The increase in colleges and universities creating online courses has generated a big demand for instructional designers and e-Learning specialists. Learning today no longer happens only in a traditional classroom. Whether it is for financial reasons or simply to accommodate people juggling work, family, and school, education is more multi-dimensional than ever before.

To address the needs of this changing landscape, educational institutions are seeking instructional designers and e-Learning professionals who are able to synthesize the needs and goals of the 21st century student with courses and information that enhances their education.

But what exactly are academic institutions looking for when seeking online learning expertise?

If you are currently involved with e-Learning for educational institutions, odds are your skill set already encompasses some of these areas, particularly if you do your own lesson or curriculum planning for online courses.

As with anyone working in online education, you will need an interest in creating learning experiences that enhance those found in a typical classroom. A desire to use technology to create even better learning experiences is an absolute must in this field.

Prospective employers will be looking for someone who has the proven ability to create courses that promote interactive learning, as well as content that reflects a clear understanding of learning theory.

Most institutions of higher learning will be seeking someone with a bachelor’s degree, or higher, in fields such as instructional technology, training or education. There will also be the expectation that e-Learning specialists have experience with a variety of software, including knowledge of authoring tools such as Articulates Storyline or Adobes Captivate and cloud-based learning management systems like BlackBoard or Canvas.

Creating a normal learning module is just the beginning for an academic e-Learning developer. This role also requires someone who is able to develop live-training sessions, webinars and instructional videos. It isn’t simply transferring a normal lesson plan to a PowerPoint for online viewing. You have to transform and adapt the materials so that they express the necessary information clearly and effectively when you aren’t face-to-face with participants.

Can you analyze the goals of students, their course expectations and their aptitude for technology to design content that will keep distance learners engaged? This often requires a
willingness to engage with subject matter experts (SME) to uncover exactly what students need to be learning on a specific topic. Online courses that are the most successful offer a visual component that uses imagery to clearly share ideas with students. It’s also essential that instructional designers provide assessment elements that give colleges a metric to rate the success or failure of an online course.

The best instructional designers and e-Learning specialists offer a cross-section of skills from multiple fields. These positions are all about variety, in terms of both tasks and challenges.

Thinking adaptively is key, as is a willingness to keep learning yourself as the technology changes.

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