Digital Skills Dominate Job Ads for Instructional Designers

In a twist on The eLearning Guild’s annual salary report, the Guild’s research director, Jane Bozarth, examined L&D jobs recruitment data. This 2019 study offers some intriguing pointers to L&D professionals: hints as to how the role of instructional designer has changed, what digital skills IDs should acquire or sharpen, and an indication that creating eLearning for higher education is a growth area. The report, eLearning Salary & Compensation: Advice for Workers, Recruiters, and Hiring Managers, is available for download. Here’s a taste of what Bozarth found.

Digital skills top requirements

Not surprisingly, IDs may need more technical skills, potentially blurring the distinction between the instructional designer and eLearning developer roles.

“A review of advertisements for jobs in L&D revealed an ever-expanding concept of instructional designer and conflation of titles with words such as digital, multimedia, and developer," Bozarth wrote.

Specifically, those hiring instructional designers often express a desire for experience in:

  • Audio and video production and editing
  • Game design
  • Mobile app design
  • Social and collaboration tools
  • Data analysis
  • Content curation
  • Augmented, virtual, and mixed realities

In addition, some listings want IDs who can support a variety of learning platforms, create dashboards, and do web design and HTML5 coding—skills that used to reside in the eLearning developer’s toolkit.

eLearning developer job descriptions have also become broader, encompassing much of what was formerly the instructional designer’s wheelhouse. “Ads for developer jobs often specify instructional design as a key focus. While some postings indicate that a developer’s primary work would be in web design or content authoring, others included the soup-to-nuts list of skills similar to that seen in ID postings,” Bozarth wrote.

This emphasis on digital tools and technology supplants a focus on actual instructional design that Cammy Bean found in 2015. Bozarth reproduced Bean’s list of skills most often found in ID job descriptions a mere four years ago:

  • Needs analysis
  • Task assessment
  • Writing learning objectives
  • Knows ADDIE process
  • Project management
  • Supplier management
  • Desktop publishing
  • Graphic design
  • Authoring tools
  • PowerPoint
  • Live & recorded webinars
  • Support the training database
  • Experience working with SMEs
  • Experience creating instructor-led training

Both lists emphasize proficiency with multiple content platforms and formats, though the lists are appropriate to their time periods. How quickly technology has evolved! But Bozarth’s list is noticeably short on the foundational skills—like needs analysis or task assessment—that previously topped ID job requirements.

Opportunities in higher education

In addition to the expected focus on digital skills, Bozarth reports on a likely growth area for L&D jobs: institutions of higher education. In The Guild’s 2018 salary survey, about 17 percent of the respondents reported working in higher ed. Bozarth found that about a fifth of current job postings were for higher education jobs, perhaps hinting at an increase.

Practitioners in these jobs will find their daily tasks different from what they might have done in a corporate L&D post, and they can expect more hands-on teaching. “Most people in these roles typically work to develop materials for months-long academic courses offered by instructors via a content management system. Designers and developers often had the additional requirement for training faculty in using new technologies and approaches,” Bozarth wrote.

As universities increasingly turn to eLearning to supplement or replace some face-to-face teaching and move entire certificates and degrees online, the need for skilled eLearning developers and designers in this arena is likely to continue to grow.

Dig in!

Bozarth examines many more aspects of L&D job expectations, salaries, and practitioner satisfaction in eLearning Salary & Compensation: Advice for Workers, Recruiters, and Hiring Managers. Download the full report to learn more about what recruiters look for, what L&D professionals love about their jobs or hope to find in future positions, and the skill sets needed for various career paths.

 

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