instructional designer

Instructional Designer (ID): Teachers helping Teachers

Some people may think that there’s no difference between a teacher and an Instructional Designer. Certainly there are many similarities but the disciplines/professions/careers/practices are significantly different. So what actually is an Instructional Designer (ID) and what are their origins?

What is an Instructional Designer?

Instructional designers are teachers who helps the other teachers. However, while regular teachers have direct contact with students, trainees and learners, IDs will often be one step removed from this interface. IDs will be designing and providing the courses, courseware, learning tools which the teachers use to do their job. An ID will often configure a learning management system (LMS) so that a teacher can use it to teach with. They make knowledge transfer as effective, efficient and engaging as possible.

Instructional Designer Tools

As such the better an Instructional Designer is, the better ALL of the associated teachers will be and the better the learning outcomes will be.

There are other differences too. The majority of teachers will be part of the education vertical. Instructional Designers often consider themselves to be part of the learning industry – a complimentary industry that simultaneously enhances education as well as other industries.

The origins of the Instructional Designer

Instructional Design is a relatively-recent development compared to teaching which is one of the oldest professions/practices in human history. It has roots in both systems engineering and the behaviourism elements of psychology, but by far the most intriguing origin story comes from World War 2. As Wikipedia puts it, “The role of systems engineering in the early development of instructional design was demonstrated during World War II when a considerable amount of training materials for the military were developed based on the principles of instruction, learning, and human behaviour.” It continues, “In 1946, Edgar Dale outlined a hierarchy of instructional methods, organized intuitively by their concreteness. The framework first migrated to the industrial sector to train workers before it finally found its way to the education field.”

The origins of the instructional designer.
The origins of the Instructional Designer (Source:-
Drill Sergeant – The Big Picture, YouTube)

Perhaps not surprisingly, in recent decades, teachers have learned teaching at teaching school from teachers while Instructional Designers have come from an HR background and either taught themselves ID or sought official training and qualifications in the subject. In more recent years, the fields have started converging as practitioners realised that the best learning, teaching and instructional benefits come from a multi-faceted instructional approach that uses elements from all disciplines.

As such, teachers have started to use ID techniques and technologies to train young pupils while Instructional Designers are getting closer to teachers and even teaching themselves. The latter is especially true in company training scenarios where eLearning practices using learning management systems are becoming more and more optimised to ensure that unwilling company workers who traditionally loathe company training days, are more-actively engaged with a view to them retaining the knowledge they are given to the highest degree possible. This makes sense as a workers who both enjoy training and take new skills away from it are happier, more productive, more loyal and generally feel more valued.


One eLearning area that is experiencing a high degree of convergence from teaching skills and ID skills, is microlearning. This is the practice of splitting lessons up into small, easily-digestible, bite-sized microlessons which only take a short time to complete. They work best when only a few topics are covered and questions are interactive – even gamified. With increasingly small time spans to operate within, learning has to be highly optimised and so teachers are making the most of instructional design techniques – especially when adults, who may no longer be susceptible to learning, are involved. You can read more about microlearning here and see what our Instructional Designers recommend for creating the best micro lesson plan. You can read more on how your business can be boosted with etraining here.

If you’d like to try a mobile-focussed learning management system which helps teachers and Instructional Designers transfer knowledge in the most effective way possible (and offers more-than 50 ready-made microlesson templates) get in touch at You can also try EdApp’s Mobile LMS and authoring tool for free by signing up here or in the box below.

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