5 Must-Have Qualities for an Instructional Designer


For Instructional Designers, more than the educational background, it is their Creativity, Problem Solving &Writing Abilities that matter.

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.

Instructional Design 101: A Handy Reference Guide to E-learning Designers

Recent Comments

  • http://Corrie%20Bergeron

    10/20/2011 at 11:19 pm

    IDs also need to be able to see the Big Picture, as well as the little details. They need to see how the course or module they’re designing fits into the context of an overall employee development program (in business) or curriculum (in education). The same quality of seeing the big-picture and the details are found in engineers.

    With regard to visualization, the ID does not need to be a graphic designer or artist. Those really are separate skills. It is helpful to be able to think visually, however. Concept mapping can be a very useful tool in the analysis phase of a project. In addition, the research is clear that content- and context-relevant illustrations (not mere visual decoration) greatly aid learning. It’s generally the ID who specifies the content of graphic resources to be executed by the artistic professionals on the team.

  • http://David%20medcalf

    1/30/2015 at 1:57 pm

    I am afraid you’ve missed out the ability to communicate ideas clearly. ID’s are working in cross disciplinary teams and must be able to communicate the concepts and ideas into reality for all the other members. It is fine training people in the “skills” of the job, but there are other requirements which are part of personality and attitude which need to be within the ID.

    I would also want someone with some understanding of how adults learn, and a depth of understanding of education and psychology issues, not just in IDs but for other team members as well and this should be encourage through PD which doesn’t just focus on their technical skill set whatever they may be.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Copy link