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So, What Does an Elearning Instructional Designer Do, Anyway?

If you’re not an education professional you may have heard about instructional design, and probably have some understanding of what it is, but you probably have more questions than answers. So, let’s demystify it and help you join the ranks of elearning experts.


For the most part, it is as it sounds. An elearning instructional designer, designs elearning programs. But what exactly does that mean?


Let’s start off by breaking down the process of creating an elearning program. Here’s a step-by-step look at the process, whether you’re hiring a remote elearning designer or have elearning experts on your staff who can create the program.


  1. Gather and evaluate the source content – this is the material the training program will be based on. The source content may include technical documentation, users’ manuals, books and articles, or an instructor presentation and student manual if the program is being converted from classroom to online. Often much of the content exists only in the minds of your subject matter experts, such as engineers, product developers, HR professionals and sales leaders.

  2. Develop learning objectives – this is a list of the things someone should know or be able to do when they’ve completed the training. In determining the learning objectives you need to understand the audience, what role they’ll be performing and why they need to learn the material. Everything you teach in the course should support one of the learning objectives.

  3. Design the instructional methodology – this is where an elearning instructional designer lives. While they may perform other tasks in the development process, this is their bread and butter. Taking into account the audience, the learning objectives, the delivery method and the source material, the elearning instructional designer determines the best way to teach the content. How will it be presented to the learner? What methods will be used to engage the learner and reinforce the instruction? How will audio, video, games, simulation and other instructional techniques be used to promote learning, retention and application? How will the learning be measured? The elearning instructional designer takes all of those issues into consideration and creates a blueprint for the course.

  4. Develop scripts and storyboards – using the instructional design blueprint, an educational writer or elearning instructional designer will create scripts (assuming your course will have voiceover or video) and storyboards, which depict what will happen on each screen of the program.

  5. Create the course – in this step the storyboard is turned into the course. This requires gathering or creating all the media assets (photos, illustrations, animations, simulations, video, voiceover files), and building the slides in an authoring tool such as Adobe Captivate or Articulate Storyline to incorporate all the elements to bring to life the storyboard.

  6. Publish, load and quality check the courses – here the file in the authoring tool is turned into a SCORM package, uploaded to the Learning Management System (LMS), and a final quality review is conducted. For those of you who are not elearning experts, SCORM is the standard for elearning content files. It allows your elearning training program to be played correctly on any SCORM LMS.


The elearning instructional designer develops the instructional design methodology for the course, but may perform other functions as well. And often when you hear people talk about the elearning instructional designer, they’re using it to refer to the person who does most if not all of the course development.


So, there you have it. You can now join the ranks of the elearning experts, flaunt your knowledge of the elearning design process at cocktail parties, and maybe even become an elearning instructional designer or remote elearning designer yourself!

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