Since becoming a contractor, I’ve found it difficult to give myself a job title. Technically I run my own business, so I could be director, but who is a director of 1? Seriously? (although fingers crossed for future expansion) I could just be a Contractor, but that doesn’t really describe my actual job. I’ve done some consulting work…so I could use Consultant. I’m mostly an E-Learning Developer, Instructional Designer, sometimes a Trainer….WHAT AM I!
I recently rebranded the business and updated the logo to something more appropriate and I decided that it was also time to update my job title (a good excuse to get a new set of business cards printed). Not to get all high and mighty, but I have a lot of good, solid transferable skills – IT, Project Management, Teaching, Technical Writing, Designing, Web Development – and it’s been tough to work out which skill is the most valuable/enjoyable and what area I should focus on. It’s always easy to go back to something you’re used to doing, and it’s been difficult to move away from IT after so many years, which I guess is a natural feeling when someone goes through a career change.
When I launched this blog and created my introduction video (which you can see on the homepage) I focused on three key areas – E-Learning, Instructional Design and Technical Communication. After reflecting on the past year, I haven’t done very much technical communication work, so I think I will drop this to focus on the other areas – E-Learning Design/Development and Instructional Design. These areas have been the most successful areas in terms of landing contracts and completing work.
Instructional Design vs. E-Learning Developer
I’ve been really fortunate in that I’ve worked as both an instructional designer, e-learning developer and sometimes both at the same time! What I’ve learnt is that it’s not often for one person to do both jobs – after all, there is usually enough work for the jobs to be split. However, it is good to get some hands-on exposure in both areas just to familiarise yourself with what happens. So what is the difference? I’ll explain this purely from my experience, however, some roles may vary.
As an instructional designer, a big part of the job is completing a training needs analysis. This is to determine exactly what training if any is required. You’ll work with SMEs (subject matter experts) to create educational content for training programmes, mostly delivered online, but sometimes instructor-led or blended too.
You may work with stakeholders to discover what the business goals are – if the client is a business, or what the learning objectives are – if the client is an educational institute. You would then create learning outcomes/objectives based on these objectives. You’d create the structure of the content and design engaging learning activities. When I say design, this is usually a written explanation/storyboard, for example, a quiz, you’d outline the answers and the feedback, how you’d want it to function etc.
You may also need to act as a project manager, complete proofreading/editing, review other instructional designers work, be involved in testing the end product and evaluate the learning once it’s been delivered. You’ll help to decide how long the training should be, what delivery methods should be used and what best practices to follow – you’re ultimately the person who decides what pedagogical approaches to use to ensure the training is engaging and effective.
An e-learning developer/designer will often work alongside an instructional designer. You will be given the content/written storyboard and will develop the solution using software such as Storyline, Camtasia, Vyond etc. You won’t be involved in the creation of the content or objectives but you’ll have other skills in areas such as graphic design, video editing and sometimes programming. You’ll bring the instructional designers work to life and will storyboard in a different way – showcasing slide designs, typography, brand colours and creating prototypes to demonstrate how the content animates, transitions and works on screen.
You might also be the person who looks after the Learning Management System! (Or LMS, the delivery platform). The technical backend administration is usually outsourced, but you may be the person who creates the learning asset in the platform, uploads the content and tests it to check that it will work for the learner.
As you can see, depending on what role you do, you can ultimately end up wearing many hats!
So after thinking about my role as an instructional designer/e-learning developer, I’ve decided to rebrand myself a Learning Designer! I feel that this sums up my ability to perform both roles. Another justification is that a lot of people don’t know what an instructional designer or e-learning developer is – learning designer is a lot more explanatory and also encompasses the fact that I don’t JUST create e-learning material, I create a variety of materials for a variety of audiences.