Switching your career is never easy. It brings a basket full of challenges, confusion, and nervousness. But sometimes, taking a new career path can also be one of the most exciting and rewarding things in life.
Are you a teacher who is finally ready to pursue a new career? Do you want to quit teaching and not take up something entirely new? If your answer is yes, then instructional design is definitely a career to explore.
According to the Association for Talent Development (ATD), “instructional design is the creation of learning experiences and materials in such a way that results in the acquisition and application of knowledge and skills.” This is something teachers do every day, isn’t it?
Instructional design enables you to stay rooted in your education-based background while experiencing something new at the same time. So, you won’t have to face the frustration of starting over in a completely unfamiliar career. Sounds amazing, right?
So, how can you transition from teaching to instructional design smoothly? What new skills do you need to learn, and what qualities would you need to strengthen?
5 Steps to Become a Successful Instructional Designer from Being a Full-Time Teacher
The best thing about choosing instructional design as a career is that, as a teacher, you already possess most of the skills required to succeed in this field.
So, by developing some additional skills, learning several tools, and following the right course of action, you can easily make a smooth and easy transition. Here are the five steps to help you get started on your journey!
1. Conduct a thorough research
No matter which career you are choosing, the more you know about it, the better. Therefore, learn everything about instructional design before taking the plunge.
People don’t call it the information age without reason. Doing a simple Google search will provide you with an ocean of information about Instructional Design. You can begin your research by reading books and website articles on the topic. Furthermore, you can listen to educational podcasts or read blogs created by industry experts.
Further, you can follow and connect with famous instructional designers on LinkedIn. In this way, you’d be able to read their social media posts and get useful details about the profession.
All of this will help you stay informed about the latest happenings in the industry and get crucial insights into what instructional design entails.
Top Instructional Design Books:
- Instructional Design for ELearning by Marina Arshavskiy
- ELearning and the Science of Instruction. Proven Guidelines for Consumers and Designers of Multimedia Learning. by Ruth C. Clark and Richard E. Mayer 3rd edition
- Design For How People Learn (Voices That Matter) by Julie Dirksen
- e-Learning by Design by William Horton
- Visual Language for Designers: Principles for Creating Graphics that People Understand by Connie Malamed
- Graphics for Learning: Proven Guidelines for Planning, Designing, and Evaluating Visuals in Training Materials by Ruth C. Clark and Chopeta Lyons
- Evidence-based ELearning by Ruth C. Clark
- The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education by Karl Kapp.
- The Accidental Instructional Designer: Learning Design for the Digital Age, by Cammy Bean
- Map It: The hands-on guide to strategic training design, by Cathy Moore
Top Elearning Blogs
- Kapp Notes – renowned gamification expert discusses valuable information and insights on gamification, learning, and development.
- The ELearning Coach – Connie Malamed publishes a wealth of learning content and instructional design strategies, tips, and best practices. Connie also publishes helpful reviews on hardware and software products and books.
- Quinnovation – Clark Quinn, a recognized leader in learning technology strategy, publishes Quinnovation which offers personable and insightful experiences and knowledge about learning, technology, e-learning, design, and much more.
- Will at work learning – Will Thaleimer’s blog translates extensive research-based learning information into practical and actionable wisdom.
- ELearning Industry – Offers an immense library of blogs written by some of the industry’s top authors. These blogs cover topics such as instructional design, gamification, social learning, and mobile learning, among many others. The eLearning Feeds site ranks and scores hundreds of top e-learning blogs showcasing very reputable and valuable blogs.
- ATD Learning & Development Community Blog – This is an excellent source to access blogs from a diverse range of credible authors that can share different perspectives and experiences regarding learning and development.
- Cathy Moore – This is a learning blog that is full of ideas to will help you design lively training and e-learning scenarios.
- Learning Solutions Magazine – a highly reputable publication for learning technology, strategy, and news, publishes articles that cover a broad range of emerging topics including design, development, and training strategies, as well as professional development.
- Julie Dirksen – Julie is an author, instructional designer, and consultant that believes in designing for how people learn. She writes about principles of how people learn and how to apply those to instructional design.
- The Rapid eLearning Blog – This blog is written by Tom Kuhlman and has a unique visual style and lots of how-to posts.
2. Take eLearning courses
After doing your research, if you are convinced that instructional design is the perfect career for you, the next recommended step is enrolling in an online course.
You’ll be able to learn all the essential theories and strategies by doing assignments, getting practical knowledge, and building a strong portfolio. A quality eLearning course will also help you build a strong base and learn the necessary skills.
It will provide you with enough knowledge to land a job or become a freelance instructional designer. If you are looking for a program that would meet your needs, consider exploring my Instructional Design for ELearning program as it covers everything you need to know about instructional design for eLearning including lots of downloadable templates, supplementary materials, and software tutorials.
If you want to become a freelance instructional designer or are interested in starting a side hustle, I highly recommend looking into eLearning Freelancer Bootcamp from IDOL Academy.
3. Build a strong portfolio
In today’s corporate world, your portfolio plays a huge role in helping you get the job of your dreams. Almost every employer would want to see proof of your skills and work before offering a position. Thus, it is vital to have an extraordinary portfolio that is too hard to ignore.
You can use WordPress to build your portfolio and share it with your prospective employers. If you don’t know how to build a portfolio, you can take this build your portfolio course.
Below are some of the most common documents that most employers want to see in portfolios. If you have any other samples worth showcasing, feel free to include them too.
- Needs Analysis Document – This document will show your employer that you know how to conduct research and that you are familiar with various data collection methods.
- Design Document – Being able to create a design document is often a requirement in many organizations. This is a blueprint for both eLearning and face-to-face training. Most employers expect to see at least one design document to get an idea of how you design training exercises.
- Storyboards – Always include at least one storyboard, and whenever possible, consider including different types of storyboards. For example, if one of your storyboards was created in Word and another one in PowerPoint, adding both of them to your portfolio will be beneficial.
- Facilitator and Participant Guides – Typically, facilitator and participant guides are only necessary for developing face-to-face training and synchronous eLearning courses. However, even if the job you are applying for requires only the development of asynchronous eLearning, including these guides in your portfolio will show your prospective employer that you have a variety of skills and can develop training courses for any mode.
- Evaluation – Consider including examples of all four levels of evaluation. If you have experience creating assessments, try to include some samples and document corrective feedback you provide to learners based on the response they select.
- Documentation or proof of programming, web design, or graphic design skills – Nowadays, both instructional designers and eLearning professionals are expected to know and be able to use eLearning development tools as well as graphic design, image manipulation, and video editing tools. Some of the popular and highly recommended tools that eLearning designers should be familiar with include Storyline, Captivate, Camtasia, and Vyond animations. As you learn the tools and programs, consider creating short samples to display them in your portfolio.
- ELearning samples – If possible, include a range of eLearning samples and avoid including similar projects. You want to show your prospective employer that you are capable of handling different types of assignments. Including samples of both linear and nonlinear courses would be ideal. If you have created games or simulations, consider making them part of your portfolio too. The same goes for mobile learning, job aids, or any other materials you may have developed. Remember, more samples equal more experience, and more experience equals more opportunities.
- Writing /editing samples – Good instructional designers must also be excellent writers and editors. If you have any published articles or papers, consider including them in your portfolio. If you do not have any formal publications, you can include any other writing samples. These can be scripts, unpublished papers, or even related blog posts. If you have edited someone else’s work, it is a good idea to include a sample with your comments/feedback. If you do not have any writing or editing samples, consider volunteering as a writer/editor, or simply write something you are interested in or highly opinionated about, and make it part of your portfolio. It is best to include at least two types of professional writing – technical and conversational.
4. Do some volunteer work
When you switch your career from being a full-time teacher to an instructional designer, you’ll need to have some experience of working on real-life projects before you can get a job.
And a great way to increase your work experience and enhance your resume is to do some volunteer work. Multiple non-profit organizations will give you wonderful opportunities to create educational lessons for them.
Volunteering and creating free courses will give you hands-on experience of working on real-world projects. Here is a list of organizations that can help you get started:
- ELearning for Kids – a global nonprofit foundation dedicated to free and fun online learning for kids of all ages. They now have courses for adult learners as well. ELearning for kids is constantly looking for volunteers who can contribute their time and knowledge. The process for becoming a volunteer is simple, and they have all types of projects from basic storyboarding to developing courses and quality assurance.
- LINGOs (Learning in NGOs) – a not-for-profit consortium of more than 75 international humanitarian relief and development organizations. LINGOs engages companies and associations working in the field of technology-assisted learning, and they always look for volunteers.
- Global Giveback – an organization that is always looking for volunteers. To learn more and to get started, sign up for the Global Giveback Group on LinkedIn.
- Other opportunities – spend time searching for them, explain who you are, and ask for projects. You can also consider contacting a university that has an instructional design or eLearning development program and see if they have or are aware of any volunteering or internship opportunities.
Making the transition from a full-time teacher to an instructional designer can be smooth if you have a solid action plan. So, if you are passionate about designing learning experiences for adults, then instructional design for eLearning is a perfect career for you!