he growth of online learning over the past decade has been outstanding. It is a very lucrative industry with projected revenues of $166.60 billion in 2023 and with potential to grow at a CAGR of 9.3% between 2023 and 2027. This growth is expected to yield $238.40 billion in 2027.

As more educational institutions and corporate organizations adopt e-learning, the role of an instructional designer has become critical to improve learning experiences. An instructional designer career is a great fit if you are passionate about research and creating innovative learning outcomes. It is a rewarding career with an average salary of $68,445 annually. The demand for these educational professionals means you must develop skills to survive in this competitive field. 

EducateMe explains who instructional designers are, what they do, the skills you need, and steps on how to become an instructional designer. Even if you are already an educational designer, this article will help you improve your skills to stay on top of your game. 

What is an Instructional Designer? 

An instructional designer is responsible for planning and creating educational resources to meet a learning outcome. Instructional designers are tasked with the duty of conceiving instructional materials, curriculums, and learning methods which are engaging to the students. 

These professionals work with online academies, corporate entities, and other educational institutions to help them achieve their training objectives. For instance, if a company wants to train its employees, an Instructional designer will draw the learning guides for each relevant skill. He also determines which employees should take certain courses and what form the training will take. 

What Does an Instructional Designer Do? 

Think of it this way: courses, course creators, learners, and learning systems. Who knits all these parts together and designs a curriculum with relevant topics for course creators to follow? That is what an instructional designer does. Course builders need a template and reference point from which to create courses. The instruction designer takes care of this important duty and provides insight on how to get the course information across to learners. 

In specific terms, the job of an instructional designer includes the following. 

Consult with Subject Matter Experts 

Instructional designers are often not experts in many subjects. They are researchers who deeply dive into the area of concern to understand what it's about. Therefore they have to work with the experts in these areas to draw out needed information to guide the curriculum content. For example, if a company wants courses on healthy living and lifestyle management, a designer would typically talk to doctors, nutritionists, and lifestyle experts to understand the topic to fashion a curriculum. 

They interview the experts to have a broad knowledge of the subject and determine the lesson outcomes. 

In specific detail, the following are the duties of instructional designers. 

Design Learning Processes 

This important duty involves comprehension of learning objectives, how to achieve these objectives, and the duration of learning to reach these objectives. Taking all this information, the instructional designer creates a curriculum for course creators, tutors, and learners to implement. 

It is also at this stage that they formulate learning theories and resources. Here the educational designer uses a bird's-eye approach to design a storyboard from where the curriculum, learning outcomes, and type of coaching (one-on-one, cohort-based, MOOC, or community-based models) are formed. 

Evaluate Learning Objectives 

An important part of their jobs is curating learners' learning experiences and assessing lessons' impact on them. The good thing about online learning is the capacity to take on-the-spot assessments using analytics and feedback mechanisms to determine the success of a course. 

An instructional designer creates a system to monitor the impact of classes on the students. For instance, test or assignment assessments to test the learners' knowledge after classes. The instructional designer also determines the frequency of these tests and can design better systems in the future with this feedback. 

Develop Multimedia Learning Tools

As we all know, multimedia formats like video, photos, animation, graphics, etc., are all part and parcel of learning. The educational designer acting on the knowledge derived from the subject matter experts designs suitable multimedia for visually appealing content to complement the course curriculum. 

Remember that the designer is the brains behind online lessons, and he provides the guide for tutors and mentors to follow. Visual cues have become a key fixture of online learning; therefore, he has to create multimedia content in addition to a text-based curriculum. 

Which Skills Should an Instructional Designer Have?

If you want to become an instructional designer or hire an instructional design expert, these are the skills you should note. 

Research skills

As an Instructional designer, you don't want to present half-baked information to your learners. You must thoroughly research the courses and subjects to get the full information. In addition, you must stay on top of the latest trends and happenings in education and online technology to keep content fresh and engaging. 


A great lesson is one learners fully understand and meet the learning objectives. A good instructional designer must know how to communicate his points to tutors and learners orally, especially in writing. He must be approachable and open to criticism afterall, he is working in a team with other professionals. 

People Management

The job of an instructional designer involves collaboration with other experts and professionals. He is like a project manager coordinating several people towards a goal. Therefore as an ID, you must be able to relate with people to build a team spirit. If you are deficient in this skill, there is a higher risk of the project failing. 

Time Management

An instructional designer is pressed for time as he handles different tasks simultaneously. Therefore, managing your time becomes critical. An Instructional designer must be able to maximize the limited available to create 


Creativity sets you apart and helps your courses to be more impactful. For instructional designers, creativity is important for interactive and visually stimulating courses. Studies show that after three days, the human mind can retain 65% of what was learned visually compared to 20% for voice or text lessons. Learning has gone beyond text-only methods and now incorporates videos, graphics, audio, and pictures. 

How to Evolve into an Instructional Designer

Learning how to become an instructional designer is a rewarding choice, and the good thing is that you don't have to possess a degree to become one. The following steps will show you how to get into instructional design quickly.

Understand Learning Theories, Models, and Principles 

Instructional designers typically employ learning models to create the best possible means of knowledge acquisition for learners. Some common models include the ADDIE model, Action Mapping, Gagne Nine Events, Mayer's principle of multimedia learning, and Kirkpatrick's evaluation model. What do all these models and theories mean? We will explain below. 


This model is an acronym for analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation. During the analysis stage, the instructional designer conducts a needs assessment to identify areas where knowledge is deficient and determine which learning method will meet that need. 

Design is when the course outline and curriculum are designed to plug the knowledge gap. The development stage brings the lesson outlines to life, giving them physical forms such as guides or instruction manuals. 

The Implementation stage is when learning occurs, and evaluation takes stock of the impact of the lesson on the learners. 

Action Mapping

Action Mapping is a learning method designed by Cathy Moore and is highly used in the corporate training of large enterprises. Rather than focusing on imparting knowledge derived from subject matter experts, this model identifies a specific area to upskill staff on. There is a clear goal, and the instruction manual is geared toward meeting that goal. The action map is always the reference point for curriculum design. 

Gagne's Nine Events Learning Theory

In his seminal work, Robert Gagne outlined nine events that should guide the instructional designer. They are based on the learner's mental state when presented with new information. These are the events. 

  • Gain attention: capture the learners' focus with engaging content like videos or graphics. 
  • State objectives: tell the learners what they are expected to learn. 
  • Stimulate recall: ask questions on previous experiences. 
  • Present contents: inform learners of the course using interactive strategies. 
  • Provide guidance: show students relevant learning resources to help them understand concepts. 
  • Elicit performance: encourage learners to apply their knowledge on projects. 
  • Provide feedback: give learners individual reviews of their performance. 
  • Assess performance: Evaluate and prepare reports on whether the study has achieved its objectives. 
  • Enhance transfer and retention: help students retain knowledge by linking it with real-life scenarios. 

Note that these events don't have to happen consecutively. 

Mayer's Principle of Multimedia Learning 

We said one of the tasks of an instructional designer is to develop multimedia learning tools. Richard Mayer has provided some principles to integrate multimedia into the learning curriculum. He said visually stimulating lessons are more effective than text-based lessons. Some of these principles are:

  • Personalization principle: learners receive information better when it is conveyed in a conversational tone than academic tone. 
  • Redundancy principle: Humans learn better with graphics and narration alone. Adding text is unnecessary and redundant. 
  • Signaling principle: People concentrate better when shown what to focus on. For instance, highlight the area you want them to see. 
  • Voice principle: Human voices are better for teaching than machine voices. 
  • Coherence principle: Learning is easier when outside visuals and audio are removed. 
  • Multimedia principle: Words and pictures are a better learning mode than words.
  • Pre-training principle: People learn better when they have basic or prior knowledge of the topic. 

Kirkpatrick Model of Learning 

This learning model is one you should be familiar with if you want to focus on designing instructions for corporate training. The Kirkpatrick model consists of four levels which all combine to help you determine how effective a training course is. The levels are:

  • Reaction: refers to how learners perceive the training and whether it contributes to their development. 
  • Learning: this level examines whether the learner gained any new knowledge or skill during the training. Taking surveys will help you here. 
  • Behavior: this will tell you if they can apply the knowledge and skills gained in their jobs. 
  • Results: This level evaluates the overall impact of the training on the company's productivity. 

Know How to Use Supportive Tools

Another important step in how to become an instructional designer is proficiency in software for instruction design. Adobe Creative Cloud and Adobe Illustrator are some of the software you need when creating a learning curriculum. You should also learn to make multimedia files like videos and graphics to enrich your content. YouTube is a great place to learn how to make videos and other multimedia content. 

Hone Your Skills 

The best way to master a skill is to practice it till you become a pro Identify an area you have some knowledge in, research it thoroughly, and try to author some instructional manuals. Another way to sharpen your skills is to follow samples online and create your template. You could also volunteer to create curriculums for local schools or small companies around you. The point is to put into practice all that you have learned. 

Have a Portfolio

The next step is to create a portfolio of the projects you have executed or mock projects. If you want to get into instructional design, your portfolio will speak for you. Recruiters are more interested in what you have done rather than particularly your qualifications. In the portfolio, highlight your strengths, like multimedia design, problem-solving, and curriculum building. Your portfolio gives you quick visibility and makes you more desirable. For a more professional outlook, create a website and add a link to your portfolio. 

Seek Feedback 

Whether you are learning how to become an instructional designer or a professional instructional designer, you must be willing to take feedback on your work. Feedback gives you real reviews of how good your work is or where you need to improve. This way, you keep improving your skills and create more effective content. 

Go for Advanced Study

Yes, we said you don't need a certificate to be an instructional designer. However, for professional development, you need to look for opportunities to further learn about the field. Take online courses, and attend seminars and conferences to build knowledge. Remember learning never ends, so keep pursuing professional development. 

Keep up with Instructional Design and e-learning Trends.

Different trends are always popping up in the fast-paced world of online learning. For instance, cohort-based and game-based learning are some of the top trends to look out for in 2024. Innovative technologies for easy learning, like ChatGPT and AI, are also making waves. Take a keen interest in the latest developments in online education to keep you current. 

Apply For Jobs

After doing all the above, prepare a resumé and apply for instructional designer jobs. Use professional job sites like LinkedIn to connect with recruiters and submit your resume. 

Final Thoughts 

An instructional design career is an interesting one with lots of creativity required. Now you have seen the practical steps in how to become an instructional designer. 

With this guide, you too can chart a career in instructional design or improve your skills if you are in the sector already. To make it easier, you can use the EducateMe platform to create instructional manuals and put your skills to work. 

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March 22, 2023
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