Editing-ElearningInstructional design is a fascinating profession with a vast array of tools, guidelines, theories, and best-practices. If you are just getting started with instructional design, then all of this can seem pretty overwhelming.

As is the case in most professions, it is quite easy to get caught up in the latest “shiny object”. The latest tech toys when it comes to elearning are exciting, but they aren’t what makes or breaks an instructional designer.

As you hone your craft, you will begin to develop habits. Successful elearning course developers formulate these habits after years of practical application. Below is a list of some of the more common habits of successful instructional designers.

You will notice that among them there isn’t anything related to a specific technology tool. This is very much intentional. Instructional design tools are just that: tools. Your habits as a designer are what will determine if the tools you choose are successful or not.

This is not to say that technology in the elearning industry should be ignored. Instead, the point is that technology shouldn’t be used as a crutch. If you don’t focus on solid instructional design principles, the most powerful software in the world won’t make a difference.

Habits of a Successful Instructional Designer

Simplifies Complex Topics – Materials that fuel course content are often full of jargon and complexities that learners don’t necessarily need to know. Good instructional designers understand which content matters and how to communicate in a way that is accessible and relevant to course goals.

Learner First Mentality – It is easy to think of course material from the instructor perspective as you determine the learning objectives, course delivery, and target audience. This is all well and good, but the most successful course implementations take a learner-centric approach as well. This means gaining a thorough understanding of the learner demongraphics.

Tactful Use of Engagement – Adding engagement to elearning courses isn’t that difficult as most elearning tools make this easy. Having an understanding of when and how to use engagement is a little more challenging. Successful instructional designers know when engagement is useful versus when it is a distraction.

Constantly Improves Content – Creating a course is never a “one-and-done” process. As time goes on, content becomes dated. The most seasoned of instructional designers educate their client about this, and formulates an action plan to address out-of-date content.


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About Justin Ferriman

Justin Ferriman started LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by Fortune 500 companies, major universities, training organizations, and entrepreneurs worldwide for creating (and selling) their online courses. Justin's Homepage | Twitter


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This information is great. As an experienced instructional designer/developer, I would add to the last point that the true professionals carefully (but not necessarily exhaustively) document their work and measure outcomes to guide their refinements — which are not exclusively related to out-of-date information. Resting on “they liked it so it must be OK” is not sufficient. Learn how to do better assessment of how you’re doing on the first three habits, and use that information to hone your craft.

Avatar Bonnie Taylor

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