How To Be An Exceptional Instructional Designer

How Τo Be Αn Exceptional Instructional Designer
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Summary: How does an ordinary Instructional Designer succeed and become extraordinary? It takes more than creating effective content. Discover these top tips to become an Instructional Designer that stands out from the crowd.

How Do You Become Extraordinary?

“I think it is possible for ordinary people to choose to be extraordinary." – Elon Musk

To achieve career success, you have to be intentional. You have to take the initiative. You must know what it will take to achieve the goals you set for your professional development path.

Instructional Designers wear many hats. To create eLearning courses, you must analyze, plan, design, execute, and collaborate. It’s a complex task that requires a variety of skills to perform well.

To help learners on their journey, you must analyze their understanding of the subject. Then you compare it to the on-field requirements. After assessing this gap, you use your expertise to create relevant content. You then create a program that is accessible and easy for the students to understand.

This is your job. But what about your career? What should you do to ensure that you do your job so well, that it not only benefits your trainees but ultimately leads to a successful career path for YOU?

Tips To Become An Exceptional Instructional Designer

Whether you work for an eLearning development company or as a freelancer, here are some tips to help you do your job with excellence:

Balance Scope And Time To Achieve ROI

A successful Instructional Designer is good at the time and budget management. You need to understand the magnitude of the projects and the budget to achieve the goals.

You must give a good estimate of the time you will need to deliver them and understand clearly the deadlines that you must meet. Your costing and time estimates must be accurate so that your work hours are profitable. This is especially important if you are self-employed or on a contract, but equally important if you are employed by a company.

You need to make sure that you do not take on more than you can manage at any given time. Aim to over-deliver on your clients’ or manager’s expectations. Clarify the requirements and objectives.

You must ensure that training delivers a good Return On Investment (ROI) for the company. Ultimately, this is the bottom-line!

Ask The Right Questions

To understand the end-goals of a project, you need to ask the right questions. You need to liaise with Project Managers, Subject Matter Experts, and other senior role-players to gather the information you need. Listen to the answers carefully.

  • What is the purpose of this educational program?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • How will you assess the learning?
  • How will you measure that the program achieved the intended goals?

You will probably have many more questions to ask for each specific training program that you undertake to build.

Before you start content-authoring, it is vital to understand the required goals.

While working on the project, it is also vital to get feedback from the stakeholders. Set up communication channels and ask for input at various stages, as you develop the learning program. Listen to any complaints and suggestions they might offer. Tweak and improve your eLearning program to meet the required objectives.

Create Content That Engages And Motivates Learners

To create effective learning experiences, you should follow these 3 steps:

  1. Collaborate with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). Ensure material is accurate, up-to-date, complete and coherent.
  2. Master the features of effective authoring tools to help you create engaging content. Find tools that will save you time and provide the functions you need easily.
  3. Be sure to include simulated and scenario-based eLearning to enhance the learner's experience. Provide a practical application of new knowledge and skills.

Research shows that when learning is interactive, retention is higher.

“Active learning, not passive [learning] makes it impossible to sleep through a class,” – Prof. Eric Mazur1

Thus, it is vital to include simulation and scenario-based eLearning.

Simulation creates a safe place where learners can also learn from their mistakes. They feel secure as errors won't impact others. There won't be real-life consequences or expensive mistakes. This boosts retention and retrieval levels.

Branched scenarios create virtual experiences where learners can work through different outcomes. This develops critical thinking skills. Businesses today want trainees to be able to respond appropriately to a variety of job situations.

Keep Learning Yourself

To be an extraordinary Instructional Designer, you should not only create effective content. You must be a learner too!

In the economy of the 21st Century, it is vital to keep up to date with new trends, new tools and new research in your field. This applies to virtually any career, but especially in an industry that is advancing as fast the Learning and Development industry.  Learn about new products, new research, and network with other industry leaders. You must become an industry expert.

An exceptional Instructional Designer creates customizable, interactive courses that simulate one-to-one learning. You create material that makes learning relevant to engage and upskill learners more effectively.

You need an authoring tool that has easy planning and branched scenario editing function to do this more effectively.

You will stand out from the crowd if you do this better and faster and if your training achieves its goals and delivers ROI.


Mazur, E., Confessions of a Converted Lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Master Class, 13 November 2014