Instructional Design: Self-Guided Path

Created by Sara Stevick, this section provides a place to start for those looking for a self-paced option for learning about Instructional Design.


What Does An Instructional Designer Do?

If you're just starting to learn about instructional design as a potential option, this video gives a quick explanation of what an instructional designer does (I did not make this video). This article further breaks down the types of roles an instructional designer might have in the first few paragraphs.

As a teacher looking for a career change, you have a lot of options! Before going further, be sure that this is the role you are looking for. If you'd like further information on other roles options, check out my resources page.

**Please note: This site only provides guidance on how to transition from teaching into instructional design**

Feel free to skip this section if you already know this is the career path for you.

Do I Need an Additional Degree/Certificate?

An additional degree or certificate is not required to become an instructional designer; there are tons of free resources out there that can help you fill in the knowledge/skill gaps! However, that's not to say an these programs don't have things to offer. The key is doing your research and deciding for yourself whether or not to financially invest. Be sure you know what you will be getting out of the program, and just know not all programs are created equal!

As an instructional designer, you'll also need to think about the type of role you'd like to pursue. 

Firstly, do you want to pursue a corporate role or work in higher education? In this podcast episode, Cara North (who you should connect with on LinkedIn!) goes over the similarities and differences.  

Secondly, are you looking for a full time, contract, or free lance position? Watch the video on the left to learn more.

How Can I Get There?

These are the steps I personally took to make the transition from being a classroom teacher to an instructional designer, from just starting to look for jobs through accepting an offer. 

While the next sections give an overview of this path, it is by no means the only way to go about getting into Instructional Design, and it's okay if you find yourself adding different steps along the way, or going in a different direction. 

At the bottom of this page, you can select the step you are currently on for further guidance. 

Setting Up for Success

I know it is tempting to dive right into applying for jobs, especially if you are on a specific time frame of finding a job, but there are a few reasons you should do steps 1 and 2 before applying:

Step 1: Fill the Knowledge Gaps

While your education and teaching experience has provided you with a lot of transferable skills that will help you to be a successful ID, there are many nuances of ID theory and practice that are important to learn that will help you become the best candidate for the job.

Parts 1 and 2 of this step can be completed simultaneously! I'd recommend dedicating anywhere from 2-4 weeks (depending on how much time you have to devote to this endeavor) completing the "Critical Learning" and making a few mini projects with the "Critical Tools" 

Once the "Critical Learning" is complete, and you have a few mini projects in your toolbox, you can begin step 2, and continue learning the additional topics and tools simultaneously to the rest of the steps.

PART 1: Crucial Learning

 While there is a lot of crossover between teaching and ID, ID uses different terminology for many concepts, and there are some components within these lessons that are unique to the ID role. There are multiple ways you can go about this:

PART 2: Learn the tools of the trade

Learn one of two most common authoring programs: Articulate Storyline 360 or Adobe Captivate

Create a folder of helpful ID tools (this website is AWESOME to get you started)

Step 2: Tailoring Your Application Documents 

Because this is a new career path, you will need to update your application documents so they reflect the voice of an ID and not an educator. This does not mean that you will change the actual “meat” of your documents, but rather you will emphasize different skill sets and translate educator terms to ID terms.

The order in which you complete these sections doesn’t really matter, but I would recommend completing all of them before moving into the next step. I will emphasize that you are unlikely to secure a position without a portfolio-so be sure to spend time on one! 

Also, LinkedIn is HUGE in the corporate world, especially in Learning and Development. Not having a LinkedIn, or being inactive on LinkedIn, would result in missing out on A LOT of be sure to spend time there as well!

Beginning the Search

Step 3: Applying for Jobs

Part 1: When applying for jobs, you want to make sure you’re going for quality over quantity. This profession can be a LOT of fun if you’re in the right job, but it can also be very stressful and overwhelming if you are not. ID job searching is different from teaching in that what you will be expected to have as part of your job responsibilities varies greatly, so be sure you are targeting job that focus on the items you want to do, and not what you don’t want to do. For example: If you prefer creating eLearning vs creating/facilitating instructor-led trainings, look for a position where creating eLearning is towards the top of the job description, and avoid positions that focus on developing and facilitating instructor-led trainings. *REMEMBER* You are looking to change careers for a reason, so don’t settle for less than what will make you happy!

Part 2: Even though you should have already tailored your resume, tweaking it here and there to incorporate specific phrases from the job description shows you are interested in THAT position, and makes you more appealing as a candidate. It also helps when your application is run through the ATS system, and increases the likelihood of an actual person seeing your application. 

Part 3: Spend time researching how to optimize your resume for the ATS system, as well as how to word your application documents to appeal to your audience. Also, really dig into LinkedIn-Find recruiters from that company you are applying for and reach out! Making a human connection drastically increases your chances for an interview.

Landing the Job

Step 4: Interview Prep and Execution

Securing an interview is definitely half the battle-Out of the 30+ Jobs I applied for, I secured 4 interviews. But the other half is acing the interview. *REMEMBER* This is not education - do not become discouraged by a lot of rejection! If you were not selected for an interview or for a position, this does NOT mean you are not an instructional designer, it just means you were not a fit for that particular position. Also keep in mind that you may interview for positions that do not feel like a good fit for you - LISTEN TO THAT GUT INSTINCT! Set yourself up for success by accepting a position with a company that fits you and you fit them... that way each party is treated with value.

PART 1: You should research the company you have an interview with, as well as research common questions asked during ID interviews. You’ll then want to type up your answers and (as silly as it feels) practice it out loud...multiple times. Interviews can be nerve wracking, so the more your verbally practice, the more automatic it will become, so even if you get a little nervous, your mind is already executing what you need to say.

PART 2: You may have multiple interviews/job offers going on simultaneously, and this is a delicate thing to navigate, because you can leverage this to your advantage in negotiating salary, but you also can accidentally lose opportunities. Highly recommend googling “Navigating multiple interviews” and “navigating multiple job offers” 

Further Guidance