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5 Must-Have Qualities for an Instructional Designer

Despite having an additional formal degree in instructional design, Instructional Designers (ID) can come from various educational backgrounds. Take my team for example, I have IDs from language, science and even business administration fields. Regardless of their varied educational backgrounds, each of them come up with creative instructional ideas and strategies for presenting content. Of course this couldn’t have happened without thorough training in instructional design models, principles, theories, best practices etc. Every new member of our team is put through extensive training on how to develop effective instruction.

In my view, an Instructional Designer can be from any educational background but should have these five basic qualities.


According to Wikipedia, “Creativity is the phenomenon where a person creates something new that has some kind of value.” IDs need to come up with creative ideas for presenting content, design engaging interactivities and devise strategies that motivate and enhance the learning experience.

Writing Ability:

It’s all about the content; IDs need to have good writing ability. They need to be able to provide a structure that conveys thoughts or ideas coherently. Based on the instructional strategy, the writing style or the tone needs to be changed. For instance, you might need to write scenarios, dialogues for the characters being used etc. in a manner that is suitable to the context and the learners’ profile.

Visualization Ability:

An ID may get projects where it is easy to visualize the required concepts. But there might be projects where abstract concepts need to be taught and visualizing these could pose a challenge. A good visualizer can help learners retain information through visual clues, apart from adding value to the instruction.

Eye for Detail:

As an ID, it is very important to have an eye for detail. IDs need to work closely with the SMEs and they share lots of background material to develop an eLearning module. IDs need to go through all these and take the relevant pieces to meet the objectives for creating the eLearning program. There might be instances when the inputs given by the SMEs do not map the objectives. There may be other instances when only a few topics meet the objectives of the course and using the complete material is not required. (Often the SMEs want the eLearning to have all the inputs/ information they have provided). In such cases, IDs should be capable of identifying and choosing relevant information and deciding the best way to deliver a good learning experience.

Problem Solving:

This is a skill that is required in most fields and it applies to instructional design as well. IDs need to meet the demands of all stakeholders – including SMEs and internal teams. There are chances that each one of them has different expectations from the output, so IDs need to collaborate and ensure that they are aligned.

So does it mean that instructional designers can be from any educational background as long as they possess certain basic qualities? Do you think there are other qualities that have been missed out that are a must to become an ID? Do share your thoughts.

nstructional Design 101: A Handy Reference Guide to eLearning Designers