GEETA Bose, Co-Founder and Director of Kern Learning Solutions asks, "Why is it that some teachers can make even the most boring lessons interesting?” “While the books at your school were the same, it was the teaching methods or techniques used by teachers that made all the difference,” she observes. According to Geeta, the process of delivering instruction that students learn effectively is called ‘Instructional Design (ID)’. Today, ID has grown into an exciting, challenging field that offers employment opportunities, at the helm of which is a key role – ‘Instructional Designer’.
A growing field
Instructional Designers are most sought after in the training and learning industry. However, they are relevant in almost any sector/ vertical where there is a need for training to solve a problem. They develop classroom training and e-learning for employees of large corporations, and also curriculum design and development for universities. Publishing houses and online publishers need them to design and develop online content. They are hired by e-learning companies. Does the prospect of working in a challenging field requiring cross-functional skills across domains excites you?
Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) wanted an online tutorial to train its Customer Service Officers (CSOs) about its new web-based one-screen application. So, the instructional designers at Kern Learning Solutions developed task-based tutorials to help the CSOs learn about various tabs and fields in the new application. Each tutorial had modules, followed by a multiple-option quiz at the end of each. The instructional designers had to understand their client SCB’s requirements and target audience, and accordingly plan and execute an e-learning tutorial. The tutorial had to allow for self-learning (by the CSOs) which meant putting in a summary video and a section to recap and refresh learning. The project also involved designing the look and feel of the tutorial, and the content/technical writing (screen headers, call outs, recap questions, etc).
Sabari Chattaraj, founder of Rubikube Solutions explains the role of an instructional designer in more detail. “An instructional designer analyses an organisations requirement; typically a behavioural or performance problem faced, which can be solved with training. He or she then develops a design for the training and assimilates content from various sources (existing material, subject matter experts, other references),” explains Chattaraj. Technology and multimedia tools are leveraged to enhance instruction via the e-learning medium. “Sometimes instructional designers also build what they design; in this instance, they are also the Course Developer,” shares Monica Patil, Director of Eshana HR Consultants, which recruits Instructional Designers for e-learning companies.
A multi-dimensional role
“Most instructional designers think just being a good writer is enough. Yes, it is important to be a good writer but more important to think at a programme level with all the elements together. Only those who can visualise a programme end-to-end will grow faster in this profession,” shares Geeta. Sutapa Mukherjee, a senior consultant with a prominent e-learning company in India believes that a good instructional designer must have cross functional skills such as effective communication skills, knowledge of graphics and Dreamworks, Learning Management Systems (LMS), visual programming, etc. “Some of the best designers have some software background as well and the curiosity to ask the right kind of questions! An analytical mind helps to understand what the client really wants,” she says.
Over the last few decades this role has attracted people from myriad professions - writers and editors, researchers, educators, innovators, developers, project managers and media experts. An BA or MA in English, Education, Sociology or Psychology, Anthropology or Journalism, can add value to the role, and even regular graduate with a keen interest and flair can succeed.
However, instructional designer should ideally have done a course in instructional design or educational technology. “The course teaches you the principles and theories. On the job, you learn about the application of these principles and theories,” says Geeta.
Role of an Instructional Designer
Understands the needs, wants and motivations of learners, and the stakeholders’ motivations
Works closely with subject-matter experts, and visual designers to identify look and feel of final training product
Designs the high level blue print (design document) of the programme
Designs the micro-level content to meet the learning needs
Designs activities, assessments, scenarios, and other elements to engage learners and make learning effective
Companies that hire
Tata Interactive Systems
Courses in Instructional Design
Though education in this area is still in its nascent stage, this programme is being offered at the postgraduate level by some educational institutes across the country. SNDT Women’s University is one of the few institutes that offer a Master’s degree in the field. Bangalore-based 4C- learning Solutions, an instructional design firm also offers certificate courses. “While many educational institutes ask for B.Ed. graduates, it is one of the most outdated degrees in India. We take applications from graduates from any field but only those with excellent English language skills are accepted into our programme,” informs VivekPadubidri, Managing Director, 4C-Learning Solutions.
An entry-level instructional designer starts off with approximately INR 2.25 lakh annually. At the mid-career level, salaries are in the range of INR 4 lakh to 6 lakh depending on experience, the strength/position of the company and the location in the country. Top management earns anywhere upwards of INR 10 lakh annually.
Co-Founder & Director, Kern Learning Solutions
Most think that being a good writer is enough. But it is more important to think at a programme level with all elements together. Those who can visualise end-to-end will grow faster
Since instructional designers are not necessarily subject matter experts, the biggest challenge for them is to understand real life scenarios for the target audience. For example, an instructional designer who does not have a background in mobile technology or gaming may not be able to easily design a training programme for a mobile or gaming company client. “Cross-cultural considerations have to be taken into account when developing content. Always be aware of the Do’s and Dont’s for a specific culture to avoid cross-cultural conflicts,” advises Sabari.
SNDT Women’s University, Department of Educational Technology (Mumbai)
Master’s in Educational Technology
Women graduates with 50%. BEd preferred. Additional weightage given to PG holders
Symbiosis Centre for Distance Learning (Pune)
Post Graduate Diploma in Instructional Design
Graduate in any discipline from a recognised University
ICAT Design & Media College (Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad)
PG Diploma in Instructional Designing
4C-Learning Solutions (Bangalore)
Certificate Course in Instructional Design
Graduate in any discipline from a recognised University Excellent English language skills
Starting out and growing
Most instructional designers in India start out at e-learning companies, which do work outsourced by e-learning companies abroad. This restricts exposure to mostly, back-end structured work, and does not give an opportunity to design programmes end-to-end. Another serious challenge is opportunities for experienced designers. “The nature of work can be repetitive unless there are newer challenging programmes and experiments that are taken up. Unless the instructional designer is constantly reinventing and adding on to his/her skill set, it is difficult to stay motivated and competitive,” says Geeta.
The important thing for anyone making a career in instructional design is to work on as many diverse and challenging projects as you can. “Don’t just limit yourself to instructional writing. Hone your skills in instructional technologies and visual design too,” advises Geeta. Importantly, one must build a domain specialization. For example, aim to be the best instructional designer in the healthcare training domain or gaming, mobile, hospitality, banking or in any other sector/vertical. Ultimately, instructional designers need to constantly upgrade their skills to be on top of the learning curve.
Salil Jayakar is a freelance writer based in Mumbai
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