Hi All, 

I am interested to hear what knowledge, skills and behaviours people look for when recruiting for instructional designers?

I am a little hesitant to use the phrase instructional designers, as based on previous experience this attracts those with experience only in developing traditional elearning modules using single author tools. I think the need is more than that though - what is required is someone with the creativity and technical ability to created learning in multiple formats that attract modern learners. I wonder if any L&D experience is even necessary?

If anyone has any thoughts on what to look for when recruiting, I look forward to hearing them!



Views: 786

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Based on what I do in my job, and what I see in job listings for these roles at universities in my area the actual skills vary based on the team / specific role, but are composed of a selection of the following:

background in one or more of the following:

- education

- IT

- film

- graphic design / UID / HCI

- psychology

skills in:

- communication

- leadership

- project management

- support / training

- collaboration

- time management

- innovation

- decision making (prioritisation, cost benefit analysis, etc)

And I'm sure there are many more (keen to see what else people suggest)

Hi Paul,

I agree completely re the term! To me, ID work encompasses quite a broad spectrum, but I find that most people interpret it quite narrowly. For example, Jane Hart last year wrote a post on the 5 stages of workplace learning, where IDs work only at stage 2 - essentially content-based courses only (http://www.c4lpt.co.uk/blog/2015/03/30/5-stages-of-workplace-learning-revisited-again/). I don’t agree with this: my team of 10 or so IDs work more broadly than this, and have done so in their previous roles as well. Nevertheless, this seems to be how the world (and a lot of IDs) see ID,unfortunately.A name change may be the only way to fix this...

I think the skills needed are very much dependent on the context: e.g. are you developing FE /HE level courses? Are you developing bespoke solutions for B2B? Are you working in-house as part of L&D? The last of these is, I think, the only one where L&D skills might be needed (depending on what you mean by L&D skills).

In her book, The Accidental Instructional Designer, Cammy Bean (VP of Learning Design for Kineo US) lists about 24 areas of knowledge / skills for IDs: I don’t think the idea is that all IDs necessarily excel in all areas but should definitely have a range of skills across a good subset of them. You can access a free sample chapter at http://files.astd.org/Publication-Attachments/111410/Sample_Chapter_1.pdf. Pages 11-14 talk about the Elearning Pie, and come up with a rough framework for ID skills.

As for what I look for - this is very much dependent on my current role. I’m ID manager for a company that provides a lot of courses for professional accreditation (e.g. CIPD, ACCA, etc) as well as some groundbreaking courses on digital leadership. These courses are developed in Moodle, often around a social / collaborative model of learning and we don’t use SCORM. Some of what I look for is similar to items in Renee’s list, but I used Cammy’s breakdown as a starting point, leaving out the bits I didn’t need. In a different role with a different organisation I would probably prioritise different areas, but here’s what I look for now:

- strong knowledge of pretty much everything in the “Learning, Pedagogy and Assessment” category - adult learning, behaviour change, instructional strategies, assessment, learning outcomes, etc.

- strong skills in writing (copy writing and script writing), video production, and hopefully storytelling.

- I’m not so bothered about technology (they’re bound to have used some tools etc - so long as it’s relevant, and they are not technophobes)

- consulting skills and project management. 

In terms of mindset:

  • a certain fearlessness. A willingness to engage with colleagues at all levels of the business and be assertive about what ID brings to the party
  • curiosity. It’s a changing world, IDs sometimes need to be mini-SMEs, so a willingness to learn and explore, in terms of ID knowledge, the subject matter, and our learners and how they behave. And just curiosity in general - if that makes sense?
  • a focus on evidence. We get great analytics data, so we MUST use it (even - in the unlikely event - when it tells us our design needs improvement)
  • a focus on quality, combined with flexibility (e.g. based on time, money or resources available)
  • a willingness to iterate, and not be precious about our work

With all the above, I find that IDs will also have skills in other areas and will bring valuable experience, but those are broadly what I prioritise.

Recruiting IDs isn’t easy, and it is time-consuming and depending on the level I’m recruiting for (e.g. junior / mid / senior) I’ll be flexible but a good mix of the above is essential for me.

What about you? What do you think?



Hi Paul,

I have been in this profession for a few years now, and what I have noticed is that recruiters have very wide understanding of what an ID does and so do e-learning providers.

The skills are normally a cross between editing, technical, design, and a bit of PM. In other words, if you are a graphic designer, you can be an ID, if you are and e-learning developer, you can be an ID, if you know how to use Power Point, Excel and Word, have degree in English, feel creative and are passionate about learning, you can be an ID, and if you are ever so enthusiastic about technology, you can definitely be an ID.

 I don't deny that an ID should have a bit of all those requisites and an ability to work in a client facing environment; however, one would expect that professionals who design for learning, e-learning should posses and demonstrate the ability to design for that purpose. Yet, I have never been asked about the role of scaffolding, how do you implement it in a course, what is the rationale for using an MCQ or a True or False type of quetion, in what ways a video can support learning better than audio? How do you assess understanding....

The problem is that more often than not, e-learning courses have got very little to do with learning, and more to do with imparting knowledge and checking knowledge. Then, depending on how good the graphic designer team is, or how big the budget is, the course can be made very appealing or very off-putting from the start. But either way, it won't work.

To sum up, you can call an ID an ID, a Learning Designer, a Learning Architect, anyone can answer a Job Ad and conveniently rebrand themselves.

However, the skills that this professional should posses will always be a  reflection of the understanding and vision the e-learning provider or the Head of ID have. If, the employer proud himself with offering the best gamification in town, but never heard of Deci&Ryan, then I would wonder....


Great to read the comments so far and useful things to think about. One of the requirements I keep coming back to is someone with creativity and drive - someone who can understand a business need then think creatively to create suitable learning interventions (in many engaging different formats). (I'm in house L&D by the way!)

Hi Paul,

do you need to employ and ID and don't quite know what skills this professional will need? Or are you trying to select an e-learning company and you want to know what questions to ask to those who may design the course?

Either way, an ID needs to think "creatively" but in this process they are assisted by Graphic Designers (often confused with Power Point experts, sadly); also they would work together and brainstorm options. However, please don't be tricked by the creative solution as the panacea to your learning intervention. If creativity is not linked to learning, (i.e. how does the creative solution will tackle the business problem?, you will merely  end up with some nicely wrapped up content.

Graphic Designers, they can make courses look beautiful, modern and sleek, and with the best possible UX. But if the course is not structured so that it makes the learner wanting to go from A to B and B to C, you have just wasted money.

If an ID tells you that he/she is going to make the course engaging by designing a game, then you need to find out how that solution will make people learn.

For instance, in the field of language learning, we know that games are great to engage students, students became very competitive and forget they are in a learning environment, and this is cause what they are doing feels like fun. But for the tutor, the choice of a particular activity is functional to a particular outcome, deciding to go for a game is not about entertaining bored or reluctant students.

So, one would pick the "battleship" if needed learners to practice numbers, the alphabet and pronunciation. But why would you want them to engage in such an activity? Well, maybe because the goal is for the learner to develop listening comprehension skills at a very basic level, and finally being able to write down someone's name and telephone number. So through this game we can take learners from A to and B to C.

I hope this helps


For me, one of the root causes of elearning not being as good as it can be, is that many of the people in the industry don't actually do any elearning for their own purpose. By that I mean the type of elearning they are procuring, writing, designing, selling etc. I think if they did, things would be very different.

So I'd be looking for someone who is actively interested in learning through 'elearning'. 

Apologies for being quite late to the party, folks, and genuinely hoping that the trail has not gone totally cold ;). I have also found the comments so far very useful, but it has struck me that nobody has mentioned the multilingual, multicultural aspect of e-learning so far. I appreciate that a fair amount of e-learning is created in English, but at the same time not a negligible part is being localised, too. 

What are your thoughts on this? Do IDs always have the potential end-user belonging to a different culture in mind, too? Are they careful to design different culturally-appropriate scenarios for the other languages, too, although this will obviously be more expensive in the short-term than simply translating and sticking some subtitles over the videos? Are they bold enough to scrap the English design and propose something quite different for other cultures or is the world being Anglicised through this medium, too? Are Graphic Designers always aware of the needs of designing interfaces and choosing layouts which can easily accommodate Unicode text and expanding translations? Are content authors careful to write content which does not touch on local sensitivities and which is unambiguous so that it can be easily translated (although you'd hope ambiguities would get picked up quite early on).

Really looking forward to reading your comments!

We have a large number of international students so they are a consideration, however not from a language perspective (as our institution teaches in English), we do work with our content providers to limit the use of colloquialism, and to broaden the scope of scenarios to a global field.



Sponsor promotion

LSG Sponsors

© 2021   Created by Donald H Taylor.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service