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n the context of creating an online course, people may sometimes use the terms "elearning developer" and "e learning designer" interchangeably. For example, a company looking to develop a training program for their employees might say they need to hire an elearning developer when they actually need an instructional designer, or vice versa. 

While it may not seem like a major concern initially, complications can arise. Both the engaged specialist and the organization may feel did content due to a lack of clarity in expectations. The specialist might find themselves handling duties outside their skill set, which could result in the company being unhappy with the delivered work.

Similarly, aspiring professionals considering a career in instructional design or elearning development should be aware of the distinctions between these two roles. An e learning developer focuses on the technical aspects of creating online courses, like programming, multimedia development, and integrating learning management systems. On the other hand, an instructional designer deals with learning theory, content organization, and designing engaging learning experiences. But these basic differences only scratch the surface. Let's delve deeper into the unique aspects of each role.

Who Is An Instructional Designer vs. eLearning Developer?

To answer that question: let’s imagine an educator, Sarah, who wants to launch a elearning course featuring a variety of topics aimed at helping her students boost their skills. She'll require the combined talents of instructional designers and elearning developers.

First, Sarah needs an instructional designer to help her define the learning objectives and organize the content in a way that facilitates effective learning. They will work closely with her to determine the best way to present information and design activities that enhance skill development for each program.

With the course structure and content in place, the elearning developer steps in to  build the actual content. The elearning developer collaborates with the instructional designer to make sure the content is not only interactive and visually captivating but also runs smoothly on the learning platform.

You can see that both roles are crucial for Sarah’s project. The elearning instructional designer lays the foundation for the courses on the learning platform, while the elearning developer uses their technical expertise to create the content and bring the courses to life.

Core Skills and Responsibilities

Now, it’s clear how instructional design for elearning and content development work collaboratively but what distinct skills and responsibilities do IDs & ELDs possess? How can hiring managers identify exceptional candidates for these positions?

e Learning Developers


  • Technical Expertise
  • Multimedia Development
  • Platform Building and Management


  • Develop and maintain elearning platforms, ensuring seamless user experience
  • Optimize platform performance, ensuring accessibility and compatibility across various devices and browsers
  • Implement analytics and reporting tools to track learner progress and course effectiveness
  • Design and develop interactive content, including animations, videos, and audio elements
  • Create engaging, visually appealing course layouts and user interfaces
  • Collaborate with graphic designers, videographers, and voice-over artists

Instructional Designer


  • Learning Theory and Content Organization
  • Designing Learning Experiences
  • Collaboration with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)
  • Evaluation and Continuous Improvement


  • Apply learning theories and instructional design models to create effective learning experiences
  • Organize content logically, considering the target audience's needs and learning objectives
  • Build course outlines, storyboards, and learning materials, including assessments and quizzes
  • Develop clear learning paths and accommodate diverse learning styles
  • Collaborate with SMEs to gather, validate, and refine course content
  • Ensure that the learning materials accurately represent the subject matter and meet industry standards
  • Facilitate the review and approval process for course content with SMEs
  • Use data-driven insights to improve and update course content, learning activities, and overall learning experience

What You Actually Do As an ID or ELD

In developing elearning content, we use models like ADDIE (Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation) and SAM (Successive Approximation Model) to help them follow a set method. Usually, the following steps make up the planning process:


Course building begins with a look at the needs of the learners, the goals of the learning, and any rules or restrictions. This analysis helps them figure out what skills or knowledge gaps the e-learning material needs to fill.


You make a detailed plan for the e-learning content based on what they learn from the research. This includes setting goals for learning, making a course outline, choosing the right teaching methods and video elements, and planning tests to see how learners are doing. During this time, designers also think about things like accessibility, device compatibility, and how engaged the learner is.

E leafning Development

Instructional designers  are in charge of planning the content, but they often work with e-learning developers during the development stage to make sure the content matches the design plan. You might give advice on how to choose authoring tools, multimedia elements, and interactivity. They might also look over the content as it's being made and give comments.


Here, you work with other stakeholders to put the e-learning material on a learning management system (LMS) or content management system (CMS) and make sure it is available to the right people. You might also teach tutors, administrators, or students how to use the e-learning material in the best way.


Once the e-learning material has been put into place, you gather feedback from learners, instructors, and stakeholders to figure out how well it works. Look at the data and suggest ways to make things better, such as changing the material, the way it is taught, or the way it is tested.

Tools to Use

Instructional design for e learning requires particular technologies. For example:

Project management and collaboration Software

Allows teams  work and management oc various aspects of a project, such as timelines, tasks, and communication. Tools like Trello, Asana, Microsoft Teams, and Slack can help facilitate project management and team collaboration.

Needs Analysis and Learner Assessment Programs

To understand learners' needs and measure their progress, IDs and  ELDs may use survey tools (e.g., SurveyMonkey, Google Forms), data analysis software (e.g., Excel, SPSS), and learning analytics tools integrated into learning management systems.

Content and Curriculum Mapping Tools 

Use these tools to create visual representations of the course structure, sequence, and alignment with learning objectives. Examples include Mindmeister, XMind, and Lucidchart.

Storyboarding Tools

Storyboarding is a way for instructional designers to outline the sequence of content and interactions in an e-learning course. Tools like PowerPoint, Storyboard That, and Plot can be used to create storyboards.

Graphic Design and Multimedia 

Create or edit visual elements for the e-learning content using tools like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and Canva. They may also work with audio and video editing software, such as Audacity and Adobe Premiere Pro.

E-learning Authoring Tools

While instructional designers primarily focus on planning and designing the content, they may also use e-learning authoring tools (such as Articulate Storyline, Adobe Captivate, and Lectora) to prototype or develop parts of the content.


You’d often work with these platforms (e.g., Moodle, Blackboard, Canvas) to organize, deliver, and evaluate e-learning content. They may use built-in tools for creating assessments, generating reports, and managing user access.

Accessibility Tools

Ensuring that e-learning content is accessible to all learners is essential. Employ tools like WebAIM's WAVE, the Accessibility Checker in Microsoft Office, or JAWS screen reader to evaluate and improve the accessibility of their content.

Instructional Design Elearning: Career & Pathways

The career paths for both IDs and ELDs exhibit notable similarities.

Typically, early career seekers commence with a bachelor's degree or vocational training in instructional design, educational technology, or related fields. It is crucial for them to possess a robust foundation in their respective domains.

These professionals can initially take up entry-level positions. As they accumulate experience, they may advance to mid-level roles like project managers and consultants or elevate to senior positions, as managers or directors.

To demonstrate acquired expertise, elearning developers could obtain industry certifications, including The Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) or the eLearning Guild's Master Elearning Course Creator

Conversely, instructional designers can enhance their credentials by securing certifications such as the Association for Talent Development's (ATD) Certified Professional in Talent Development (CPTD) or the International Society for Technology in Education's (ISTE) Certification for Educators.

How to Acquire Career Expertise 

Developing e learning skills can be done in various ways, but it's important to find what suits your preferences and goals. 

Here are some options:

University Programs

Many universities and colleges now offer dedicated courses, diplomas, or degree programs. Whether online, in-person, or a hybrid, you'll have access to well-rounded, in-depth curriculums that cover both theoretical and practical aspects of a subject. Higher educational institutions are also home to experienced faculty members, professors and intimate communities that connect you with both current students and alumni who have walked the same path.


Bootcamps like General Assembly, Springboard, or Coursera Project Network offer intensive, short-term courses that focus on specific aspects of the eLearning industry. You'll work on practical skills and hands-on projects, which can help you create a portfolio and quickly transition into the field. Perfect if you have some basic knowledge and want to sharpen your skills or specialize in a particular area.

Private Tutors

Private tutors provide personalized guidance and support tailored to your specific needs and goals. They can help you master specific software, tools, or techniques and provide feedback on your work. Upwork & Fiverr are places where you can find dedicated tutors for one-on-one instruction.

Self Training

If you're a self-starter, the internet is your playground! With platforms like Udemy, LinkedIn Learning, and YouTube tutorials, you can acquire the skills and knowledge needed for a career in eLearning at your own pace. It does require discipline and determination, but it allows you to focus on the areas that interest you most.


We can't emphasize enough how valuable a mentor can be in guiding your career in elearning development. Someone who's an expert in the eLearning field can provide advice, share experiences, and help you navigate the industry's complexities. Plus, they can introduce you to networking opportunities, which can be crucial for establishing yourself as a professional. Platforms like MentorCruise or can help match you with the right mentor.

Peer-to-Peer Learning

Engaging with others who share your interest can provide valuable insights and perspectives. On online forums, discussion groups, and social media platforms, you connect with like-minded individuals and learn mutually. Also add industry-specific conferences and workshops to the checklist. 

Dedicated Blogs & Sites 

Elearning Instructional Design 

E-learning Development

Hiring Manager's Guide

For recruiters seeking  IDs and E-Learning ELDs, discerning the optimal time to engage their expertise is crucial. Here's how to determine which professional to collaborate with:

When to Recruit Elearning Developers

Content Development

Once the instructional design is complete and you have a clear plan for your e-learning course, EDs can start developing the actual content.

LMS Integration

When you need to integrate your e-learning course into a learning management system (LMS) or another platform, EDs can handle this process. They have experience working with various LMS platforms and can ensure seamless delivery and tracking of your e-learning content.

Course Maintenance & Updates

E-learning courses may need to be updated or maintained over time. EDs can help you make necessary changes, such as updating content, fixing technical issues, or improving the course's interactivity and accessibility.

Integrating Third-party Tools

E-learning developers may also be responsible for integrating third-party tools and plugins into e-learning platforms to enhance their functionality. This can include integrating assessment tools, communication tools, or tracking and analytics solutions.

When to Recruit E Learning Designers

Project Initiation

At the beginning of a development e learning project, IDs can help you analyze the needs of your target audience, establish learning objectives, and develop a comprehensive design plan. They can provide valuable input on the scope, timeline, and resources needed for the project.

Curriculum Development

If you are designing a new course or training program, IDs can help you create a curriculum that aligns with your learning objectives and meets the needs of your learners. They can design activities, assessments, and instructional materials that engage learners and promote knowledge retention.

Existing Content Revamp

If your existing educational content is outdated or not meeting its intended goals, IDs can help you evaluate its effectiveness and redesign it to better suit your learners' needs.

Compliance Training

When you need to develop training materials that adhere to specific regulatory or industry standards, IDs can ensure that the content meets these requirements.

Where To Find Elearning Professionals

A few places to look are:

Job Boards

Start by posting job ads on popular job boards, such as Indeed, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn. You can also explore niche job boards dedicated to e-learning and instructional design, such as eLearning Industry or the Instructional Design Central job board.

Professional Associations

Connect with professional associations like the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) or the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). These organizations often have job boards, newsletters, or mailing lists where you can share your job openings and network with potential candidates.

Networking Events and Conferences

Attend industry events and conferences, such as DevLearn, Learning Solutions, or the ATD International Conference & Exposition. You can meet and network with IDs and ELDs in such important gatherings.

Social Media

Leverage social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Join relevant groups, participate in discussions, and share your job openings to attract the right talent. Don't forget to use targeted hashtags and keywords to make your job postings more discoverable.

Educational Institutions

Reach out to universities or colleges offering degrees or certificates in instructional design, e-learning, or related fields. Connect with their career services offices or faculty members to advertise job openings and tap into their pool of recent graduates or experienced alumni.

Freelance Platforms

Explore freelance platforms like Upwork, Freelancer, or Toptal, which often feature IDs and ELDs offering their services on a project basis. Freelancing sites help to quickly find talent for short-term projects or to evaluate candidates for long-term roles.

Online Communities and Forums

Participate and share job openings on online communities, forums, and discussion boards related to instructional design and e-learning, such as the eLearning Guild, the Articulate E-Learning Heroes Community, or the Adobe eLearning Community.

Personal Referrals and Recommendations 

Utilize your professional network, including colleagues and contacts within the industry, to seek referrals and recommendations. Personal referrals can be an effective way to identify highly-skilled people who may not be actively searching for new opportunities but could be open to considering your job offer.

Cost of Recruitment

Wondering how much instructional designers and e-learning developers make? Let's break it down by different sources!

E learning Designer Salaries


Here are the usual rates for instructional designers on Upwork:

Beginner: $30 per hour

Intermediate: $59 per hour

Keep in mind that rates can vary depending on factors like experience, location, and market conditions. More experienced designers might charge more but deliver better quality work, while those just starting out might offer more competitive rates.


In the United States, the estimated total pay for an elearning instructional designer is $78,140 per year, with an average salary of $72,829. Additional pay, like bonuses and commissions, could add another $5,311 per year.

As of March 28, 2023, the average Curriculum Designer IV salary in the U.S. is $106,490, with a range between $96,690 and $118,590. This can vary based on factors like education, certifications, and experience.


Instructional designer salaries according to Indeed:

  • Low: $46,183 per year
  • Average: $69,683 per year
  • High: $105,142 per year

E-learning Developer Salaries

E-learning developers in the United States make an average of $88,260 per year, with a range between $66,000 and $117,000. Hourly rates average around $42.43. Factors like location, education, and experience can impact these numbers.

As of March 28, 2023, the average E-Learning Developer II salary in the U.S. is $77,750, with a range between $69,990 and $85,840. Factors like education, certifications, and experience can influence these numbers.


The average e-learning developer in the U.S. makes $64,719, with the highest earners in Denver, where they make an average of $107,432.

E-learning developer salaries according to

  • Entry level: $65,614 per year
  • Average: $81,670 per year
  • Most experienced: $104,000 per year


Instructional Designers (IDs) and E-Learning Developers (ELDs) share many similarities in the e-learning space, but there are some key differences that set them apart. If you're looking to hire for these roles or exploring a career in this field, we hope this guide serves as a helpful starting point. That said, development elearning projects need the right for building your courses.

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