9 Must-Have Skills For Instructional Designers Who Want To Succeed

9 Must-Have Skills For Instructional Designers Who Want To Succeed
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Summary: Do you want to work in Instructional Design? Here are 9 must-have skills ID professionals need to know about.

What Makes A Successful Instructional Designer?

When it comes to eLearning, professionals from the field of Instructional Design play the most crucial part. Instructional Designers (IDs) are responsible for developing learning experiences that are not only impactful but also engaging for the learner. As learning content becomes more complex, the list of competencies Instructional Designers must possess grows longer. However, if this is the career you are interested in pursuing, there is no reason to feel lost. In this article, we will explore 9 must-have skills for Instructional Designers who want to reach their full potential.

9 Top Skills For Instructional Designers

1. Learning Models Expertise

As with all sciences, eLearning is based on a theoretical background that all Instructional Designers are expected to know. This includes learning theories and models that allow IDs to develop learning content that is effective in accomplishing learning goals. Some of the most important learning theories include behaviorism, constructivism, cognitivism, and connectivism, while learning models include ADDIE, Bloom's taxonomy, Kirkpatrick's evaluation model, and more. This knowledge forms the basis on which Instructional Designers can create quality content that will help them build a successful career.

2. Experience In Learning Technologies

In recent years, technology has become an integral part of online learning. And we're not just talking about Learning Management Systems, which have been the norm for years—if not decades—now. What aspiring Instructional Designers need to focus on is technologies that elevate the learning experience, such as authoring tools, multimedia production tools, and presentation software, among others. Not to mention they need to be well-versed in technologies such as mobile learning, Virtual Reality, and Artificial Intelligence. As technology inevitably advances, make sure you're up to date with emerging eLearning trends.

3. Development Of Engaging Learning Content

This is the crux of the skills an Instructional Designer must have. What good is knowing the theory and using the right tools if you can't actually produce quality content? The process of eLearning development involves various steps. The most important ones are identifying the learning objectives and then designing course materials that align with them and the audience's learning needs. The rapid pace with which many fields are changing adds a level of difficulty, as IDs must constantly ensure their content is relevant and up to date with industry standards.

4. Visual Design Skills

In this day and age, knowing how to visualize educational content is essential for the effectiveness of your eLearning program. Learners have grown accustomed to visually stimulating, multimedia-rich content that captures their attention. For this reason, knowing how to handle at least a few graphic design, video production, and web content management tools is an indispensable skill for Instructional Designers. Business leaders will look for this competency because they know it is what they need to keep their audience engaged and manage to create learning programs that tackle complex subjects.

5. Advanced Critical Thinking

This may seem like a given, but we can't stress enough the importance of these skills for an Instructional Designer. Keeping up with the needs and requirements of the business you are collaborating with as well as the needs of their audience requires you to have advanced critical thinking skills. These include analysis of feedback, synthesis of the data at hand, evaluating the progress of your program and how any adjustments are affecting it, and finally, effectively tackling and solving issues that come up. These competencies will allow you to make the right decisions and produce impactful learning outcomes.

6. Project Management

A successful Instructional Designer will certainly need to have strong organizational and project management skills. Besides, developing an online learning program from start to finish is a particularly long and complicated process that usually involves multidisciplinary teams. In other words, it is up to the designer to effectively allocate resources, communicate with various professionals, plan and maintain deadlines, track project progress, and ensure its high quality. Having mastered these skills will make the difference between a successful and impactful learning experience and a resource-draining effort that brings no tangible results.

7. Communication Skills

Another skill Instructional Designers undoubtedly need in their roster is strong communication. Apart from the numerous and diverse teams IDs must manage effectively, they also often interact with leaders and clients. During these meetings, it's crucial that you are able to articulate complex concepts concisely. Even though most stakeholders can't really comprehend the technical aspects of eLearning development, you still need to explain the information they need to know to establish trust and guarantee the seamless execution of your eLearning project. Communication skills also include written communication, as concise storyboards and scripts will be necessary throughout your career.

8. Cultural Competence

It's becoming increasingly common for Instructional Designers to have to develop learning programs for diverse audiences with different cultural backgrounds. Although the learning objective might be the same, the way the information is delivered must be sensitive to the nuances of each learner's background. As a result, IDs are expected to be able to modify their content to accommodate not only distinct learning needs but also language barriers, cultural sensitivities, etc. Therefore, an Instructional Designer who wants to keep up with eLearning as it progresses must not ignore the importance of inclusive and culturally responsive learning.

9. Continuous Learning Mentality

This final must-have skill for Instructional Designers refers to their willingness and ability to evolve with industry standards and technologies. The truth is that the field of Instructional Design is highly dynamic due to its close connection to technology. As a result, Instructional Designers must always be on their toes and look for opportunities to enrich their knowledge base and keep their skills up to par with the industry. Specifically, they should attend workshops, seminars, and training programs that will help them keep offering their clients and collaborators high-level services.


As online learning grows in popularity, Instructional Design is becoming a profession that is expected to dominate in the future. During the process of developing learning experiences, Instructional Designers wear many hats. As a result, they are required to possess a wide variety of skills, spanning from technical to interpersonal ones. In this article, we explored a few of the must-have skills that make a successful Instructional Designer. If you are interested in following this profession, make sure to focus your attention on them.