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From Student to Subject-matter Expert: The E-learning Journey of an Instructional Designer

From Student to Subject-matter Expert: The E-learning Journey of an Instructional Designer

Becoming an Instructional Designer is not so easy. Today, I will take you through the journey of an Instructional Designer (ID) when he gets onboard an eLearning project.

Only One Degree- Instructional Design

Before signing up for a career in instructional design, you should be aware of the fact that you will no longer belong to the only degree you hold.

Instructional design doesn’t ask for expertise in one subject or area, as its applications are diverse. Working as an ID for over a long period, I had the chance to work on several training programs designed for the staff members of various companies in the automobile, IT, healthcare, electronics and other sectors.

Only One Degree- Instructional Design

In the initial days, I was hesitant to work on projects that are not related to my educational background or things that I haven’t even heard about before. I felt I couldn’t do justice to a course without having a solid understanding of its subject. I believed that it could be acquired only through a degree in that field. Even today, I see this discomfort among new IDs when they are assigned a project that is out of their knowledge base. One can erase this fear, move out of their comfort zone and yet remain successful, with a proper understanding of the instructional design theory. I will try to explain the three roles you need to play, in order to overcome this hurdle and be a successful ID.

Role1: Being a Good Student

Being a Good Student

The first step in any effective learning theory talks about content analysis. During this phase, I recommend you to forget your educational background (even if the content is related to it) and start afresh, as a student of the subject. In this stage, you need not worry about putting yourself into the shoes of the learner or applying your instructional theories to develop the so called “effective training program”. Working on these two things this early in the process will only deteriorate the progress and complex things for you. Play the role of a student who is reading the content of his passion for the first time. Forget your goal of teaching the content and develop a deep understanding of the concepts as any student would do. Do not hesitate to clear your doubts on the content from the subject-matter expert, no matter how silly they appear to be (remember you are not an ID here, but a student).

Role2: Being an Instructional Designer

Being an Instructional Designer

The second role is familiar and most comfortable to any ID. Here, you need to play the role of an instructional designer (obviously, that’s what you’ve signed up for) or a learning specialist. Having performed a thorough content analysis, you now need to design and develop an instructional strategy that is very effective in explaining this content to your learner. If you have played the earlier role successfully, this job should be much easier for you. Your comprehension of the subject enhances your confidence and erases the fear of moving out from the comfort zone. Now, you have good knowledge of the topic and can proceed further. You need to apply the learning principles to convert the content into a format that is understood by the learner easily. Here, you can recall your memories from the previous role to ensure that the troubles you faced as a student to understand the content are resolved in your course. This role is very helpful in the design phase of the traditional learning development process.

Role3: Being a Subject-matter Expert

Being a Subject-matter Expert

Finally, during the development phase, you need to play the role of a subject-matter expert. Being an instructional designer alone cannot help you pass this phase smoothly. Your development team needs someone with great control on the content in order to develop an effective and efficient course. So, you have to be a subject-matter expert who has good knowledge of instructional design principles. The first two roles go a long way in helping you play the third. Being a student, you have understood the content thoroughly and as a learning specialist, you have formulated the instructional design strategy to be applied. Putting these two roles to the best use is your task in this phase.

What are the challenges you face as an Instructional Designer?

What are the questions you have in mind while kicking off a new project?

Leave your comments in the section below.

View eBook on Instructional Design101: A Handy Reference Guide to E-learning Designers


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