Advice for Getting Hired as an Instructional Designer or eLearning Programmer #1: Be Learner Focused

August 2, 2022

We get so many requests from visitors on the best way to break into the field of instructional design or eLearning design and programming. As a result, we have a six part series on getting hired as an instructional designer or programmer. This is our first step: Be learner focused.

At Five Square Learning, the instructional designer (ID) is the advocate for the learner. We are always having conversations about the learner experience, what the learner needs, how does this section or module link back to the learning objectives and change learner behavior. It’s at the core of our team discussions and impacts everything we do. We have removed activities, shorted content, changed interactions and completely thrown out things that are not enhancing the learner experience.

As a new instructional designer or programmer, your focus should always be on the learner. Forget the technology or the methodology and really stare deep into the abyss of the learner experience. Is this boring? Is the trainer talking for too long? Does the visual enhance the learning? Can this be changed or improved? What will really bridge the topic? Can it be done in the time frame? What is less important that can be pulled in order to make this section lean and to the point?

Yes, learning a methodology like ADDIE or SAM forms the background structure of the ID process. Yes, mastering the adult learning concepts is critical to your success as a working ID (see advice blog #2), but when you strip it all down, is the learner learning? After all the research has been done, after all the SME meetings are over and the learning plan created, only by focusing on the learner and the links between learning objectives and content can you decide if the learning is working.

Don’t get hung up on the methodology. Don’t get hung up on the content. If you steer towards understanding your audience, making sure that the learner understands the concepts, and really put yourself in the mind and body of the people you are training, then your work will be successful and rewarding. Don’t cram all the content in because the SME wants it in there! Don’t make it a one hour eLearning because that’s been decided as the “right” amount of time to learn the concept. Be a human first – human centered learning design. Go back a few paragraphs and ask yourself those questions again.

If you can truly develop content that is interesting, impactful, appropriate and learner focused, you will become a great instructional designer. Everything else, outside of learner experience, is secondary. 

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