Introduction: Why Do You Need an Instructional Designer?
When looking at project costs, one can wonder if an instructional designer (ID) is needed. But before deciding against hiring a professional learning designer, consider the benefits. First, IDs are subject matter experts in designing instruction. They understand the complexities and nuances of the process. Second, professionals can translate instructional design theories into practical, real-world learning applications. They know how to intently craft learning that engages while educating learners. They align learning content with assessment, curriculum goals, course objectives, and standards. IDs work with your subject matter experts to create storyboards, review current learning resources, and audit existing curriculum content. For publishers, IDs ensure the content builds from one grade to the next in a logical way that makes sense – and is accessible – to all learners. Besides that, IDs make resources that help teachers identify and meet every student’s needs in their classrooms so that all students can thrive. In short, instructional designers are the key to the curriculum development process. Still, when looking to add an ID vendor, there are questions to ask.
What Is Your Approach to Design?
Strong IDs know that an excellent process ensures success, so be sure to ask questions about their approach to design. Good-fit IDs use proven, effective learning theories to make content. In the interview process, a strong candidate should be able to explain the differences between ADDIE and Agile workflows, for instance. They should also demonstrate an understanding of Bloom’s and Webb’s DOK. Besides that, they should be able to share their workflow. Ask a potential hire about their typical work day. Look for examples of how they approach subject matter experts (SMEs), and ask how they work with resistant SMEs. Knowing what to expect upfront saves time and money throughout the process. Time management skills matter, too. Ask potential candidates how they balance multiple projects at various stages of development.
Are You Familiar With Our Curriculum Standards?
Likewise, take time to identify specific curriculum needs before interviewing the ID. First, identify which curriculum standards to discuss with the candidate. This step will help both your team and the ID. Second, this draws on the ID’s expertise. K-12 designers are familiar with state-specific requirements, Common Core, and Next Generation Science Standards. Likewise, ID vendors specializing in corporate and higher education bring their expertise to the project. Strong IDs plan for revisions upfront. They will guide your team through a curriculum audit. Also, they will be able to show curriculum gaps. Then, they will work with your team to identify solutions that close those gaps.
How Do You Handle Diverse Learners and Accessibility?
Good-fit IDs will offer customized solutions that work for your customers. They will offer solutions addressing English Language Learners, learners with visual impairments, learners with processing difficulties, and more. Besides that, strong IDs offer plans early to address the needs of various learners. Also, IDs know how to leverage various digital tools, such as the LMS, to implement solutions. Likewise, ID managers have access to specialists, SMEs, and technical resources to design impactful content. Ask for examples of solutions that work both online and off. Strong IDs provide solutions that work for the learner in his or her environment. Besides that, perfect-fit IDs make these solutions easy to use.
What Experience Do You Have With this Topic?
Working with an ID who has experience with the topic makes the workflow faster. Together, the team can move quickly in creating content. Also, this knowledge facilitates the review and revision of existing content. Experienced IDs can match existing courses, content, and learning resources with new courses, so dive into the experiences listed on their resume or CV during the interview. Ask how the potential ID keeps his or her skills sharp. Sure, the design process moves fast when the ID knows the industry. But outdated workflows and stagnating industry knowledge can negatively impact the project. Balance the expertise and skill with an assessment of their attitude and team fit. A perfect-fit ID may not be the most experienced expert but a positive potential hire with a can-do attitude.
Where Is Your Design Portfolio?
Likewise, ask IDs to provide design portfolios that showcase their work, but take note if they do not share work protected by Intellectual Property (IP) or have not been approved by their clients to share specific courses. Take note of how they show integrity and confidentiality. Also, when reviewing the design portfolio, pay attention to their ability to use various tech tools. Look to see if they clearly explain the learning objective. Look to see if they can transfer theory into a real-world application that resonates with learners. Is the course engaging? Did the ID take into consideration the delivery platform? The design portfolio gives the hiring leader insight into what to expect from the ID in design style, subject matter experience, and deliverable results.
Conclusion: Instructional Design Is Key to Your Curriculum Development
Instructional designers are vital collaborators to bring into your curriculum development projects. They ensure the curriculum aligns with standards, learning goals, and the organization’s mission. IDs can freshen existing content to align with evolving standards and needs. Use these five questions to help you get started in discovering a perfect-fit instructional designer for your project.
Tammy Layman is a freelance content creator at A Pass Educational Group. She crafts learning experiences for children of all ages. Throughout her career, she worked as an instructional designer, training facilitator, and technical writer for automotive and appliance manufacturers. Besides that, she has been an ESL tutor, a PreK-8 classroom aide, and a traveling storyteller. Her stories have accompanied museum exhibits and entertained at festivals. Her work has appeared in ATD Press, Highlights High Five Magazine, and others. She lives on the shores of Lake Michigan with her family and highly opinionated pets.