What habits should you develop to become a better instructional designer?

Yesterday I posted an article about 5 habits I've observed in effective Instructional Designers.  Now I'd love to hear from you: what habits do you see or appreciate in your instructional design peers? Any new habits you're trying to cultivate in 2015? How about old habits you're trying to leave behind?

17 Replies
Kevin Thorn

Good habits I see in Instructional Designers are those who:

  • have a good sense of development. Instead of writing "click this..." or "drag that..." in their storyboard, they define the behavior and add context to what their instructional design is intended to do.
  • aid in the initial narration by adding suggested cue points where certain images, annotations, or animations are to occur.
  • add additional resource or pronunciation help for audio talent when a script has difficult industry or technical terms such as in health care.
  • provides good creative context, but leaves the actual solutions to the developer.

Just a few of my favs.

Ashley Chiasson

Great question, Trina! I think some good habits are:

  • Being able to effectively communicate with clients and/or SMEs, AND get the information you need in an efficient manner (the latter part is usually the most difficult);
  • If working with a team, be as specific as possible within your storyboarding (e.g. creating task analysis for complex branching scenarios) - doing so will provide context for other members of your team; and
  • Understand your role and never stop learning!
Nicole Legault

This is a great topic! Loving all these great tips. Ashley, great tip about the storyboarding! Very true!

2 habits I'm working on all the time:

  • Being concise. I think it is the different between a good ID and a not-so-good ID - a good ID can edit down information (without losing the important knowledge and skills that need to be taught) and who clearly communicate in a simple and concise way.  

    How do I cultivate this habit?
    By writing a LOT and self-editing even more.
  • Thinking of content in terms of scenarios. I personally think that training is most engaging, relevant and meaningful when you can frame it in a scenario that applies to the learner in real life. Thinking of content this way was very challenging and difficult for me when I first started as an ID but now it comes naturally. (They say practice makes perfect!)

    How do I cultivate this habit? Here's a tip: when you're handed some new content, immediately start thinking "what are the real-life opportunities to apply this content?" and "what real triggers will cause this process or information to be needed?". This will help you think of your content in terms of "scenarios". 
Trina Rimmer

"...it's easy to get dragged into the weeds and loose sight of the learner..." - yes, it is! I think we've all fallen victim to challenging SMEs or content and lost sight of the goal. If there's any area I'm constantly trying to improve upon, it's probably that: how to keep my eye and everyone else's on the ball.

Trina Rimmer

Good points, Kevin. As a designer/developer I find it's easy to fall into the habit of "design on the fly" so one of the things I've learned from partnering with skilled developers (like you!) is that a detailed, highly specific storyboard is essential. Not only is it just a key communication tool between designers & developers, it's an important tool for translating the client's needs into functional requirements - which is kind of the essence of design-thinking.

Katie Evans

As a new instructional designer, I've found it's really important to absorb as much information as you can from your coworkers, clients, even from other IDs from this forum (!) but to have a goal of developing your own style and way of doing things (design docs, look and feel, displaying content, etc.). It's easy for others to sway you when you're new into their way of working. This takes time, patience and lots of practice.

Any tips from veterans out there?

Daniel Brigham

For whatever it's worth: there are many "hidden" aspects of elearning that are perhaps the most important: setting your clients expectations as to what you can build; establishing a solid relationship with your SMEs; being ok with building page turners if that's what the people want.

Be patient with yourself as you grow your skills. Unhappy clients teach you the most valuable lessons. Stay with it.

Jenn Barnett-Russell

I think another very important element is being able to problem solve outside of the box.  I've found problem solving to be a huge component of my work designing courses.  There is no avoiding running into blockades for a project from time to time be it related to a program, people, or your content.  Often, thinking of other ways to do that exact same thing that's giving you problems is the most effective and efficient solution rather than altering your plan of action.

Bob S

Wisdom that someone shared with me years ago... 

"If you can't explain it at least two different ways, then you don't really understand it"

I've taken this mantra and applied it to my choice in SMEs, my way of organizing/chunking information, and more on the content side of course. But as importantly, I've adopted this way of thinking when it comes stakeholders and being able to offer two options/approaches and the pros and cons of each.

It is this latter application of the mantra that I believe helps set great ID's apart as valued business partners and performance consultants.

Amber Stokes

Discovery, Design, Develop and Deploy is my simple workflow mantra. I avoid moving to quickly through Discovery phase because later it can cause scope creep issues. In my opinion staying flexible with clients is important since they may not always know the right questions to ask, that's my role. Clients are Subject Matter Experts not IDs.