This is part 4 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.
If you’re hoping to move from a career in teaching or training (or something else) to instructional design, chances are you need to learn some of the common technology. Most of the instructional design jobs are at least partially, if not completely, for online education. Fortunately, a number of the programs allow free trials.
The list of technology skills below was originally something I put together for a teacher who is considering moving into instructional design in a few years. She specifically wanted some ideas to work on during her summers off to improve her skills. You don’t have to have skills in all these areas, of course, but hopefully this will help identify possible areas of improvement.
- Basic html knowledge is generally expected; you can use the free tutorials at W3 Schools to get started.
- Captivate is a great program, especially for software application training (which is about half of all the e-learning out there).
- Lectora is used in some situations and would provide experience with that kind of course development software.
- Experience with any Learning Management System such as Blackboard (not free) or Moodle (free) is helpful, although not required. You really can learn this on the job.
- For my current job, I use Dreamweaver and Photoshop almost every day, but those are expensive and not easy to learn quickly. If you’re hoping to move into instructional design, you’ll probably need to be familiar with them eventually. It isn’t where I would recommend starting unless you already have the access or experience.
- At the time this post was originally written (2007), many jobs required Flash programming. Now, Flash is on the way out.
- I’ve seen growing interest in social media tools like blogs, wikis, etc., so any experience in these areas is helpful.
- Games and simulations are also popular, so those are other areas to explore.
- Some experience with audio and video editing could be beneficial as well.
Note: The above list assumes that you are already familiar with Microsoft Office programs, including PowerPoint. If not, start with that training. Instructional design for face-to-face learning often means developing PowerPoint presentations and Word handouts.
If you see something I have left out in this list, please add a comment to let me know!
More than any specific set of applications, though, is the desire and motivation to learn new technology, especially to learn it independently. A lot of my technology skills have been gained since I started in the field, and I continue to learn on my own. I see that as a great benefit of working in instructional design. If you hate learning new technology or really struggle to learn it on your own, instructional design may not be a career that really makes you happy. Later in this series I’ll talk more about figuring out if instructional design is a good career choice or not.
Other Posts in this Series
- What Does an Instructional Designer Do?
- Getting Into Instructional Design
- Instructional Design Skills
- Technology Skills (current post)
- Professional Organizations and Career Options
- Is instructional design the right career?
Update: this post sparked some discussion, plus I had some more thoughts after writing the above list. Check out my two related posts about technology skills below:
Read all my posts about Instructional Design Careers here.
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