Disclaimer: This article is intended for those who’ve never heard of the term “Instructional Designer” until they needed one.
There’s a dirty secret in Learning and Design when it comes to workplace training. It is masked with jargon, exorbitant fees, slow timetables, and rounds of feedback with strangers who’ve never actually stepped foot on your work site. I may even be banished from the Instructional Design cabal for telling you this, but: You do not need to be an instructional designer to do instructional design.
If you are a small-to-medium-sized business that cannot afford hundreds of hours of design work, there is absolutely no reason you should be deprived of great workplace training. In some instances, when it comes to safety or PPE precautions, it’s a matter of safety.
Here are three things you do NOT need (though you may think you do) to make an incredible learning experience.
1) An external SME
External SMEs (or subject matter experts) are most of the time completely unnecessary. There is no need to go and search for an outside professional for work that you’ve been doing for years. Your SMEs are your co-workers! They know how to do their job, the tricks to make it easier, and the pitfalls that a newcomer might experience. Use them, ask for their opinion, set up a time to interview them or shadow them and ask for a candid tour of their day-to-day. This will help you understand what needs to be taught, as well as allows them to be heard, establishing a relationship that might not have previously been there.
2) A degree in education
While it always helps to have teaching experience and an understanding of how your learners learn, there is nothing you absolutely need that you cannot learn on YouTube or the hundreds of books about adult learning on Amazon. Adults are by no means simple learners, in fact, there are some areas that make them a more difficult audience than younger learners.
One of the main rules of thumb is to make relatable pieces of training that reference actual situations you may encounter in a day’s work. This is why many IDs tend to opt for storytelling or scenario-based presentations. You are already an expert in this, as you know better than anyone else what happens during a typical day on the job!
If you want more insight, I can’t recommend enough the book Design for How People Learn by Julie Dirksen.
3) L&D experience
You have to start somewhere! Even the most talented instructional designers at one point knew nothing about learning, development and enhancing talent. It takes trial and error. So make the first step. Make those first errors. You can only learn by making mistakes and improving.
Make something—anything. While you’re finding your tools, you may want to start with a lesson about yourself, or your favourite movie if you’d like. See what works for you. Once you’ve made your first module, give it to a friend. See if they enjoy it! Are they falling asleep while taking it? Their snores can be all the feedback you need to make it more engaging.
There are a ton of great authoring tools out there, though none are easier to use than EdApp for non-IDs (full disclosure, I work for them). It’s template-based, free, and has the best live support in the biz. Covering five different time zones around the world, there is not an hour when someone isn’t here to answer your questions if you get stuck. You can even schedule a one-on-one session to walk you through the authoring tool.
So what do you need to do Instructional Design? Something to say.
Everyone has something to teach. All it takes is some elbow grease, organization, a little bit of humility, and the right tools to have a stellar e-learning experience for your co-workers.
You can do this.