Instructional Designers Assemblers or Directors

Instructional Designers: Assemblers or Directors?

Instructional designers are not primarily assemblers, although it might be easy to associate instructional designers with some commonly used tools (such as: Captivate, Storyline, Sharepoint, WordPress, Fabric, etc) and assume that’s all they do. These tools are great for assembling concepts, multimedia, quizzes and more into a tangible package, but that is just one piece of an instructional designer’s job.

Most instructional designers know that there’s more to it; but are the other stakeholders on the same page? I think an instruction designer is more like a movie director than a technician. You might not feel like you’re Stanley Kubrick or Steven Spielberg, but let’s look at the similarities.

eLearning content is a creative medium

Your industry might not be as fun as filming Jaws or E.T., but training content is a creative product. There are an infinite number of ways you can design your content to communicate the message you want to tell. It’s your job to invent something that clicks most with your audience. You’ve got to get creative!

Working with a team

Instructional designers are not lone wolves. You need provide direction for your writers, your filming team, your graphic designers, your coders, your Subject Matter Experts, and your acting talent. Imagine a movie written, directors, filmed, and acted by the same person—sounds like a box office bomb.

Using technology

Directors need to be technical even if they aren’t working directly with the technology; you can’t direct without understanding how the cameras, sound, editing, and special effects work. In the same way, an instructional designer might not be filming instructional videos, programming the LMS, or creating the graphics for a course; but they need to understand and be in control of the process.

Making your vision happen

Ultimately, as an instructional designer, your job is not about any one thing but doing whatever it takes to make your vision happen. Your stakeholders might not care what camera you use, what LMS you are publishing on, or what editors you decide to make your content in. Your job isn’t tied to one thing—your job is to make the whole thing come together in the end like a classic movie.


In the end, instructional design is not the same thing as directing a movie. However, it’s interesting to look at how the role is implemented and perceived in your organization.

Do you feel like your role as an instructional designer has been too “small” or otherwise misunderstood within your organization? Have you been in a situation where you felt like there was too much to do in your role? Have you found creative approaches to making your vision happen? Send us your story, we love to hear from our community!

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