Log In

From Expert to Instructional Designer: How did I get here?

22 May 2018 1:34 PM | Macy Garcia (Administrator)

“Carys has been doing the job for 10 years now. I bet she could teach that class no problem.”

“Ahmet is really good with computers. We should ask him to put together that e-learning module on Excel.”

Comments like these kick off solutions to training needs in the corporate world all the time. Carys and Ahmet really are great at their jobs, but does that make them instructional designers?

If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re responsible for creating training because you have relevant technical skills, good writing ability, teaching experience, computer savvy, etc. Or let’s face it, maybe there was nobody else to do it.

So, what does it take to create effective training? If you’re doing the entire thing from beginning to end, you need to be able to analyze the training need, design the solution, develop the materials, implement the training solution, and finally, evaluate both the learning solution AND learner mastery. (Yes, I just referenced ADDIE.)

That’s a condensed, incomplete version of the process. There’s more to it than that. It’s a blend of analytical ability, creativity, emotional intelligence, project management, proficiency in various applications and authoring tools, graphic design, and other capabilities too numerous to list here.

If you’ve come to the instructional design world unintentionally, welcome! So did I. Lacking any formal ISD training, at first I felt overwhelmed, and maybe even a little like a fraud. I wasn’t confident that I would be effective in the new role and I know for sure that I’ve made some mistakes. But I did two things right:

  • 1.      I became a Certified Professional in Learning and Development (CPLP) through ATD. While you might think that only the Instructional Design, Training Delivery, Learning Technologies and Evaluation areas of expertise apply, you’d be wrong. Exploring other areas of expertise and competencies aside from instructional systems design helped me to see the bigger picture in developing effective training.
  • 2.      I read The Accidental Instructional Designer by Cammy Bean (available on the ATD store). It’s written in a conversational tone and provides a lot of practical, common-sense advice about the world of instruction design for those of us who ended up here on our way to somewhere else.

This isn’t intended to be a pitch for ATD programs and products – although I personally find them helpful. This is intended to offer encouragement to anyone else who may feel a little bit overwhelmed or a little bit like a fraud. Whatever skills brought you here, you can build on them, augment them, and bring your unique perspective to whatever instructional design challenges are thrown at you.


Lisa DelCol is a board member for ATD’s Central Oklahoma Chapter and a Lead Instructional Designer at OG&E. She also holds CPLP and PMP certifications from ATD and Project Management Institute respectively.

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software