• Travis Jordan

Beyond Technical: Why Soft Skills Matter for Instructional Designers

Updated: Nov 26, 2019

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As an instructional designer, a lot of your day-to-day tasks revolve around understanding new technological tools and brushing up on educational trends. But with a lot of your time spent mulling over research or creating new materials, it can be easy to forget all the soft skills involved in instructional design, too. As previously discussed in our post on the ‘10 Skills You Need to Become a Successful Instructional Designer’, organization and communication are some skills that come in handy — but there's so much more to it than knowing how to speak well and putting things in order. Here are some more reasons why soft skills matter for instructional designers. Presenting new materials As new tech innovations appear, your job is to see how such technologies can be altered to fit into a classroom setting. You’re juggling materials in various formats, but it’s not enough to create a thorough organizational system. You also have to communicate this system to educators, which, in turn, requires strong people skills to intuit how your system will be received. Negotiating with clients Many instructional designers work on a consultation basis. Thus, some designers market their services around a system that’s completely theirs. To that end, you might want to consider legally protecting your work. Copyright cases can easily turn into civil suits, which is where Special Counsel says a defense litigation team would step in to protect your intellectual property. Legal counsel can help you understand your options when faced with a copyright case and will be the ones to defend your case should it go to court. Knowing how to protect yourself and your work allows you to approach client negotiations confidently, thus presenting an image of yourself as someone more than capable to do the job. Empathizing with different students The Balance Careers underscores the importance of empathy in any professional role. Indeed, empathy is one of the top skills educators need — there’s no reason why instructional designers should be any different. Your role is to make learning accessible for all kinds of students, regardless of age or disability. Part of your job might be interviewing an organization’s students to see what works best for them. Empathizing with these learners is the first step to understanding how effectively they’ll receive information. Asking for help when you need it Humility isn’t typically preached within a professional setting. You want to present yourself as a capable individual in order to stand out from the competition, but you run the risk of burning out if you take on too much. Fast Company suggests making your needs known to the other party as soon as possible, perhaps even in the negotiation stage. Being upfront about potential shortcomings, or even opening up a space for your client to help out, allows you to create truly synergistic solutions. Attending seminars versus leading them Last but not least, knowing how to balance your time is crucial in order for your practice to develop. Creating a strict schedule for yourself can be helpful in order to know when to pick up a new skill versus when to take a break and work on new materials. Part of successful time management will thus also come from properly gauging your workload. If most of your clients aren’t necessarily looking for web-based solutions, for example, you might want to bracket your HTML and web development course for another time. An instructional designer’s love for learning becomes truly successful only when it’s complemented by a strong set of soft skills. Constantly working on your personal development ensures your practice stays effective.

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