From corporations to start-ups and non-profit organizations, every company relies on its workforce — its people — to be successful and constantly grow. Since the currency of the business world is information, the more employees know, the better their chances to achieve success for their organizations.
And the way to know more is...? Learning, of course.
E-learning professionals have a reputation for being the teachers of the workforce, with knowledge in many interconnected fields. Their job has always been an important one. But what skills do they posses and how do these contribute to their success? Let's look at a few:
Understand how people learn
Learning is a complex process that engages a lot of brain function. Neuroscience has developed a lot of theories on how people learn and the many factors that influence learning. No matter the age, professional background, or expertise, adults learn new things in similar ways: by watching others, by trying to replicate what they see, by doing the new thing more than once, by involving most of their senses while doing so, and so on.
Understanding the human brain and applying various learning models, as well as what incentives are needed before, during, and even after the learning process, helps instructional designers deliver a great learning experience for all their students.
Great teachers are like some sort of deities; they have the power to model learners like clay. They can almost see how their teaching creates new neuronal connections in learners' brains.
The learning experience is unique to each learner, so it's important for instructional designers to know how to deliver the new information so that everyone can understand and use it. They have to know how to sort and organize learning materials, into at least two categories: need-to-know information and nice-to-know information. This skill will help them in better designing their courses.
The written word is still the most important means of sharing knowledge. Talking, listening and watching videos (which are also based on written words sometimes) all come to support learning, but verba volant, scripta manent — spoken words fly away, written words remain.
Learners should be able to access the written materials as many times as necessary during the learning process, and certain writing tricks, like storytelling, can help them better remember the information.
E-learning professionals need to develop the skill of mastering words, so their copy will not only offer the needed information, but will also appeal to learners' emotions.
Long time ago, people used the chisel and the hammer to write words in stones. Then, Gutenberg invented the printing press, and soon the pen took over the writing world. Now, we mostly type. Tomorrow, we'll probably just tap to write. Who knows what will come after that?
Not so long ago, learning management systems had poor design and were hard to use, taking pictures required a bulky camera, and making training videos was a challenge even for the big players of the industry. Things today are exactly the opposite.
The point is, technology evolves and makes our lives easier; we need to keep up. As an instructional designer, you need to stay on top of all current and emerging e-learning tools and apps, test them, and integrate the ones that will make everyone's lives easier while learning.
Graphic design skills
User experience can highly influence the learning process, and experienced graphic designers know how subtle details can make or break a web page. The position of page elements — text, images, video, menus, buttons — and their looks and feel can make learners want to browse more and more through the training materials, or leave the learning platform in despair.
Having an eye for aesthetics, knowing how to mix and match fonts, and how to play with colors when designing an online course can help instructional designers showcase the most important pieces of information and help learners focus better on each module.
Effective communication is crucial for the proper functioning of any organization made up of people. In a workplace learning environment, people need to develop empathy and interpersonal skills. Communicating with others means conveying ideas and receiving feedback.
Instructional designers need to be able to share their messages clearly, whether we're talking about the content of a learning module and the lesson objectives, or giving feedback to learners. Also, they have to be good listeners, as feedback usually goes both ways. Effective communication leads to successful training and finding new problem solving approaches to the learning process.
In other words, project management. Any training program goes through the process of design, development, implementation, and evaluation, all while under constant analysis. It must have clear and realistic objectives, support from IT and HR departments and from subject matter experts, and must be delivered on time and in budget.
Managing a training program is not a child's play, and some instructional designers learned this the hard way. That's why strong organizational skills help e-learning professionals juggle all aspects of project management and demonstrate the return on investment.
The list of skills for successful e-learning professionals is never completed
Depending on the type of instruction, and on million other things, instructional designers need to develop or acquire other skills in order to be successful in their jobs. The one thing that can support them in that is a strong desire for learning.
Learning is a never ending process, and even the ones who teach must learn new things and improve their strategies.
There's always something new to learn.