The Most Desired Qualities of an Instructional Designer

Instructional Designer Qualities Required in eLearning

Instructional Designers are indispensable in an eLearning courseware development process. They are involved since the identification of the learning need to the learning solution implementation phase. They understand the problem, develop corresponding solution and devise a plan for its effective implementation.


Let’s discuss what qualities an Instructional Designer should possess to deliver these responsibilities.

An instructional designer should be a…
Quick Learner

As a professional courseware developer, Instructional Designers are ought to develop learning solutions on any concept under the sun. To do this, they must be quick learner with minimal assistances from SMEs.

Creative Explainer

An instructional designer should possess ‘Teacher’s Instinct’. Considering the Content, Learner and the Learning Outcomes; an instructional designer should adopt simple and intuitive explainer models at both, macro level (curriculum designs) and micro level (instructional strategies) of a learning solution.

Expository Writer

Writing has different styles to express your thoughts; but an instructional designer should possess an expository style of writing or developing the learning content. The content must be plain and easy to comprehend in simple efforts. Each piece of content should be put in a pattern that it construct one concept after the other.

Instructional Content Visualizer

Instructional Content incudes text, images, illustrations, videos etc. An instructional designer should represent these elements in an appropriate flow and graphic design sense. It includes the use of colors, symmetrical shapes, arrangement patterns and animation sequence.

Keen Reviewer

An instructional designer should have an eye for detail focus and correct every feature of an effective courseware development. High precision reviewing capability is vital to identify mistakes and loop-holes in content as well as other cosmetic designs. Even a minute element of the course should serve its intended purpose.


Every learning need is unique with respect to the desired outcome behavior, learner and the content. An instructional designer must be an innovator to blend different instructional strategies and develop a unique learning solution for the problem. It requires an instructional designer to be well-versed in various instructional models, approaches and technologies.


Developing a course requires lot of material to review. Quite often, clients supply content if it is related to organizational policies, specific products and services or in-house developed content (if any) etc. In normal course of work, an instructional designer define and get approve the learning objectives in specific behavioral terms and then develop content through their own research on Internet, Books, Videos etc. They ensure, the final content should help the leaner achieve the desired objectives.

Tech Savvy Developer

Every piece of courseware such as content, visuals, courseware development tools, learner interactive strategies etc. conveys some-meaning to learner; an instructional designer tries to have control on these and ensure learner receives the intended meaning. This require instructional designers to be conversant in learning science as well as in learning technologies such as eLearning authoring tools, sound editing software, image editing software etc.


An ideal instructional designer should possess capabilities to develop an effective eLearning courseware.


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This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

Task-Oriented Course Example


Task-Oriented Screen

In my blog article last week entitled “The Death of the (e)Learning Course Objectives Screen,” I showed some screenshots of a task-oriented course I produced which immediately engages the learners and brings them into the course.  While I incorporated screenshots in the course, I realize there’s nothing better than seeing the real thing.  So if you’d like, check it out for yourself. Watch how the “supervisor” avatar gives the assignment then actually leaves and heads off to a meeting, leaving you – the learner – there to figure out what to do next.  After you complete the task, the supervisor returns to comment on your progress. Click the image to launch the course.



The Death of the (e)Learning Course Objectives Screen

I have conducted lots of facilitator led training during my career, in areas such as leadership development, human resources, software training, and coaching/mentoring.  And every course that I’ve ever developed or conducted started with a slide which began with the statement, “After completing this course, you will be able to . . . “ That statement was immediately followed usually by 4 or 5 learning objectives, depending on the amount of classroom hours scheduled.

pdgen5It only seemed natural then, that I use a similar screen in my e-learning courses.  And for the majority of traditional e-learning courses which I developed from 1997 until a few years ago, I always included a similar screen in whatever course I was developing.

That is, until my a-ha moment occurred! I’ve got this e-learning development tool which is very powerful and which lets me create some amazing courses. Why, oh why, would I want to begin my course in such a boring way?

And that’s when I started beginning most every course with a challenge. Think about it. What is the most common form of workplace learning? It’s not facilitator-led, or e-learning, or any other formal method. It’s informal. It’s learning from our co-workers on the job, or our supervisor asking us to complete a task without giving us all the steps necessary to do it.  I’ve had plenty of those types of learning experiences. I do not ever recall my supervisor approaching me saying, “Chuck, today I’m going to show you how to complete the xyz report. At the end of our meeting, you will be able to . . .” followed by 3 or 4 learning objectives.  That’s not how informal learning works.

Main Menu pageHow many times in your workplace has your supervisor come to you and said, “Hey, I need you to do xyz.  Here is a standard operating procedure on how to get that done, or you can look in the manual over there. I think Sally has some notes on this, so you might want to get with her as well. She’s been doing this for a while.” You’ve probably heard something similar to all or part of that statement more than once during your career.  That’s how informal learning works. It’s with an assignment in which you may have some idea how to complete, but which may require a bit of “winging it.” If that’s how learning occurs in the workplace, wouldn’t it make sense to replicate that in your course?

pdgen2 Look at the screenshots for a course I developed a while ago.  There’s no screen listing formal learning objectives. There is, however, a menu page which kind of serves that role without the “After learning this course, you will be able to . . . “ But the menu page is there to help organize the content for the learner and to help them navigate the course. That’s its primary role. It’s not meant to be a page of formal objectives.

I can hear you asking now, “So Chuck, if you don’t list the objectives, how DO you begin your course?” I begin the course the same way adults receive informal learning. In this course, the supervisor approaches the employee (in this case the learner taking the course) and issues a challenge.  “Hey, I need you to complete this task. I’m on my way to an important meeting, so do what you can and I’ll get back with you this afternoon.” Since that’s something we can all relate to, I’ve begun many courses using that approach. For added emphasis – and because Captivate will let me – after the supervisor makes the request (which is done via voice-over as well as text on the screen), I add a path animation to the graphic of the supervisor, and drag him off the screen.  Hey, he said he has an important meeting to go to, so in the real world, he would ask you to complete the task and then head out the door.  A simple path animation in Captivate allowed me to replicate that.  pdgen3Over the next several slides, I incorporated static screenshots, text captions, and invisible hotspot interactions with appropriate feedback for the learner.  I’m showing one of those slides here. Again, each slide includes audio which supports the text. Finally, rather than have the course end with “Now that you’ve completed this course, you should be able to . . . “ followed by a re-hash of the objectives, the supervisor returns and comments on the learner’s performance.

pdgen4Emulating what happens in the real world and issuing a challenge at the beginning of the course reaches out and grabs your learners and brings them into the course, rather than just having them be passive learners reading a screen of objectives followed by some bullet points and then screens of factual information. Reach out to your learners, bring them in, and have them interact with your content.  If that’s how we learn in the real world, then wouldn’t it make sense to try and replicate that in our e-learning courses?

Learning Objectives Vs Learning Activities: What’s The Difference?

Learning objectives and learning activities are two crucial pieces of ammunition in the eLearning provider’s arsenal. They have a role in making lessons engaging and fruitful. Here, we explore the binary relationship of learning objectives vs learning activities by discussing the difference and understanding the importance of both.


Emploring The Learning Objectives Vs Learning Activities Dichotomy 

“A goal without a plan is just a wish” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Positive learning outcomes are the desired goal for any learning program. However, in order to ensure that this happens, taking a structured approach to designing learning plans becomes essential. Learning objectives and learning activities are two crucial pieces of ammunition in the eLearning provider’s arsenal. They have a role in making lessons engaging and fruitful. Learning objectives and learning activities might seem like two sides of the same coin that ultimately have the same objective, that to enable better learning, but they are also vastly different. In this article, we will discuss the learning objectives vs learning activities premise, as well as understand the importance of both.

The What And Why Of “Learning Objectives”

Having clear learning objectives is the first and perhaps “the” most important tenet for designing a great eLearning course. Learning objectives describe the goal of the learning program and define what competencies the learners have to achieve after completing the program. Only when you have clear learning objectives can you build a structured eLearning module and design learning activities that make learning an engaging and interesting proposition.

At the same time, it should be mentioned that learning objectives and learning goals are not the same things. Unlike learning goals which define what the learners should be able to do at the end of the learning module, learning objectives are a great deal more specific, defined, and measurable. The objectives will define in great specificity the individual elements that the learners will have to master on course completion. To put it simply, the “goal” is the destination, while the “objective” is like the road that takes you there.

In order to define learning objectives, it is essential to have a clear idea about the learning audience and their cognitive skills. However, when defining learning objectives you do not need to include information regarding the audience base or the strategy used to develop these objectives. What, however, is important is to employ a framework such as Bloom’s Taxonomy to understand the order in which your target audience will process the information. It then becomes easier to divide the objectives into subcategories when needed, to successfully quantify them to make it measurable and to make learning less overwhelming for the learners.

Having clearly defined learning objectives helps in better assessments and evaluations and ultimately in better learning outcomes. In order to make the learning objectives successful it is essential that these objectives are supplemented with the right tools. This brings us to the second part of this article – learning activities.

The What And Why Of “Learning Activities”

Learning activities are the resources that help in achieving the learning objectives of an eLearning program. It is only when a learning program is engaging and immersive that it will promote better learning. Learning activities motivate a learner to participate more actively in a learning program. There is a vast number of ways in which learning activities are being incorporated in the eLearning program. Engaging learning activities can turn dull and cognitively heavy learning modules into interesting and meaningful learning experiences.

In order to be effective, learning activities have to account for the experience level of the learners and identify the goals that you want to achieve with the activity. You also need to determine the optimal amount of time that you would want to spend on each particular activity to achieve the desired goals. Using storytelling, gamification, virtual learning, augmented reality, etc. to create learning activities can promote better learning. These tools can be used for creating learning activities that can be employed to reduce the cognitive load of the learners and promote better learning. However, when it comes to designing learning activities, you need to remember that much like everything else, learning activities also have to have the right context. For example, developing a game for compliance training would perhaps be less effective when compared to using an interactive infographic or quiz as the latter would be contextually more relevant.

Using learning activities to create branching scenarios, comparative case studies, creating group collaborations via the social network, feature rich eLearning games, creating personal learning paths, etc. are just some of thelearning activities that help in achieving lesson goals. Identifying what media and technology you want to use to create an effective learning activity also becomes important contributors to its effectiveness

Using technologies such as big data can now be immensely helpful when creating learning activities. Data helps you design more personalized learning material, identify loopholes in previously created learning activities, assess which kind of activity is right for a particular module and come up with alternate activities when the effectiveness of the same is in question.

In order to use learning activities appropriately and impressively, it, therefore, becomes imperative to align these with the learning objectives. To put it quite simply, learning objectives are the guide to draw up learning activities which assist in achieving the goal for the particular lesson which collectively lead to better student engagement and learning.

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