Should you become an Instructional Designer?
(4 Key Traits)

If you are here, I must assume that you are trying to decide whether or not you should become an instructional designer.

I do hope that this article will help you decide :-)


In the past decade, I’ve witnessed a transformation. From being a relatively unknown and possibly arcane discipline in India, Instructional Design has now evolved into a much sought-after skill. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about the skills that an instructional designer must possess. Most young men and women learn of this discipline through job consultants who try to find a sort of instructional panacea for their client organizations – and then they use whatever they gathered from the consultants to “construct” their reality of what skills and instructional designer must have.

When I talk to people who wish to enroll for my Instructional Design courses (the IDCD course and the IDST course,) I realize that many aren’t really aware of what sort of discipline Instructional Design is.

Through this short article, I shall attempt to sketch the profile of an ideal instructional designer. If you are planning for a career in instructional design, and I mean a real, lifetime career – high on growth, satisfaction, and self-esteem; then you should ask yourself the following questions and review the answers.

Do you enjoy writing?

If you enjoy writing, being an instructional designer would be fun; when you enjoy your work, you automatically experience faster growth. It is important that you review this parameter carefully. If you don’t like to write, don’t become an instructional designer. Each of us has a dominant skill – you should explore your personality to find yours. In the first four to five years of your career in instructional design and content writing, you’d be expected to turn in about 8-10 pages of original content a day. In some cases, this could be more. Are you ready for it? Reflect. If you don’t like to write, yet you want to learn instructional design only because you feel that it’d brighten your prospects, you are mistaken. An year or two down the line you’ll begin to experience stagnation. You’ll also realize, perhaps a bit too late that you spent your precious years doing stuff that you hated doing. Be kind to yourself; don’t subject yourself to this pain.

Do you write well?

If you wish for a career with the eLearning or the content development industry of India, you should be able to answer this question in the affirmative. When you apply for a content developer/instructional designer’s job, the first test that you’ll be required to take and pass would be an English language test. I’d like to also say that in my opinion, while language skills are important, they still come next to your love for writing. Writing good English is more about expressing your ideas clearly than it is about dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s. If you love to write, then you’ll find ways and means to improve your writing, but before you seriously begin to consider a career as an instructional designer, you will have to feel confident of your writing abilities.

If you love to write, spend a couple of months learning to write better – then learn instructional design and get going :-)

Are you Creative, Logical, or Both?

If you think that your temperament blends creativity and logic, you would make an excellent instructional designer. In fact, after progressing beyond the first five years, you’d be writing less and thinking more. Instructional design requires 1. a framework of logic to ensure effectiveness and 2. some creativity to make the content interesting. However, remember that you don’t need to be as creative as a storywriter nor as logical as a programmer – but you shouldn’t score a zero on any of these parameters either.

I believe that for an instructional designer, logic is a bit more important than creativity. You could create good courses by relying solely on logic – yet, if you wanted to create great courses, you couldn’t do without creativity.

Do you Like Engaging with People?

If that surprises you, let me explain. An instructional designer or a content writer seldom works alone. He or she interacts with different individuals to ensure effective content creation. The prominent people with whom an instructional designer connects on a regular basis are, the Subject Matter Expert, the graphic designer, the programmer, and at times, the client. Though at the beginning of your career, your interactions with these individuals would be minimal; you will have to become comfortable with them in the long run. So, if you are completely averse to meeting new people and conversing with them, but you have scored well on the first three questions, consider becoming a Web Content Writer instead.

The Conclusion

Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 5 on the above parameters, and see where you stand.
If you score well on these parameters, consider yourself a rising star in this field. If you are a fresher with a passion for writing, a willingness to improve your language skills, and have a logical way of thinking – you should seriously think of becoming a content writer or an instructional designer.

I hope this helps you decide. My recommendation is – don’t become an instructional designer with a short-term objective. Check how well your personality matches that of the ideal instructional designer.

Remember:

  • If you don’t love to write, as an instructional designer you’d be miserable for at least the first five years, and because you would’ve spent those five years being miserable, it’d show up in your work – killing your future prospects.
  • If you love to write but are unwilling to improve your grammar, certain eLearning companies would employ you for one-third the right salary, and you’d be feeling bad all the time.
  • If you are hyper-creative (a genius of the novel-writing kind,) Instructional Design’s need for clear, concise logic will suffocate you, and in the long run, you’d lose your energy.
  • Finally, if you don’t like engaging with people at all, you’ll find many stumbling blocks in your career path. People skills are essential for growth – especially if you are an Instructional Designer, because your ability to interact with people positively would have a direct bearing upon the quality of your content.

For those who score well on all the four parameters that I’ve listed above, Instructional Design could be a rewarding career option. If you think you have it in you, forge ahead.

I wish you clear-headed, practical decision-making. All the best!

 

- Author: Shafali R. Anand



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The Instructional Design Courses by Shafali R. Anand (The IDCD Course and the IDST Course) are conducted at Noida - Delhi NCR, India.