It may not be as easy as pressing a button, but with enough research and planning, your organization can build an instructional design team. You will need to define its purpose and understand the roles that are required for such a team. Ideally, you will consult with a knowledgeable professional to ensure you hire or develop people with the vision and skills needed to fulfill the roles I describe below.
Why will your team need a vision for the future? Because they will need to meet the unprecedented changes in work culture and technological innovation that keep coming. As leaders recognize the importance of employee development, the Learning and Development team should elevate in importance. These are the people that can help organizations develop an employee-centered culture. A culture where learning and training are individualized and encouraged.
Start Small and Grow
If you think of learning as a journey and one that may require many types of experiences, then you can imagine the roles that might be needed in your learning and development team. Often, one person takes on many roles, particularly in smaller teams. It’s best to avoid the one-person team, as this leads to conflicting demands that will end up in burn-out and lower quality work. Consider growing a team that starts with at least two multifaceted people with complementary skills. Give them scheduled time to continue to learn and develop.
If you only need some roles part-time, consider using staff from other departments or contracting the work to freelancers. For example, a new team might need editing and testing work on a part-time basis so these roles could be outsourced.
Learning Design/Instructional Design Team Roles
Select a few roles below that makes sense for your organization. It is typical for multi-talented people to take on more than one role when a team is small. Keep in mind that an effective learning design team will focus on solving performance problems and will provide opportunities to develop the long-term capabilities of each employee.
- Project Manager Role: Oversees the scheduling and deliverables of project life cycles. Interfaces with internal clients and ensures the team has the information and resources it needs to get the job done. If working as a team lead, this person may help provide the business analysis to ensure that solutions match the business and organizational goals.
- *Learning Designer (a.k.a. Learning Experience Designer or Instructional Designer) Role: This is the most essential role on the team. The learning designer follows an instructional design process to analyze and design learning solutions based on context, cognitive psychology, and best practices. Writes manuals, workbooks, storyboards, scripts, and performance support tools. Identifies and may create the visuals and media for varied projects.
- User Experience Designer Role: Ensures that solutions are user-friendly, searchable, and provide easy access to information. May create the user interface.
- Community Manager Role: As leaders begin to understand the importance of learning in conversation with others, organizations will need community managers to facilitate discussion and sharing.
- Content Curator Role: Future-minded organizations will take advantage of the curator specialist. This person will identify, select and annotate existing assets in a specialty topic. See more about this role in The Power and Practice of Digital Curation.
- Facilitator and Trainer Roles: This role provides and supports learning opportunities in group settings.
- Editor Role: Proofreads and improves writing.
- Graphic Designer Role: Creates the user interface, graphics, and animations; designs the look and feel of courses, learning portals, mobile learning, and print materials with an eye toward clarity for learning and understanding.
- Media Specialist Role: Produces and edits audio and video.
- Developer Role: Uses authoring tools to assemble media elements into interactive courses. May need to design and develop websites, eLearning, mobile learning, augmented reality, and other technology-based solutions.
- Tester Role: Runs Quality Assurance checks by testing all products and ensuring they are as free from errors as possible. It is best if the developer does not do the testing.
Working with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)
A common misunderstanding is that the learning design group must have expertise in the skill areas for which they design. In practice, instructional designers and other team members work with subject matter experts during the process of learning design. Also, learning experience designers may research the subject in place of or in addition to working with experts. See How to Brain Sync with a Subject Matter Expert for more on this.
Match Your Requirements to the Roles
Note that new teams should not attempt to fulfill all the roles listed above. First, identify your priority requirements based on the organization’s challenges. Seek multi-talented people who can fulfill one or two of your top priority roles. Don’t be afraid to start building a team, but do so slowly and allow your vision to evolve. This is an exciting field and an ideal time to build internal capabilities.
If you want to find out more about a career in instructional design, download my quick read eBook below.