Quick Reflection – Instructional Designer Soft Skills

November 29, 2018 0 By JR

The Instructional Design Interest Group from Ontario recently posted Instructional Designer Soft Skills. They highlight skills and approaches that are essential for success in learning development projects that go beyond knowledge of learning theory and technical skills:

  • Start with a good rapport
  • Make expectations clear at the start
  • Under-promise and over-deliver
  • Communicate early and often
  • Use your expertise to guide the project
  • Let them see some of the “magic” behind the scenes

The IDIG post reminded me a bit of Matt Crosslin’s post a few months ago Working With Resistant Faculty as an Instructional Designer. While Matt’s post focuses on the ‘resistant faculty member’ I think his advice can be applied generally to most ID projects:

  • get your view of the faculty members in the right context in your mind
    • form your own opinions, don’t form your opinion based on what others have said about them
    • what does their workflow look like
  • for the sake of focus, make sure to only have one person contacting the faculty member or members until they respond
  • be careful how you phrase the “let’s meet” message, don’t just jump in with the suggestion of meeting once a week
  • ask about how they envisioned the method(s) and frequency of communication during the project

Matt goes into details on each of these points, so I suggest checking out his post.

The under-promise and over deliver suggestion from IDIG echoes of something my grad school supervisor said that stuck with me (it was on a post-it note on the wall infront of my desk for over a year), “be on time, under budget, and beyond expectations”. What that looks like is different for every project, but Rick’s words echo in my mind for any ID project I take on now.

With regard to letting instructors see the “magic” behind the scenes, I try to do this by showing them prototypes of how their ideas might come to life in an online course. I can think of one in particular, where an instructor wanted students to be able to try out The Ultimatum Game to get across the point about how people in negotiations will not always behave as “rational actors”. We talked about the game, what its purpose was, how he envisioned it maybe working and then I went to work on three prototypes. He lit up like a Christmas tree when he saw the prototypes and we selected the one that matched his imagination as closely as possible.