Does Instructional Design really need a new name?

Recently I read a great blog post from Connie Malamed ( wherein she made a pretty compelling case for renaming Instructional Design (ID) with a more contemporary acronym that encompasses our understanding of the needs and motivations of learners—Learning Experience Design or LX Design. 

Do you agree with Connie's assertion that the Instructional Design (ID) moniker has outlived its relevancy? Why or why not? What would you like to see ID called in the future? And how do you describe yourself today?

53 Replies
Jeffrey Dalto

Interesting list. 

Ultimately, it may not matter what we call ourselves. However, I think it would be great if you could use a title and people would know what you do. And that rarely happens with "instructional designer," although it seems basic enough.

I think that's one of the arguments for "learning experience designer." That seems intuitive. I think it also nicely captures what you're doing.

Or, what you're doing some of the time, as Bob S. pointed out above by listing multiple titles. And still other times, some of us are actually leading instructor-led training on top of all that other stuff too.

Bruce Graham

I would need a lot of convincing to use the word "experience" in any corporate title that I advocated. As a vague collection of "we make courses" people, we have enough of a job getting ourselves taken seriously by the rest of the (established) business community, and adding "experience" in my opinion does not add anything very useful.

We are not a museum attraction, or a piece of interactive art - we ultimately help increase profits, reduce losses, or reduce personal/business risk. That's it. The word "experience" may be recognised by us as a community, but I suspect it would alienate us even further from the rest of commerce, and that's not helpful.

I'd even add that Connie's choice of "explainer" may not be helpful - we what? There's no implied behavioural change from our audience, which is the whole point of learning. We spend our professional lives helping clients understand the concept that "explaining" is not enough, so bringing it into our (job) title, for me is counter-productive, confusing and rather pointless.

Very often, I will just tell a new client/prospect that "I'll make you look GREAT" when I meet them and they ask me what I do. As I am there, they normally know (approximately) anyway, and that statement is the deal closer. It's not what you are called, it's what you can DO that matters.

Alexander Salas

Instructional Designer was only relevant to us romanticists!  We don't design learning because learning is a process happening inside the learner.  We help transfer knowledge and skills through elearning multimedia for money. Therefore we are "training mercenaries" ; )  Time for a sincere paradigm shift!

Bruce Graham
Alexander Salas

Instructional Designer was only relevant to us romanticists!  We don't design learning because learning is a process happening inside the learner.  We help transfer knowledge and skills through elearning multimedia for money. Therefore we are "training mercenaries" ; )  Time for a sincere paradigm shift!


"Training Mercenary" - brilliant :)

Marie Faulkner

I have to agree with Allison and say that outside of the e-learning world, when I mention the phrase/title of Instructional Design, I typically have to then also mention e-learning and the creation of content and then the penny drops!

Coming from a recruitment perspective, I quite often  find that clients will ask me if they need to change their 'traditional' job title of Instructional Designer' to attract more/better quality candidates. However no matter whether we use Learning Designer, Digital Designer or Learning Design Specialist or Learning Producer, ultimately in my opinion  the actual aim of role being carried out is to aid the learners journey, so perhaps I do tend to use Learning in the title somewhere!




Even ASTD (the American Society for Training & Development) recently adopted the new name ATD (Association for Talent Development). So maybe Talent Development Designer? Talent Development Deliverable Designer? Talent Development Program Designer? Talent Development Experience Architect? 

I'm thinking I need to build a "Learning Job Title Generator" in StoryLine similar to the "Corporate Speak BS Generator" located here:

Zsolt Olah

Great discussion! It seems like title change depends on whether you're looking at it from your own perspective (what I actually do) or from what others think about it (career). And yes, "X" is really cool, we should definitely include it in the name somehow! I wish I could come up with something makes it XOXO.

This may not apply to all but there might be a time when the business will longer consider humans as "resources" (HR) that need to be "managed" and "developed" like a film in the dark room (you might need to Google that process :) ). You won't develop humans/talents, rather support them growing; you won't train them on something but facilitate their learning, allow them to share, just like this community. Maybe then we'll have a better word for Instructional Design.

For now, I would just change it to High Sparrow, so we can have the moral upper ground.  

Kevin Thorn

Really enjoying this! It's clear from looking at our industry from the inside there are wide range of varying job/role titles. Whether you gave yourself the title or a company has an official title on the books, we practitioners seem to be the only community ever raising the question if "instructional designer" is relevant from one year to the next.

The title is just a name. If you can explain and define what you do in one sentence to a customer, client, stranger, family member, etc. and then produce what you say you do, call yourself whatever you want. 

That said, "instructional" designer doesn't say everything we do or asked to do in today's industry. Whereas "learning experience" designer appears to cast a bigger umbrella over all the roles within our work. At a fundamental level an experience can be as simple has how one defines navigation behaviors, or how a click-and-reveal interaction looks and feels with the goal of transferring knowledge because of that experience.

I call myself the Chief NuggetHead, so there's that. 

Robert Bradley

You are ALL making very good points and coming up with great new names. I think one problem is that "instructional designers" work in a field that changes almost monthly - devices, clouds, social media......
Another challenge is that our organizations are typically staffed by "Training Specialists or Trainers" - many of whom know very little about "ID". Perhaps AS2 users are an even smaller segment of the "ID" community. My point is, I think we might represent only a fragment of a larger community - otherwise there would not be so great a need for more engaging learning / training.

Jerson  Campos

@ Nicole

Interesting you mentioned about paying more for a better title.  I once worked at a company who changed my job title to justify my pay. I just got a raise and I guess the old title's (Technical Trainer) compensation average (I'm not really sure how they figured it out) didn't meet the new salary so they changed it to Senior Analyst.  I didn't change positions and I did everything I did before with no changes. Funny thing is that a couple years later they changed it back. 

I wonder if people would be willing or feel more comfortable paying more for a better sounding title, say from Instructional Designer to Learning Experience Manager. Adding the manager gives it a more executive touch to it. I know that the ELearning guild puts out a salary compensation report, but does it break it down by title? 

Many other here who say that the title doesn't matter and having a good elevator speech is the important thing, but it's like having a good resume or business card. It's all about getting through that first door. 

Nicole Reid

I personally do not believe in changing titles as a reward (in replacement of a raise) but I do believe in having a competitive title gives you the advantage over others when applying to jobs. 

In your case , your position didn't change just the title which sounds like a bureaucratic move by the company. Then changing it back was silly as well! I think that "manager" has a certain ring to it that may lead to an interview where you can showcase your talents, as aforementioned! Versus every other applicant that has instructional designer on their resume. Yes! We need to get in the door!

This New York Times blog as some points, what do you think?

Gilbert Luna

I tend to use the title Instructional Technologist because I perform outside of ISD and my current trend has been to manage projects. I guess in a real world scenario Instructional Designer would be a position in the learning and development process. Because my education background was in utilizing technology to create elearning I lean towards the world of technology and less as an Instructional Designer.

Rita Garcia

I have to admit I do like the sound of Learning Experience Designer. Everything is so much about providing experiences to the customer, the user, why not the learner too? It definitely puts the 'meaningful' in learning, while Instructional Designer is so industrial age.

But will our clients know what that means? And then again, do they know what Instructional Designer means too? When I say to someone that I'm an Instructional Designer, they usually say "What?!". I think I'll try Learning Experience Designer a few times to see how that goes.