An instructional designer serves in many different roles throughout their career and may go far beyond application of instructional design and learning theories.  These roles can literally span over a tremendous listing of potential job duties. One day an instructional designer may be the technology support technician walking a faculty member through the nuances of a new learning management system (LMS). The next day, that same designer may be researching the copyright restrictions on an particular article an instructor wants to include in their course, building a training course, or, perhaps leading the effort on a newly assigned initiative project dreamed up by their company president.  Regardless of the duties of the day, or the project assigned, we have discovered there are specific skillsets and traits that enhance an instructional designer’s performance of their job duties.  The first chapter of this book will cover a few of the most important skillsets a novice designer will need to cultivate as they prepare to enter the Instructional Design field and begin their career.

This chapter will include topics on interpersonal communication, conflict resolution, exemplary leadership practices, emotional intelligence and project management. Now is the time to immerse yourself in the world of instructional design.

Beyond having a sound foundation in instructional and curriculum design processes, designers must understand how people learn, which is the basis of all instructional design practices.  Instructional designers are faced with complex issues on a daily basis and because of the challenges, good organizational, research, and problem solving skills are essential for the skill set toolbox.  The good news is, practice can enhance your skills of organization, research and problem solving.  The age old saying “practice makes perfect” is certainly true, the more you work on improving these skills, the better instructional designer you will be. Communication skills (both written, visual and verbal) are skills that can also be enhanced so get out there and practice them on every occasion that arises.  Did you know that listening is one of the most important communication skills? Be sure to practice every day by exercising your “listening muscles”.

In some professional settings, an Instructional Designer may find themselves as a leader, requiring good project management and facilitation skills. In these situations, being flexible and exercising patience along with having strong  organizational skills come to light as you work toward bringing the pieces of the instructional design puzzle together into an effective, engaging experience for the learner.

From experience in a higher education instructional design environment, there are some skills (perhaps better considered traits rather than skills) we feel are important to posses.  These skills include a passion for learning and teaching.  The desire to improve yourself daily and never stop learning is a driving force in seeking to successfully improve the courses and training that you will be designing and gives you a unique “student centric” perspective. Creativity and having the ability to think “outside the box” are paramount to the formation of good course design. Approach each new project with a fresh perspective. Do not get bogged down into a concrete mindset that there is only one way of presenting instruction.  Be creative and stretch outside the comfort zone with your design. Interestingly, over the years of working with faculty in higher education, we have found that many days you will find yourself encouraging faculty who are not comfortable with the transition of a new LMS or instructional media.. Be sure to patiently walk them through the functions by putting yourself in their shoes.  It is during these times you find yourself exerting some form of counseling skill by listening to their concerns and fears with empathy, “unconditional positive regard”, patience, and understanding.

At the end of the day, it is always good for an instructional designer to have a personal comfort level with multimedia and technology because you may have to troubleshoot why something is not integrating appropriately, or train someone who is extremely technologically challenged.  Having many of the skills and traits mentioned above will serve you well. Be sure to work on your customer service skills and do not forget to place yourself in the shoes of the person you are attempting to train or serve. This approach will never fail you.

If you have the knowledge base in learning theory and instructional design procedures, along with a majority of the aforementioned skills and traits, you are well on your way to becoming a successful instructional designer. As you delve into building on your skillsets you will grow as a designer. Let us begin by taking a look at what an instructional designer does. Please view the video below:


License: Creative Commons Attribution license (reuse allowed) Attribution: What does an Instructional Designer do? by joel gardner

OER Derivative Licenses and Attributions


Experiential Learning in Instructional Design and Technology, Chapter 1 Essential Skills for the Instructional Designer. Provided by: the authors under an Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.


Video 1: Provided by: the authors under an Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.

Video 2: License: Creative Commons Attribution license (reuse allowed) Attribution: What does an Instructional Designer do? by joel gardner



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Experiential Learning in Instructional Design and Technology Copyright © 2018 by jhill5; Joshua Hill; and Linda Jordan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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