I'm thinking about Instructional Design as a career. Where do I start?
August 8, 2018 2:46 PM   Subscribe

I've recently graduated (B.S. Business Admin) and have been actively searching out and exploring different career paths. Instructional design has been on my radar and fits with my competencies and interests and I'm wondering what I can do to get my feet wet.

As noted, I graduated last year and have floundered a bit trying to find a career path that really piques my interest and gives me motivation to officially leave my bartending job. I posted earlier this year about wanting to exit the service industry (in any capacity) and got wonderful advice about how to transition out of it. I've since temped at a couple of different offices (while keeping my bartending job as a good money-making side gig) and have been more actively exploring different careers.

Why instructional design? I actually finished my last two years of undergrad online while traveling through Central America (my brick and mortar university back home offered enough online classes that allowed me to be completely location independent) and was inspired by the delivery of information and the process of completing the degree in an online format. I actively engaged with professors about changing module content and asking system admins to add features to the interface that would facilitate with ease of use. On top of this, I have one year of teaching experience abroad and three years of tutoring. I love the classroom and putting lessons together, but I found myself getting very burned out and quickly learned teaching was a profession better suited to those who thrived in that environment. I'm also fairly tech savvy and pick up the ins and outs of new software fairly easily.

Instructional design seems to pull in some of the things I enjoyed about teaching, my tech-minded orientation, my experience with online learning, and my project management-oriented bartending mind into something that might really fit for me.

The next step?... Where do I actually start? I'm not trying to be a CEO in a week or anything and I understand this process might take time. What are some things I could do right now to get more acquainted with the tools an instructional designer might use. What short and medium term goals might I set up for myself? Lastly, does my experience and reasoning for potentially choosing this as a career sound realistic? Because of bartending, I have a flexible schedule and a stream of income and time to dedicate to this pursuit.

I'm very open to any suggestions and critiques and sincerely appreciate your advice!
posted by dontevengetmestarted to Work & Money (6 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Oh hi. I'm studying to be an instructional designer right now. I'd say the classes I'm taking can be broken down into three groupings of skills:

1) Understanding principles of design. Specifically principles of multimedia design. Lots of reading from Mayer. And the ability to use design tools (Adobe products or equivalent).

2) Understanding learning and teaching philosophies. Lots of talk of constructivism and radical progessive teaching philosophies (which tech can lend itself to). Buzz words seem to be chunking information, presenting opportunities for levelling ("gamifying learning") and knowing your learner.

3) Comfort working with the tools to build these learning tools/platforms. In our neck of the woods jobs primarily ask for familiarity with Adobe Captivate and Articulate's Storyline.

Sounds like you have a good base already. Can you look at some local job postings to see what you'll likely be expected to know where you are and then just... start learning those skills? Anybody willing to pay for a software (and comb through youtube videos and forums) can put together an excellent portfolio. In fact that would describe my schooling experience pretty well. I'd be happy to share my reading lists and the softwares I need to use if you'd like them.
posted by eisforcool at 4:17 PM on August 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

I was an instructional designer for over six years and still employ it in my consulting practice. In addition to the technical skills that eisforcool lists above, you will also want to develop (or continue to enhance) your writing and analytical skills. Instructional designers are often charged with taking highly technical content, or content that is full of jargon, "insider language" and acronyms, and making it interesting, accessible, and informative for the person on the street.

I'd suggest that you become conversant with the ADDIE model, adult learning theory, learn how to write good learning objectives, build out solid course outlines, learn how to storyboard, and develop an approach for both soft and hard skills. Learn what scenario-based learning is, and how to construct good scenarios. Identify the various types of assessments and evaluations that are used and be able to talk about them. Also, you may want to learn how to use Adobe Connect, WebEx, Zoom, and other conferencing tools and have an understanding of what blended learning is.

As far as getting your start, a lot of universities offer continuing education or certificate programs in instructional design. You can also take classes on Coursera or on Lynda.com. I actually just learned on-the-job - I had a training job, and the courses were horrible, so I just redesigned them myself. You might want to look around and see if there's a deserving non-profit and offer to redesign their curriculum on a pro bono basis, just to start building your portfolio.

Good luck!
posted by dancing_angel at 10:03 PM on August 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

If this is your goal, please become fluent in web accessibility for people with disabilities.
posted by childofTethys at 1:02 AM on August 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Not just certificates; my wife has an MEd in ID. She's been doing it for 20+ years and enjoys it. At first, she even liked the stand-up training her early employers wanted her to do, but that got old. There's some overlap between ID and tech writing, but not always.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:40 PM on August 9, 2018

Thank you so much for your responses everyone! Currently on edX starting their micro masters as well as exploring different software.
posted by dontevengetmestarted at 6:39 PM on August 11, 2018

I have worked for major universities as instructional support alongside ID'ers and have a Instructional Design degree.

I would say, in addition to all the above - getting familiar with learning management systems like Canvas and Blackboard would be helpful too.

One thing you may find as I did - you may work your way into UX design as it is somewhat related - way better money, more respect and more opportunities. I found - in my area anyway - there are more contract positions than regular full time work.
posted by gregjunior at 12:15 PM on August 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

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