The training and e-learning industry has never been a more exciting field to work in than it is today. First, technology—and let’s face it, e-learning is technology!—is a booming, growing industry that is ever-evolving, providing job variety as well as the opportunity to constantly learn new skills.
Before the age of the Internet, training was mostly face-to-face and classroom based. But now, with globalization and increased access to the Internet, training departments are hotbeds of technology, adopting trends like gamification and interactive video.
For these reasons and more, it’s easy to get excited about a career in training and e-learning design.
Let’s look at some of the common job titles in today’s training and e-learning industries. Keep in mind, there are always nuances at each organization about job titles and the job functions they actually represent. The definitions below are simply a general idea of what each job title could entail.
AKA: Facilitator, Instructor, Teacher
What do trainers do? Simply put, they deliver instructor-led training—in either a physical or virtual classroom. Trainers deliver instructional content (designed by instructional designers), administer activities, and provide feedback to learners.
To be a trainer, you need to be comfortable speaking in front of groups. Effective trainers are usually confident, dynamic, and engaging. You should also have strong communication skills and a knack for sharing information with learners in a concise and efficient way. If you have any doubts, there’s a whole industry dedicated to, well, training trainers on how to train!
Two other key skills are time management and adaptability, which means being able to adjust your material or delivery on the fly to meet a group’s learning needs.
And if you’re a virtual trainer, it’s important to have technology skills, like experience with web-conferencing or virtual classroom apps.
Instructional Designer (ID)
AKA: Training Designer, Instructional Systems Designer, Curriculum Designer
Instructional designers (IDs) design training experiences. Whether the requirement is an instructor-led classroom training session, a one-hour e-learning module, or a single-page job aid, the ID needs to have the skill set to transform raw source content (often a Word document or a PowerPoint) into a meaningful and effective training solution. The output of an ID’s work varies depending on the type of training experience they are creating. If they’re designing an e-learning course, the output will likely be a storyboard, which is often passed along to a developer to create the content. On the other hand, if the ID is designing a classroom-based training activity or a simple job aid, they might develop those training materials themselves and then pass them on directly to the trainer for delivery.
What skill set do you need to be a successful ID? You should be familiar with adult learning principles, learning theories, and instructional methodologies and models, such as ADDIE, SAM, and Kirkpatrick’s Levels of Evaluation. Since there’s a lot of writing involved in creating training materials, you should also strive to be a clear and effective writer. You also need to be analytical, logical, organized, and creative to design courses that present the key messages in a way that makes sense and engages the learners.
AKA: Multimedia Developer, E-Learning Designer, Course Developer
The e-learning developer takes the instructionally designed content (typically a storyboard or Word document) created by the instructional designer and develops them into a functional online course using e-learning authoring software. Depending on the level of detail the ID includes in their storyboard, the developer may or may not need to make some visual design and content layout decisions. They might also be the point person to replace any placeholder content (such as images or videos) and provide the final content.
The e-learning developer’s skill set, ideally, would include strong experience using e-learning authoring software, a certain level of graphic and visual design abilities, an ability to manage timelines and due dates, and a level of comfort working with audio and video.
Subject Matter Expert (SME)
The Subject Matter Expert (SME) is someone who’s an expert in their field. SMEs aren’t usually specifically hired for the purpose of developing e-learning courses (though that does happen in certain cases). The SME is usually the person in an organization who has the most knowledge or skill in a specific topic and is simply helping out with the course creation process. The SME could be an HR staff member, an engineer, a researcher, a product manager, a sales manager, a finance person, etc.
SMEs have the content, experience, and insights that are essential to creating great e-learning courses. They provide the course content to the instructional designer, who picks out the key messages and decides how to present them to learners in an effective way. Then the SME reviews the course to ensure the content is still accurate.
In addition to being an expert on the subject, ideally the SME is someone who’s got a basic understanding of what makes training effective and how the course creation process works. If that’s not the case, it’s a good idea for the instructional designer to give them a quick overview, so they know what to expect. Here’s a course that was designed for this exact purpose.
It’s also important for SMEs to be detail-oriented, since the accuracy of the content depends on them reviewing the course carefully, every step of the way. Finally, a good SME also has great communication skills, allowing them to provide clear feedback, so the instructional designer can then adapt the course accordingly. Here are some tips for first-time Subject Matter Experts.
Some larger e-learning course creation companies hire content editors to review their courses. Their job is to ensure that everything is explained clearly, terms are used consistently, and the text is free of typos, grammatical mistakes, and spelling errors.
When the project team is smaller or if courses are created internally, the content editor role is often done more informally by, say, a willing coworker.
No matter who proofreads your course, it’s important that they have excellent writing skills and are detail-oriented. If you don’t have access to a professional content editor, here’s an article that outlines some things to ask your coworker to watch out for as they review your course: Top Writing Tips for E-Learning.
Quality Assurance (QA) Tester
AKA: Usability Tester
Some training companies hire QA testers to review their courses from a technical standpoint and ensure everything works properly before they roll them out to learners. In smaller companies, this step is often something the instructional designer or e-learning developer hands off to a friendly coworker.
QA testers spend time going through the courses and exploring any and all possible paths a learner might take, to ensure the learner doesn’t run into any issues.
In addition to having patience, QA testers need to be extremely observant and meticulous—taking note of anything that works in a way they wouldn’t expect. Here’s a list of things to look out for.
Not every company has the budget to have a dedicated graphic designer, but having one can really add value. Graphic designers can design custom slide layouts, icons, illustrations, and more that will make your courses look even more professional.
For those of you working on teams without a graphic designer, don’t worry! If you’re an Articulate 360 subscriber, you’ve got access to tons of great templates, icons, illustrations, and photos for no additional cost in Content Library 360.
Graphic designers working on e-learning project teams require a skill set similar to those working in other environments: a great eye for design, creativity, and a familiarity with apps like Photoshop and Illustrator. It’s also helpful if graphic designers are organized and used to working in teams. That way they’ll be used to clearly labeling the assets they create so other people can easily find and edit them as needed.
E-Learning Project Manager
AKA: Training Project Manager
Much like project managers in any field, an e-learning project manager is responsible for organizing and coordinating the creation of e-learning courses.
Typically, this kind of role exists in larger e-learning content creation companies. In smaller organizations, the person managing the course creation might also be the instructional designer and/or the e-learning developer. In this case, they’d need to have the required skills for all three of those roles.
The project manager is the main contact for external clients. As such, they serve as a liaison between the client and the project team members (instructional designers, e-learning developers, etc.), making sure everyone stays on the same page.
The project manager also manages the course creation schedule, ensuring that things move forward as expected and stay on track to meet the deadlines.
To be successful in this role, you need to know how to manage a team, a project schedule, and work with clients effectively. You need to have excellent relationship-building skills and be able to communicate clearly. And since you’ll need to anticipate any potential pitfalls that could pop up throughout the project, it’s helpful to have basic instructional design skills, a general understanding of what’s possible in the authoring tools you’re using, and a working knowledge of the way LMSs work.
AKA: Training Coordinator, Manager of Training and Development
The training manager designs, develops, and executes an organization’s training strategy (which is usually outlined by the director of training). They typically work with internal stakeholders and teams to develop training programs—including in-person and online training—that align with the organization’s business goals.
The training manager often takes care of scheduling instructor-led training sessions, booking training venues, communicating with participants about class logistics, ordering classroom materials, and more.
They also identify training and developmental needs by analyzing job requirements, operational opportunities, and current training programs. After completing this research, they analyze the data and use a metrics-driven approach to develop training solutions and learning initiatives. Often, they will oversee other members of the training team, including the IDs, developers, and trainers.
A training manager’s skill set should include the ability to manage a team, timelines, and projects. They should be well-versed in instructional design methodologies, performance management, needs analyses, and adult learning techniques to develop appropriate training programs as required.
Director of Training
AKA: Director of Learning, Chief Learning Officer, Director of Talent Development
The director of training is a step above the manager of training. Directors are at the top of the chain; they provide the vision and direction for the training department and then oversee the managers as they execute the training strategy. Directors must think about the future of an organization, its assets, and its reputation with every decision they make.
A director’s skill set should include leadership skills, broad knowledge of the industry at hand, a deep understanding of instructional design and learning methodologies, performance analysis skills, experience creating learning and development programs, and strong communication skills.
AKA: Training Systems Administrator, Training Implementation Specialist
An LMS administrator uploads and tests the e-learning courses created by the e-learning developer in a company’s learning management system (LMS). This specialist also manages all tasks related to the LMS, including communicating with the software vendor, troubleshooting and fixing user issues, compiling reports and data, and communicating about performance metrics.
What skills should an LMS admin possess? They should be a subject matter expert (SME) on the LMS platform an organization uses, possess strong technical capabilities, and hopefully have some experience in IT systems management. An LMS admin should also have in-depth knowledge of industry-standard publishing formats such as SCORM, xAPI (Tin Can API), cmi5, and AICC—and it doesn’t hurt to have experience uploading courses created with the authoring software being used by the organization.
These are some of the most common job titles in the training and e-learning industry. Of course, plenty of jobs out there include a blend of the various roles. For instance, we see a lot of IDs who are also e-learning developers or trainers, and some training managers who act as directors, setting the training strategy. It really varies from one organization to another.
Looking for some more insight into the day-to-day activities of e-learning pros? Check out these eye-opening articles:
- A Day in the Life of an Instructional Designer
- A Day in the Life of an E-Learning Freelancer
- A Day in the Life of an E-Learning Project Manager
Is your job title listed here? Does the description above accurately reflect what you do and the skills you believe are required to do it? Leave us a comment below and let us know!
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