (0)330 390 3920.