The coronavirus pandemic has changed how we do school — possibly forever. Within just six months, we have felt an unprecedented and urgent need to adapt educational environments that provide multiple learning options for every child. And it is very likely that schools will have to create models in which instruction can transition seamlessly from an online format to the classroom and back again, and, possibly, a blended version that includes both options.
Although this may seem like an impossible task, instructional designers may be the answer to offering equitable solutions for students of every age and stage of learning and development.
What Is an Instructional Designer?
Instructional designers may be teachers or have teaching experience, but their specialty is in creating learning content. In fact, the content of most coursework, textbooks, educational software and curricula currently in use was created with the input of an instructional designer. Working in public or private schools, nonprofits, or corporate settings, they participate in the process of determining learning goals as well as creating the ideal delivery method for the students' needs. Most recently, their expertise has focused on online and virtual instruction.
Instructional Designers Matter Now More Than Ever
With COVID-19 upending traditional classrooms, there is an accelerated need for virtual resources and fully digital learning modules, and instructional designers are finding new and innovative ways for teachers to deliver knowledge. For example, a well-prepared instructional designer has the skills and educational background to translate a 40-minute 4th-grade math lesson plan into PDFs or 3-minute video clips that students can absorb online no matter where they are studying.
There is also an emphasis on timing. What might have taken an instructional designer a year or more to create is now being delivered in months. Many of these professionals found themselves turning projects around over the summer break in anticipation of classrooms not opening for the Fall 2020 school semester. With the pressure to get quality materials online immediately, learning instructors have been in high demand.
The Future for Instructional Designers
So, what happens when the pandemic is over? What is the outlook for instructional designers when classrooms resume in-person instruction? With an average yearly salary of $66,290, qualified instructional designers (also known as "instructional coordinators") will see a 6% growth rate in job openings for the next 10 years. Although this U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projection is a pre-pandemic number, it is safe to assume that the recent uptick in demand will prevail for some time.
If you are interested in taking advantage of this high-growth opportunity, you may already have part of what it takes to succeed. With a bachelor's degree in education, business, leadership or administration, you can move forward with a completely online Master of Science in Instructional Design and Technology from St. Thomas University. A variety of job opportunities are available in K-12 virtual classrooms and beyond.
Outside of the education realm, instructional designers will continue to be in demand to create updated training with appropriate content for organizations of all types, ranging from nonprofits and government entities to corporations. With pivoting to remote work during the coronavirus pandemic, many of these organizations are having to boost distance training resources and know-how. The demand for qualified professionals translates to new opportunities for the well-prepared.
Sources:U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook - Instructional Coordinators
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