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- Instructional design is a growing field that blends teaching with design to make learning more engaging and fun.
- It can be applied to many jobs, from teaching to developing corporate trainings, online classes, or educational videos.
- Below are 10 online courses, certificate programs, and free blogs to help you learn about instructional design and apply it to your career.
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Instructional design is the process of creating engaging and effective learning experiences. Think back to your favorite teachers – the ones who could make even the most boring topics fascinating. Instructional design delves into the science behind teaching and strives to make learning fun and interesting for everyone, from students in a classroom to employees sitting through a corporate training session.
The rapidly growing field includes a combination of design and pedagogical theory, as well as incorporating plenty of creativity and collaboration. While instructional design includes both offline and online learning, the skill is particularly necessary for e-learning development, which may be why Inside Higher Education wrote that instructional design is "the hottest job in higher education," as we all continue to live and learn online.
With instructional design skills, you will be equipped to plan and develop engaging training sessions, instructional manuals, user guidelines, and just generally get better at expressing information.
Whether you're interested in a fully-fledged certificate program or would simply like to learn more about the field to apply it to what you do now, you can find the best online courses, programs, and blogs to get started with instructional design below. One quick thing to note: many instructional design courses are geared specifically for the classroom or corporate training, so you should choose a resource that best matches your career goals.
10 online courses and free blogs to help you break into the instructional design field:
Instructional design courses and certificate programs
Instructional Design Foundations and Applications (Coursera)
This is the first course of the two-course MasterTrack certificate offered by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is an excellent foray into the world of instructional design. Taught by Dr. Eunjung Grace, this four-week course takes students through the conceptual and theoretical background of instructional design. Because it's free to audit, taking this intro course is a good idea if you are considering enrolling in the full MasterTrack, as it will let you know what to expect and if this particular program is the right choice for you. You can read a full review of this MasterTrack here.
Become an Instructional Designer (LinkedIn Learning)
This is a series of nine videos on instructional design, perfect for anyone looking to learn more about the field of instructional design and gain foundational knowledge without committing to a longer certificate program. Available through LinkedIn Learning with a $29.99/month subscription, it will take you through the basics of instructional design, from storyboarding to assessing your work, and covers learning design for both corporate and educational environments. When you complete the learning path, LinkedIn will provide you with a certificate of completion to add to your LinkedIn profile.
Introduction to Instructional Design: Online Course Creation (Udemy)
This introductory course is a good choice for anyone interested in using instructional design to develop online courses. It's taught by an instructional designer, whose goal is sharing everything he wished he knew when he was starting out in instructional design. Through video lectures and curated resources (including e-books and podcasts), this course takes you through the basics of instructional design theory and gives you the opportunity to apply your knowledge to an e-learning project. This is a short, self-directed course, with only about an hour and a half of total video content, so it's a quick way to get a grasp of the field or to brush up on your instructional design knowledge.
The IDOL Academy
IDOL (Instructional Design and Online Learning) is an instructional design agency that offers courses for people specifically interested in corporate instructional design. IDOL offers an eight-week academy to get you started for $1,497 at the basic level and $2,497 for additional features. The academy is incredibly comprehensive, teaching students graphic design and animation skills alongside instructional design theory and e-learning processes. By the end of the course, you will have built a complete instructional design portfolio from scratch and will be completely ready to apply for instructional design jobs in the corporate world. This is one of the best choices out there if you're serious about starting a career in corporate instructional design, but don't want to pay for a master's degree.
E-Learning Instructional Design certificate (Association for Talent Development)
This certificate program is for those who are not entirely new to instructional design and are interested in learning additional learning models for developing e-learning materials. This course is designed to be applicable for a range of instructional design applications, including HR specialists and curriculum designers. In this program, students are introduced to the Association for Talent Development's very own e-learning design model and are given the opportunity to practice and apply the model. This course is $1,695 for non-ATD members.
Instructional Designer Certificate Program (Online Learning Consortium)
This certificate program, offered by the Online Learning Consortium, is the industry standard for those interested in working in online course development for schools and universities. The program is a series of four online courses, each one taking students through a different aspect of online learning design. The program is designed for people with some experience working in instructional design and are interested in strengthening their skills. The program costs $2000 for non-OLC members.
Instructional Design and Technology (edX)
This program on instructional design and technology is a series of four courses that will take about eight months to complete. Priced at $1,076.40, you will receive an edX MicroMasters certificate from the University System of Maryland, which is very reasonable for the amount of instruction you'll receive. Designed for those interested in developing online learning, this program will take you through learning theory and data analytics, while also providing hands-on practice in developing and publishing online courses. The program combines instructional design with training in e-learning technology and will prepare you for a career in online learning development.
Free instructional design blogs
If you aren't ready to dive into or pay for an online course, here are three blogs that can boost your instructional design knowledge without the time or financial commitment of a certificate program.
Christy Tucker Learning
Christy Tucker is a learning experience design consultant who has one of the most engaging instructional design blogs out there. Tucker regularly posts about best practices in online course development, with a focus on storytelling with technology. Her detailed blog posts take readers through the steps of using stories to develop learning experiences and include tips on every step of the process. Her blog also has lots of information on instructional design careers, background information on the profession, and ways to get started in the field.
The eLearning Coach by Connie Malamed
This website by Connie Malamed, a learning experience design consultant, is a great resource for anyone looking to learn more about instructional design. She has useful blog posts, plenty of free resources, and engaging podcast episodes. Malamed also offers a free 12-lesson email course called Breaking Into Instructional Design to answer all your questions about getting started in the field.
Action @ Work by Cathy Moore
Action @ Work is full of free resources and reflections on instructional design. The publisher, Cathy Moore, has blog posts on a range of instructional design topics as well as free training in "action mapping," her approach to designing training programs in the corporate world.
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