My journey to become an Instructional Designer is not as clear-cut as some may imagine, but then, again, when polling some of my contacts in my professional network, many instructional designers transitioned into this field with some prior experiences in fields that sometimes have nothing to do with adult learning, or learning and development, or instructional design per se. Many instructional designers do not even have an official Instructional Design degree.
I began my transition into the field of Instructional Design when I started taking some courses from the Instructional Design program in the College of Education at Ohio University in 2013; of course, at the time I was full-time faculty teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) to international students. In 2018, I had amassed enough credit hours, so my advisor recommended I complete the program to be able to be awarded a master’s degree in Instructional Design. I enjoyed taking classes as I was able to transfer all my knowledge back to my classroom. I tested out some theories and designed the curriculum for the classes I facilitated. Being the Writing Lab Coordinator, I also designed our training program for the tutors, which included a comprehensive on-demand set of instructional materials in our LMS system to help tutors continue developing their expertise and provide the most effective tutoring services to our students.
I have learned a couple of lessons along the way that I’d like to share in this blog post with the rest of the instructional design community in this forum.
1. Be proactive
Instructional Designers need to be able to present a solid portfolio to their potential employers. Unfortunately, instructional design projects do not fall out from the sky, so one needs to be proactive in identifying opportunities for instructional design project work. If one is taking classes in Instructional Design, certain exemplary projects may be included in one’s portfolio; you are in luck if your program offers a capstone project, where you can present certain work you are proud of. However, if this is not possible, be proactive in identifying opportunities to design and develop instructional materials that can later be added to your portfolio. This excellent resource gives you many ideas for your instructional design projects.
2. Build your network
Another important piece of the puzzle in your success as Instructional Designer is building your professional network. What propelled my success in growing my professional network is meeting a co-host of my favorite podcast Instructional Redesign, Cara North and being introduced to some of her contacts, and then the rest is history. Once I met Cara and got introduced to some of her contacts, I started meeting more and more influencers in the field and learning from them, which has been a tremendously rewarding experience. Check out Cara’s video on growing your network.
3. Never stop learning
It would be ironic to be in the field of instructional design and constantly educate others about something and not be a life-long learner yourself. It is especially important to stay on top of the most current technology and platforms available to instructional designers. Many such resources provide free trial periods to help you familiarize yourself with the resource so you can confidently speak about your experience with this platform at networking events or at job interviews.
4. Never give up
It can be quite frustrating to always have to be on top of all new developments in the field and having to constantly grow and update your portfolio, but the truth is - we in the instructional design field cannot afford to give up! We have to be patient, continue learning and growing professionally, grow our network, and the results will soon follow!