What the heck is an Instructional Designer? Part 3: The Practical Magic

What the heck is an instructional designer? | find out on stephaniecappsdyke.com!

This is the third post in a series where I answer the question: “What the heck is an instructional designer?” Stay tuned for each part as I take you behind the curtain!

Missed the other parts? Check them out here: Part 1 | Part 2

Last time I talked about clarifying the needs of your specific learning population.

Once we are on the same page with the goal of training and the audience needs, it’s time to have some technical and practical discussions.

Instructional designers who aren’t also developers may rely on someone else to step in with some of this. Because I frequently design for online consumption, I need to know what the client expects the final product to look like.

Is it going to be a bunch of talking head videos? narrated Powerpoints? (yawn and double yawn, by the way) Do they have an LMS, or another type of distribution platform? Will the learner be expected to complete the content in a specific amount of time? Are there non-tech components to the training? Will there be a test? Downloadable materials? Am I converting former classroom-based instruction into an online course?

I have a massive checklist for all this stuff. Some of the questions can be ruled out by virtue of answers to other questions. Some questions will open a huge can of worms. But, especially when you’re working with a client, versus designing for your own employer, it’s critical to get answers to all of these questions before committing to the project.

Cautionary tale: I once created an in-depth online, interactive course for a man who had lifelong experience in a particular field. He had written a book and wanted to turn his knowledge into training for up-and-comers in his industry. Turns out he had no way to distribute the course content once I was done. He didn’t know what he didn’t know and thought that the course was going to be like a widget that people just had to pay him for and he could email them a link or something.

Now this was years ago; these days the solution is pretty simple, but if I had asked the questions, he wouldn’t have made erroneous assumptions.. It all turned out ok, but lesson learned – ask a lot of questions about the client’s expectations and vision! (and have a more clear client service agreement)


In the next part of this series, I will take a look at subject matter experts and content. Are you a training industry professional? I’d love to hear your take on the instructional design process!

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