For my most recent EdTech 503 assignment, I was asked to develop a job description for a fictitious instructional designer position. Here are my thoughts on what this position should include, given a context similar to my own (private company, frequently changing goals). Following the description, I have included my own reflections on the nature of the instructional design job and its relationship to that of a teacher.

For today’s image, I’ve decided to include an alternate version of the Burn Zombie Burn image I posted earlier in the year.  Enjoy!

Instructional Designer

XYZ Corporation, a Fortune 500 company, is seeking an Instructional Designer to create training materials and course content for its technicians/engineers. The instructional designer must be able to produce clear and concise training programs for our business units. In order to achieve this goal, the designer will need to coordinate with subject matter experts (SME) to develop a fundamental understanding of XYZ corporation’s products and services.


A candidate for this position should be able to:

  • Develop presentations, learning aids, and instructor guides for the company’s technical training team.
  • Review on-the-job training (OJT) manuals for updates and corrections.
  • Produce self-guided and instructor-lead computer based training (CBT) for theory-based courses.
  • Develop trade-skills training and evaluation tools (simulations, virtual tours, etc).
  • Provide training to technical trainers on the course design process, and identify additional needs those trainers may have.
  • Attend courses currently being presented, and determine how these courses can be improved.

This list is not exhaustive; additional skills and performance tasks may be required based on your specialization and the needs of the training department.


  • 5 years of experience in instructional design, with a portfolio demonstrating outstanding design work. You will will be required to submit the URL to your online portfolio with your application.
  • BA/BS degree*
  • Knowledge of standard development tools, including MS Office, Adobe Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Camtasia, and Articulate.
  • Firm knowledge of HTML and CSS.
  • Ability to understand electrical, mechanical, and chemical terminology.
  • Ability to prioritize work based on changing needs of the training department.
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills. This job requires close interaction with instructors and SMEs, so clear and efficient communication is essential.

*BA/BS degree in instructional design, educational technology, or related field is preferred, but a degree in another field will be considered with a strong portfolio.


  • 8 years of experience in instructional design.
  • MS in Instructional Design or Educational Technology.
  • Experience with video editing tools, such as Adobe Premiere, After Effects, and/or Sony Vegas.
  • Experience with Flash.
  • Experience with the Plateau Learning Management System.

Advanced training in mathematics, physics, chemistry, engineering, and/or safety is a plus.

Basis for Criteria

When determining the criteria for this position, I considered the job descriptions for the following positions:

Instructional Designer – Camber Corporation

Senior Instructional Designer – United Health Group

Instructional Designer – Serco, Inc.

Instructional Designer – Vertex, Inc.

Instructional Designer – Barnes & Noble

In addition to the instructional design positions, I looked over various positions in other areas of design, including graphic design, game design, and architecture.

Reflections – General

Instructional Designer vs Teachers

It is often a useful mental tool for instructional designers to think of themselves as screenwriters; in doing so, they are able to step back from the content and look more broadly at the context.

The relationship between instructional designers and teachers is similar to the relationship between screenwriters and actors. The writer establishes the pace of the storyline, the setting, the dialogue, and the plot points. The actor then internalizes this information, provides personal context, and delivers the message to the audience. Likewise, the instructional designer establishes the pace for the course content, the instructional aids, the format, and the learning points. The teacher then internalizes this information, provides personal context, and delivers the message to the students.

Specialized knowledge

Most of the instructional designer positions required a certain degree of specialized knowledge. The companies have already invested a large sum of money in standard software suites, and it makes more sense to try to find designers capable of using the software than to have a variety of different software to accommodate each designer. There’s also a hidden background element here: XYZ Corporation would like to produce more video-based instructional materials for remote technicians, so they are also hoping for someone that already has the desired video editing skill set.

In addition, most descriptions showed a preference for specialized knowledge in the field that the designer would be designing for (e.g., hospitals preferred designers with some background in the medical industry). I knew that I wanted to make XYZ Corporation an engineering firm, so I decided to put preferences in place for designers with engineering-related backgrounds.

Instructional Designer vs. Other Designers

One thing that jumped out at me that clearly differentiated instructional design from other areas of design was the portfolio. In the fields of graphic design, game design, and architecture, I frequently saw portfolio requirements included in the job description. I found it interesting that most of the instructional design positions, however, contained no such requirement. Based on my experience, I believe that (1) a portfolio is important, and (2) it should be included in the job description to prevent the applicant from being blind-sided when it comes up in an interview.

Reflections – Instructor Questions

What are teachers expected to do that instructional designers are not?

Teachers are expected to teach. When a teacher successfully finishes his/her job, the product that emerges is a knowledgeable student.

Teachers are expected to build relationships with the students, and to understand the specific needs of each class. They are expected to adjust the pace of the course and the details of the course content on the fly to meet the group’s specific needs. They are often expected to have some degree of subject matter expertise on the subject that they are teaching. Teachers must engage the students, and must get their message across properly the first time; they do not have the luxury of going back and making constant revisions during class. With that in mind, they must have a good depth of knowledge.

What are instructional designers expected to do that teachers are not?

Instructional Designers are expected to produce content. When an instructional designer has finishes his/her job, the product that emerges is a well-designed course.

They are expected to have proficiency in a broad spectrum of technologies and tools. While the teachers need to know how to use tools that present the material, the designer must be able to use all of those tools and more to be able to construct the material. Also, while a deep level of subject matter expertise is not required, designers must assimilate and translate large amounts of information for a short period of time. This requires designers to have the ability to temporarily establish a small degree subject matter expertise in a large number of areas. With that in mind, they must have a good breadth of knowledge.

What are the three major differences between a teacher and an instructional designer?

In my experience as both a trainer and as an instructional designer, the three major differences have been:

1) Instructional designers convert knowledge to content; teachers convert content to knowledge.

As stated above, designers produce content, while teachers produce people. As a designer, my medium is the printed word; once I have all of the knowledge pulled together in one place, can convert it to a content package that is usable by the teachers.
When I was a teacher, my medium was the spoken work; I had to present content in a meaningful way to my students. If the course was well designed, this was relatively easy. If not, I had to make up for any deficiencies in the content, and report back to the designer.

2) Instructional designers condense; teachers expand.

An instructional designer must be a nexus of knowledge. Unless the instructional designer is an expert on a given subject, he/she usually needs to reach out to teachers, textbooks, the web, subject matter experts, for knowledge. He/she must then distill all of these separate pieces of information into a coherent instructional products. Teachers then “unpack” this generalized information and apply it to the specific situation of the students. Through personalization, teachers add meaning to the content.

3) Instructional design is a batch process; teaching is a continuous process.

Design is a low-repetition job; when a well-designed course is completed, the designer can move on to a different project. Though the design principles often remain the same, the knowledge required tends to change from project to project.
The teacher, on the other hand, generally has a core set of courses to teach. These courses are taught repeatedly over time. This can be difficult, as the teacher has to deal with the repetition of teaching the same material over and over again.