This is post #3 in a series about how to become an instructional designer. Links to the rest of the series can be found at the end of this post.
I know many instructional designers were originally teachers or trainers who changed careers (just like I did). Many of the skills overlap between these fields, so it can be a pretty easy transition. However, just like every other field, instructional design has its own set of jargon and specialized knowledge.
Free Online Resources
If you’re considering moving into instructional design, I think one of the best things to do is just to start reading about it. Fortunately, many free resources are available online.
- Don Clark’s classic site has a great introduction to Instructional Systems Design (ISD) and ADDIE, the most common instructional design model. I used this site when I was first moving into instructional design.
- Jane Bozarth’s 10-Minute Instructional Design Degree has some great tips to keep in mind.
- Articulate has collected a number of posts on Practical Instructional Design Basics for those getting started.
- Check out my post on a Basic Instructional Design Process. I wrote this as an overview for people outside the field. However, this framework gives you a basic process as a starting point.
- Learning Solutions Magazine is an eLearning Guild publication with contributions by numerous authors.
- Devlin Peck created an extensive Guide to Becoming an Instructional Designer which includes summaries of learning theories, notes on tools, and tips for your portfolio and resume.
- The IDTopedia is a glossary of terms. As you’re reading other sources, if you come across terms you don’t know, this is one place to check.
- Blogs by instructional designers can be an excellent resource as well. Start with my list of 35+ ID and Elearning blogs.
- My list of bookmarks tagged instructionaldesign contain a wide range of resources. I also have a shorter list of resources for new IDs, including reading lists and information about starting in this field.
Books plus an App
For slightly more than free ($2.99), the Instructional Design Guru app for Android is a mobile glossary of almost 500 terms related to ID. If you’re constantly looking up jargon while you read up on the field, this will save you time.
If you have a little budget, there are some great books available as well.
- Saul Carliner’s Training Design Basics is a practical, comprehensive starting point. The intended audience is beginners in the field to who want to learn the process of designing workplace training from start to finish.
- Julie Dirksen’s Design for How People Learn provides a very accessible view of research on the science of learning.
- I compiled a list of 40+ Books for Instructional Designers for more additional reading.
- Cammy Bean’s list of essential reading for instructional designers has lots of good suggestions.
- Tim Curry created an extensive reading list, followed by a his top four choices.
Online Courses and Graduate Programs
Especially if you’re moving to the field of instructional design from a career in something other than teaching, formal training can be the fastest path into an instructional design career.
Another option is the edX instructional design “micromasters” program. It’s four online courses. You can take them for free or pay for verified credit.
Open Learning has a free online course on instructional design that includes some solid foundation content and a guided process for creating a project. A paid certification is available too (although the certification may not count for much with employers, you might want it just to have a formal credential).
If you want a graduate certificate or masters degree, Connie Malamed (the eLearning Coach) maintains a list of US instructional design programs. Many of these can be completed completely online.
Dr. Robin Sargent’s IDOL (Instructional Design and Online Learning) Academy is a program to build skills in instructional design, elearning, plus how to find a job as a corporate ID.
Tim Slade is a respected leader in the field who runs the Elearning Designer’s Academy, an 8-week program to build essential skills for getting a job in instructional design.
Other Posts in this Series
- What Does an Instructional Designer Do?
- Getting Into Instructional Design
- Instructional Design Skills (current post)
- Technology Skills
- Professional Organizations and Career Options
- Is instructional design the right career?
Read all my posts about Instructional Design Careers here.
Read a Spanish translation of this post: Habilidades de diseño instruccional
Looking to hire an instructional designer?
I use affiliate links when I share books and some additional resources. It won’t cost you anything additional, but a small portion of the purchase price comes to me to help pay for hosting my blog.
Originally published 5/31/2007. Republished 2/21/2019. Last updated 3/6/2022.