Have you ever wondered how people learn?
Perhaps it’s been in the context of wondering how you learn best. You may be the type of person who learns visually, and in that case you have to be able to see what is being taught to really understand the concept. Maybe you’re more of a verbal learner and can learn simply by hearing it explained thoroughly. Or perhaps you need to have a hands-on approach, physically doing what it is that you’re being taught.
But however it is that you personally learn, you may be surprised that there’s someone, somewhere, whose passion it is to figure out the best practices to make learning easier for each and every one. Welcome inside the mind of instructional designers.
What is an Instructional Designer?
For many of us, we have all done some type of online learning. Whether you’ve been a full-fledged online student, taken a few online courses here or there, or you’ve had a job where part of the onboarding process was to take online lessons and assessments, most of us have had some type of experience with this educational medium. But taking what you learn in a classroom setting and translating it into an online experience doesn’t always translate over easily. This is where instructional designers come in to the mix.
“We take our understanding of learning theories, meaning, figuring out what the best practices of how people learn are,” said Andrew Walsh, an instructional designer at Johnson & Wales College of Online Education. “What are the don’ts? How do people not learn? How do they not retain information?” he added. For Walsh and many other instructional designers, these are the questions that drive what they do every day. “You design a set of activities that engage students in the learning process that gets them to learn new skills and develop new information that helps them apply it in many different ways,” Walsh said.
But to further understand the end goal of the student or trainee’s education, Walsh says you have to work backwards from the outcome to find the beginning.
A Path to Learning
“Think about a class that you enjoyed in college—besides its topic why did you enjoy that class?” Walsh asked. For many people the answer to his question is simple: because of how it was run. Walsh said that with keeping that in mind along with applying the learning theories they’ve been taught through their studies, instructional designers work with an expert in the field to begin to piece together an educational experience.
“On an instructional designer’s front, we understand where and what kind of activities does any type of learner do that really engages the brain and turn on all of the lights to learning,” he said. Equipped with the knowledge of how to best engage online learners, an instructional designer then works with an industry expert to break down the topic into milestones for the learners. “Many times when you’re an expert in the field, it can be tough to break it apart for someone who is new to learn this,” Walsh said.
He explained that for instructional designers and industry experts to collaborate, instructional designers need to “put their feet in the place of a learners.” Together the two use the teacher’s expertise on the topic and the instructional designer’s knowledge of best-learning practices to piece together a clear path to the outcome for the learner.
What Can You Do with a Degree in Instructional Design?
You can work in a wide variety of fields with your degree in instructional design. Walsh explained that instructional designers, for the most part, can take two paths. For him, being a former teacher, he chose to take the path into higher education. “Figuring out how to design environments online that make students feel engaged and excited, it’s a fun challenge,” Walsh said. Also adding that part of what he enjoys about working in higher education is that through designing courses for topics he once knew nothing about, he’s been able to in some ways also be a student and keep learning.
However higher education is only one route that an instructional designer can choose to go down. Someone with their degree can also turn to the corporate world and help employers educate their employees through training modules. “The concepts are still the same, it’s just the audience that’s different,” Walsh said. “You’re still taking the same principles and theories, so if you’re training a team and you’re implementing training, you need to make sure that what you’re doing is really making the impact that you want.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, it’s expected that careers in the field in instructional design will grow 6% by 2028. As for how Walsh feels about the future of instructional design, he said that thanks to ever-evolving technology, he’s optimistic. “There’s just so many possibilities and the possibilities aren’t going to stop.”
Ready to find out more about earning your degree online? Contact us at 855-JWU-1881 or [email protected]. You can also fill out the “Request Info” form on this page.