Instructional Design is Not Dead!

Despite rumors to the contrary, Instructional Design is not dead. 

You may have noticed the many articles and blog posts stating that instructional design is dead, and by extension, so is the role of Instructional Designer.

I even saw this tweet the other day (in part)…”When will instructional designers get their heads out of their asses and understand that their roles are dying out.”

First – rude. 

Second – wrong.

The role of the instructional designer has never been more alive and exciting. As with any role in an organization, from CEO to Marketing to HR, job roles are evolving. I don’t think Mark Zuckerburg is ready to say his job as CEO is dying.

Where I would like us to focus is on the word evolve. I find that speaking in absolutes gets us in trouble. You’ve seen the headlines: “Classroom training is dead!” or “The LMS Killer”. Dead means gone. Now, I realize sensational headlines get clicks. That being said, it’s all hyperbole. Classroom training isn’t going anywhere soon, nor is your LMS.  They aren’t dying, they are evolving (or should be…)


Instructional Design is exciting and alive!

In the past, all instructional designers did was design “sage on the stage” classroom and compliance training. Create a few PowerPoint decks and if we’re feeling frisky, a participant workbook. Now, the range has opened. A progressive instructional designer is one who is looking at blended approaches and how they can be incorporated to enhance traditional models. They are looking at microlearning and video creation as means of learning retention. They are discovering how a dedicated YouTube channel can reinforce lessons and support just-in-time learning. Even if you are only creating training for classrooms – there is a variety of ways to blend or flip your classrooms to make them more effective, engaging and further embed learning.

Dynamic instructional designers are learning about how to take data and create powerful infographics. They are taking SME experts, recording them and creating organizational podcasts or “radio stations”. They are gathering informed end-users and helping them create user-generated content that can then be curated, reviewed, organized and made accessible to the masses.

Yes, it is an exciting time to be an instructional designer.

We haven’t even scratched the surface of e-learning. (Which also has its own litany of “e-learning is dead” headlines.) E-learning needs to move beyond point and click PowerPoints. Rapid development tools can create thought-provoking simulations, problem-solving, challenges, branching logic, games and gamification. The smart, curious and ever evolving instructional designer understands this is the path to travel and they are active in online communities to learn more and do better.

It’s time for progressive instructional designers everywhere, to take a stand and say, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” Don’t let people writing “click bait“, paint you and what you do into a corner. What you do for a living DOES MATTER. It matters a lot. Yours may be a position of invisibility, people do not know it exists until something doesn’t work or a need has been recognized and requires a solution. When there is a need to write clear training for new software, who do they go to? Hopefully you.


Here’s the challenge for every instructional Designer

It’s time to get you out of the shadows. You have to opt-in and take yourself out of the dark corners of the business. This means as an active instructional designer, you need to be actively engaged in your business. Do you know the pain points? Do you know what keeps leadership awake at night? Then, step out of the box. Try new and interesting approaches to solve those pain points. For example: Don’t assume people don’t want podcasts. Go to YouTube, find out how to produce them and just do it. Discover interesting people to interview and share their wisdom. Create short video’s, develop learning nuggets to drop into weekly emails, create content that is undeniably interesting, helpful and relevant. People didn’t know they wanted a device that held 10,000 songs either…until Steve Jobs told them they did. Be Steve! 

We are artists!

So, no – the life of the instructional designer is not in its declining years, settling in for retirement and on the porch whittling sticks. No. It’s vibrant, it’s colorful, it’s challenging, it’s fun! Just like any other piece of art, we create pieces for people – not for us. People write because they have a story that needs to get out, they paint because a scene moves them. We create because we want to help people be better. To help people do their jobs and to be the best versions of themselves. It’s just that your art form isn’t done with paint brushes or modeling clay, your main tools are your mind and your imagination.


In general, when helping people be the best they can be, we have one very important skill set. Turning the complex into the simple. Turning fat courses into job aids. Turning unusable manuals into usable performance support tools. It is an art form and with any art form, it takes practice and constant knowledge building to stay on top of the progress and improvements.

You think Picasso was a success at first? Nope. Not at all. He struggled, he suffered, he hardly sold anything. But, he kept going, kept trying, kept evolving his style. As time progressed so did his work. As time and technology progresses, your art will evolve too, but only if you show an interest in evolving. You have to opt-in.  This means joining a community (try your local ATD chapter), join an online community (It doesn’t get any better than the Articulate community, even if you’re not an articulate user.) follow the back-channels of conferences or save up and attend one conference a year (tax deductible!).

[ctt title=”Being an Instructional Designer is an art form. ‘I begin with an idea and it becomes something else’ ~ Pablo Picasso” tweet=”Being an ID is an art form. ‘I begin with an idea and it becomes something else’ ~ Pablo Picasso. via @stipton” coverup=”d01aL”]

Don’t wait! Opt-in!

Are you bored with what you are doing? Are you thinking that you need to take your skills to the next level? If you are waiting for your employer to pay for your professional development…you might be waiting a very long time. You have a responsibility to be active in your own development. You know what happens to people who do not invest time and resources into their skills? Yep. They become expendable and obsolete.

But that’s not you. You are a rebel. You take pride in your work. You learn new things. You read. You practice. You play with technology, you are insanely curious, because if you don’t learn – you will be left behind. It’s not easy. Anything worth doing isn’t. It’s when we are the most uncomfortable is when we are learning.

I’ll say it again, it is up to you to opt-in and learn new methods and techniques that are complex and difficult (and fun). Yes, we could accept the status-quo, but just as health providers who take the Hippocratic Oath to “Do no harm.”, our oath should be “End-Users First”. Not learners, trainee’s, or participants. End-users. The people who will end up using what you create.

So, let’s all agree…Instructional Design is at a critical and exciting point. Now is the time to learn and move and forward. To be leaders in our field. To stamp out traditional status quo. Instructional design is not dead, it’s an art form just coming to life.

Are you ready?

In the comment section below – SHARE! What new things are you learning to take your skills to the next level? 

March Book Giveaway!

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again! As a learning professional, if you only have one book on your bookshelf it needs to be this one! Design for How People Learn, by Julie Dirksen. This book is a work of art! Covering current cognitive science combined with solid learning techniques. Don’t let this book collect dust. It’s a must own, and a must use!

March Book Giveaway: Level up! “Design for How People Learn” by Julie Dirksen

Shannon Tipton

Shannon Tipton

As Owner of Learning Rebels, Shannon Tipton is a skilled learning strategist, content developer and International speaker. Shannon has over 20 years of leadership experience developing successful learning strategies and infrastructures for training departments within organizations in North America, Europe and Korea.

Shannon works with people and organizations to develop learning solutions that brings actual business results. Recognized as bringing real-world expertise into the learning field, Shannon integrates technologies and social learning tools to strengthen workplace alignment, enhance collaboration and increase learning connectivity.

As author of “Disruptive Learning” Shannon frequently speaking at conferences across North America and Europe and ranks as one of the top 100 L&D influencers on Twitter (@stipton).

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