What Does an Instructional Designer Do?

As an Instructional Designer I’m often asked, “What does an Instructional Designer (ID) do?” The answer is not as simple as the name might imply. As an ID my role in the learning and development (formerly known as training) department is multi-faceted. You might say I wear many hats.

First and foremost I am a consultant. I look for ways to ensure the learning program our department has been asked to design and deliver has what is needed to meet the goals and needs of the company. I follow a phased approach that includes analyzing the department’s organization and performance, and the learner.   

Once my analysis has been documented and reviewed, the team then moves on to establishing what the design blueprint for the training program should look like. In this phase a content hierarchy or outline is identified, the types of methods or activities to use to engage the learner is determined, and the media used in the design of the program is established.  

Depending on the media, there may be additional steps needed to ensure we have adequately completed a blueprint of what the training will look like. For e-Learning this is called a storyboard. Creating a storyboard allows the program requester to see what the screens will look like, what content will be presented on each screen, and the type of engagement activities that will be used to keep the learner motivated. Once we have our design blueprint documented and reviewed, we move on to the construction of the training course.

As an ID, you may be the person that develops the learning based on the blueprint. Or you may hand the responsibility off to an Instructional Developer or Instructional Programmer and collaborate with all necessary resources to ensure the learning program is created to match what was planned in the original design. Other individuals who may be involved in the development process are graphic designers, voice talent, editing talent, and publishing talent.  

When the learning program is complete, it needs to be tested. As an ID, my responsibility at the testing phase is to ensure the learning program is tested for content accuracy and structural efficacy, and determine how much the learner learned and is able to perform. We call this testing phase a field test or pilot and if possible we rollout this phase with our target audience (those learners  for whom the program was designed).

Following the testing phase, we revise our materials based on the results of tests and prepare to deliver the learning program to the employees within the organization. This phase is referred to as the implementation phase and this is where we finally present our completed learning program to the intended audience.

The last phase is evaluating the learning program to determine if employees are better able to perform in the workplace after learning. We determine if a change has occurred to shift numbers positively in areas like profit, retention, customer service, and waste. Here the ID is able to quantify the degree to which the program that was created and delivered achieved the working goals of the organization.

By implementing all of these phases, an ID is able to ensure that learning programs add value to the organizations. In today’s workplace, this is so important because we are all faced with doing more with less. I love wearing all my hats and watching employees and my organization soar to the heavens. Using these methodologies, you can too.

Are you ready to create an engaging learning program? Contact us at team@epsilonxr.com.


Barbara Greenstein, Senior Instructional Designer at Epsilon Systems Solutions, Inc. is a Performance Improvement Specialist providing proven and creative ways to improve human performance in the workplace. Highly regarded for her instructional design and facilitation skills, with over 30 years in the learning and development field, she helps clients put the systems in place to more effectively manage in today’s changing business environment while ensuring optimal performance and job satisfaction for all employees. She received her M.A. in Human Resource Development from Marymount University. Barbara is a Certified Performance Technologist (CPT), from ISPI.