Instructional Designers Need a Thick Skin

thick-skinFrom the outside looking in, instructional designers look like they have it made!

They have the freedom to be creative with course development, access to cool technology, and often some degree of flexibility in their work schedule.

Those of us who have been in this industry for a few weeks learn a reality very quickly when it comes to being an instructional designer: you better have a thick skin.

I suppose this is good advice for anyone across any industry, but I believe it to be twice as true for anyone in the elearning and training world.

Many elearning development projects are similar in that the people creating the training must rely upon others (subject matter experts, or SMEs) for the course content. The trouble is that many of these SMEs are extremely busy doing their day-to-day activities. Helping you create training is just added work for them.

I can recall my first consulting project where I was tasked to create an elearning module. Coming out of graduate school, I was eager to get to work and prove myself.

After getting acclimated with my co-workers, my responsibilities, and the client, I began my attempt to set-up meetings with SMEs so that I could begin creating the course wire-frames. I wrote the most professional email that I could, then sent an Outlook meeting invite.

Three days later – nothing.

Not a single person confirmed a meeting or responded to an email.

As time was running short (we had a lot to create in just a little amount of time) I decided to go and formally introduced myself to the SMEs in the hope to discuss potential meeting options. I can’t remember what was said to me exactly during these brief encounters, but some of the interactions included:

  • Looks of annoyance
  • Eye rolling or not looking up from the computer
  • “Too busy for anything training related” comments
  • Immediately getting up and walking away to get to a meeting (a personal favorite of mine)

Don’t let anyone fool you – instructional design is not for the faint of heart.

As I became more seasoned in the field, I understood how to deal with SMEs more effectively. I knew that I had to build trust and respect through honest rapport. If I relied only upon sending emails and meeting invites, then I would miss my very critical deadlines.

Everyone in this industry has their “war” stories. This is just one of mine that I find to be a nice reminder that nothing worthwhile comes easy. Your job as an instructional designer is to make other people care as much as you – and that’s not an easy task!

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About the Author:

Justin Ferriman is the co-founder and CEO of LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by the world's leading organizations, such as the University of Michigan, Digital Marketer, WPEngine, and Infusionsoft. Justin has made a career as an elearning consultant where he has implemented large-scale training programs for Fortune 500 companies. Twitter | LinkedIn

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