Transitioning From Teaching To Instructional Design: How To Overcome Common Challenges

Transitioning From Teaching To Instructional Design: How To Overcome Common Challenges
Summary: Teachers face multiple challenges when transitioning to Instructional Design: from biases some IDs hold against them and changing their mindset to entry-level positions with a required working experience and failed expectations. Luckily, there are ways to overcome these challenges.

Why Is It So Difficult To Land An ID Role?

Ever since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic—and the boom of the eLearning industry—teachers started to transition to the field of Instructional Design in great numbers. Some did so for a higher salary and more growth opportunities, while others got disappointed in K-12 education that becomes more demanding and less rewarding, and wished to get away from long hours and constant stress. However, the field of eLearning isn’t that easy to enter. Most people take months or even years to get a job offer.

In this article, you’ll learn the main challenges that teachers face when transitioning to Instructional Design and ways to overcome them.

IDs’ Biases Against Teachers (And Vice Versa)

If you browse ID communities on social media, like Reddit or LinkedIn, sooner or later you’ll face Instructional Designers who refer to your transition as “running away from a failed career” or even a “tsunami of K-12 teachers.” These people believe that teachers don’t realize the complexity of Instructional Design, thinking they already have what it takes to be in ID since they’ve mastered Zoom and PowerPoint. And they therefore shouldn’t “flood” the ID sphere with their incompetency. Such comments, added to multiple unsuccessful job interviews, lead some teachers to a firm belief that there’s a sort of gatekeeping in the industry. It goes without saying that both of these positions are biased.

How can you, as a teacher, overcome this challenge? Keep a clear head and prove them wrong. The reality is that your teaching experience can be an obstacle only if you refuse to upskill. If you acknowledge the difference between ID and teaching and fill this gap with ID methodologies, learn to develop curriculums, find resources, and master eLearning software, ID hiring managers will have no problem offering you a job. And if they don’t, it won’t be because you have a teaching background, but another reason (experience, skills, motivation, etc.).

A Mindset Change

Probably the most challenging aspect of the transition is realizing what this new corporate world is and what your role is within it. Unlike education at schools, corporate training isn’t about developing knowledge in people. It’s profit-focused. Your ultimate goal is to improve and develop the company, not the people working there. There is nothing wrong with this—that’s how businesses work. And that’s something teachers might find difficult to take, as their experience was the contrary. If you feel like this isn’t something you’re looking for, then consider looking for ID positions in higher education or nonprofit organizations.

The mindset change also involves the aspect of having different learners. First of all, they are adults and they learn differently. Secondly, even if you have experience teaching adults, it may not be applicable to your new job. The lecture-centered approach used at schools will not work in all cases in corporate training. You need to master other learning styles and approaches. Continuous learning is a must for IDs, so prepare to learn a lot.

Impostor Syndrome

Unlike teaching at schools, where you had one subject you’ve been studying and teaching for years, Instructional Design requires you to train people on multiple subjects, some of which you’ve never heard of. That’s why many newcomers have impostor syndrome—they get stressed out because they don’t really know what they’re teaching.

This is a common “rookie” mistake. You need to realize that ID isn’t about knowledge, it’s about designing learning experiences. You don’t have to be an expert in all the subjects—that’s impossible. You have SMEs to handle that. So, learn to work with SMEs and master learning experience design to inject their knowledge into the online courses that’ll be most engaging for your learners and effective for business.

Entry Level Positions That Require Experience

The sad reality of the eLearning market is that even entry-level positions require three to five years of experience in most companies. You can say that’s not fair and even absurd, but this will hardly be helpful. Yes, the market seems to be built in a way to make you pray for job opportunities. However, it will be much more useful if you seek solutions.

There are several ways for you to solve this issue. First, you can create online courses during a trial period of an authoring tool and add these works to your portfolio. However, this isn’t the best option, as it doesn’t really give you much experience. A much more productive way is to find a volunteer vacancy or an internship in ID and get a real feel for your new role. Apart from working in a company and getting to know business processes, you also receive feedback from learners on your work that helps you improve your skills and knowledge. This will give you a better chance of getting an ID job offer.

eLearning Software

Most teachers transitioning to Instructional Design believe that their biggest challenge is mastering eLearning software. Senior Instructional Designers tend to think differently. The thing is that eLearning tools change. Now, a company can have Articulate Storyline or Camtasia, then they get a better licensing deal with another vendor, and it is something different. So, if you spend a year learning to use Articulate, it won’t guarantee you anything. A more effective way would be for you to get familiar with the most popular Instructional Design tools and be able to master them in the shortest time possible.

Moreover, there’s an aspect of Instructional Design that professionals rarely discuss. The awe-inspiring interactive courses with multiple animations and branching scenarios that you can see on the portfolios of experienced IDs is only about 10% of the actual job. 90% of training programs companies need are standardized professional-looking courses on compliance training, onboarding, and such.

So, many Instructional Designers use several software tools, each for a specific task. For example, if they need a very complicated advanced course, they might use Articulate Storyline or Adobe Captivate. But when they need something less complicated, they won’t use them, as it would be absurdly difficult, like slicing bread with an axe. They would probably use tools like iSpring Suite to complete their project much faster and easier.

So, be ready to work with various eLearning software tools and learn to pick the one that fits best for each particular task.

Failed Expectations

By now, you might feel that Instructional Design isn’t what you imagined it to be. And that’s good. You need to know right away what you can expect in order to determine whether this is what you want. If you expect to continue teaching people face to face, Instructional Design won’t do—a trainer, however, will be a solid option. If you want to track learner progress and be responsible for the administration of eLearning, that’s not Instructional Design either. Consider positions like an LMS administrator or an eLearning officer.

So, do your homework, research the field of eLearning thoroughly to understand the specifics of your future profession, and make sure you’re excited about it. Otherwise, you may overcome multiple challenges and end up somewhere you didn’t want to be in the first place.

Don’t Give Up

A career shift is never easy, and ID is no exception. Don’t believe anyone who says otherwise. Most people send out hundreds of applications, take dozens of job interviews, and don’t get a job offer for months. So, get ready for a long and hard struggle. Always remember why you decided to make this transition and use this as your motivation. Eventually, you will land the ID role. It only takes time and effort (and just a bit of luck).

eBook Release: iSpring Suite
iSpring Suite
An all-in-one software solution for creating versatile learning content and teamwork on eLearning projects. Super easy to use; no coding or design skills are required.