Tuesday, June 09, 2009

I Say Instructional Designer, You Say Tomah-toe

As you may know, I struggle with describing what I do. "Instructional Designer? What's that?"

I can't explain it easily to moms on the playground, nor can my mom explain it to her friends when she's bragging about me. (Which, apparently, she does. She's my mom and that's her job.)

"Instructional designer" is an umbrella term that covers about 1,217,042 different types of people and jobs. (That's not a real statistic, by the way, but my very unscientific guess at how many people actually call themselves instructional designers.)

I've said it before and I'll say it again: there are many shades of instructional design.

But I think Jonathan Atleson says it even better. He even breaks it down into the specific shades and gives them names:
  • Instructional Designer
  • Instructional Systems Designer
  • Instructional (Multimedia) Developer
  • Instructional Technologist
  • Instructional Systems Developer
  • Instructional Systems Analyst
  • Trainer/Training Specialist
Read his full post here (The Various Roles of Instructional Designers) and be sure to catch the comments.

Photo credit: in rainbow(s) umbrella by atomicjeep


Wendy said...

My personal elevator speech when people ask me what I do for a living.

"I teach people to do stuff using technology."

Since I'm a software trainer for a significant chunk of my job - that sentance pretty much covers everything :')

Jonathan Atleson said...

I've been describing what I do as translating subject-matter expertise into a form most suited to the specified audience, and then applying the appropriate technology to deliver it.

This helps describe my "added value" when people think they can have their SMEs hook up with IT and deliver training directly without the middleman.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora e Cammy!

Thanks for 'coming clean' on this one! As a teacher/researcher/academic/e-teacher/instructional designer, I subscribe to what you say about the varieties of ideas that abound about what an instructional designer might be.

In many cases (as far as I have met) the 'job' seems to be hinged on what the position is called in the job description. But even the term 'teacher' seems to be a movable feast today.

Welcome to the realm of 'instructors'.

Catchya later
from Middle-earth

Judy Unrein said...


I feel so bad that I can't adequately explain what I do for a living, when explaining things to people is sort of what I do for a living. Glad to hear someone else out there has the same problem.

My best is something like "I create training programs." They can take "programs" to mean a variety of things and it will still be true.

Factoid about our job title: It's not listed on Salary.com... the closest I've found is Curriculum Specialist. Boo.

Cammy Bean said...

I've started dropping the "instructional design" bit when I tell people what I do. Finally. "I help companies create training." That gets things started in a more comprehendable way.

Judy, I haven't looked on those salary sites for awhile, but I remember about 5 years ago struggling to fit my round hole into square pegs on those sites. It was never the perfect match. Thankfully, the eLearning Guild has good salary reports that cover us!