12 Helpful Resources for Instructional Design
Top books, blogs, videos, and more to excel as an instructional designer
Instructional design is the thoughtful application of design aspects—like color theory, typography, and user experience—to create educational resources. Those learning experiences can take place in a variety of settings: in-school, out-of-school, on the job, and more. Since instructional designers develop so many types of resources—like eLearning courses, instructors’ manuals for classroom use, learning games, training courses for use in workplaces—there are always new skills to pick up.
If you’ve been meaning to learn a thing or two about instructional design (or brush up your skills by diving into something new), this comprehensive resource round-up is the perfect place to start.
1. Design for How People Learn (by Julie Dirksen)
If you are new to instructional design, Julie Dirksen’s book is a great pick for those just getting started. Dirksen walks readers through key questions to consider before starting a project, such as “Who are your learners?” and “How do you get their attention?”.
2. Designing Accessible Learning Content: A Practical Guide to Applying Best-practice Accessibility Standards to L&D Resources (by Susi Miller)
This book from Susi Miller is a must-have for creating accessible digital learning content. In addition to essential information on meeting Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), the book also dives into how accessible content can ensure that all learners receive the best learning experience.
3. E-Learning and the Science of Instruction: Proven Guidelines for Consumers and Designers of Multimedia Learning (by Ruth Colvin Clark and Richard E. Mayer)
With the first edition published in 2002, this book from Ruth Colvin Clark and Richard E. Mayer is a practical resource offering best practices, examples, exercises, and more. This book should be on the bookshelves of users of online education and new and experienced instructional designers alike.
4. Guide to e-Learning: Building Interactive, Fun, and Effective Learning Programs for Any Company (by Michael Allen)
Michael Allen’s guide features best practices for creating engaging and effective online educational experiences. The book highlights interactivity in design and guides the reader through lessons to help avoid common design challenges.
5. Intro to Design: A Crash Course for Non-Designers (CourseArc ebook)
For those who are new to design and perhaps wondering where to begin, this ebook is the perfect place to start. CourseArc’s expert designer, Todd Douglas, outlines the three principles of design and the three key components that should be considered to create great projects. Sign up to receive this ebook for free.
6. Map It: The Hands-on Guide to Strategic Training Design (by Cathy Moore)
Cathy Moore’s “action mapping” is a method for instructional design that emphasizes a framework to streamline the design process. The method outlined in this guide focuses on thinking strategically: clearly identifying learning goals and developing training to meet them. (Look for details about Cathy Moore’s blog below).
7. Scenario-based e-Learning: Evidence-Based Guidelines for Online Workforce Learning (by Ruth Colvin Clark)
This book from Ruth Colvin Clark is geared toward instructional design for workforce learning. Highlighting the “what, when, and how of scenario-based e-learning,” this book includes guidelines for designers and examples from a variety of industries.
8. The eLearning Designer’s Handbook: A Practical Guide to the eLearning Development Process for New eLearning Designers (by Tim Slade)
Tim Slade’s handbook for new designers brings project management into focus by taking the reader from planning and drafting stages all the way through implementation of an online learning course.
9. Visual Literacy: Learn to See, See to Learn (by Lynell Burmark)
This guide from Lynell Burmark is a classic, covering the basics and history of visual literacy while including practical information on developing presentations and strengthening learning experiences.
10. Write and Organize for Deeper Learning (by Patti Shank)
This book from Patti Shank focuses on strategies and tactics that instructional designers can put into practice right away, along with other helpful examples and tools.
11. Write Better Multiple-Choice Questions to Assess Learning (by Patti Shank)
Patti Shank’s book on writing effective multiple-choice questions is a must-have for anyone who wants to implement evidence-based assessment strategies.
12. What I Wish I knew Before Becoming an Instructional Designer (by Luke Hobson)
It’s all in the name—this is another wonderful choice for those new to instructional design! This guide is for anyone interested in the instructional design field, explaining exactly what instructional designers do and how to build your portfolio. (Plus learn more about Luke Hobson’s podcast below).
Blogs, Videos, and Podcasts
Action @ Work
Visit training designer Cathy Moore’s blog to find out why she’s “dedicated to saving the world from boring instruction.” Her blog offers design ideas, practical examples, and templates that can help instructional designers at any experience level develop interactive learning materials.
Devlin Peck’s website
Devlin Peck is a freelance instructional designer and his website features videos, tutorials, and articles for instructional designers. His tutorials include how-to guides for using Storyline on a Mac, creating a 360-degree escape room, sourcing eLearning graphics, and more.
Luke Hobson’s podcast
The What I Wish I Knew Before Becoming an Instructional Designer author’s podcast features interviews with experts and covers topics like how instructional designers can network using LinkedIn.
The eLearning Designer’s Academy
Visit Tim Slade’s website for videos on scoping an eLearning project, organizing content, managing project scope creep, transitioning from teaching to instructional design, and more.
Maybe you’ve already used some of the resources above and are ready for the next step in building your arsenal of instructional design knowledge. Consider connecting with other professionals in the online education fields by joining a LinkedIn or Facebook group. These groups provide an opportunity to exchange ideas, challenges, and successes with peers and stay up to date with the full range of online education topics.
Julie Dirksen’s Design for How People Learn
Freelance Instructional Designers, eLearning Developers, & LXDs
Instructional Design Institute Community
Instructional Design and Online Learning Job Board from IDOL courses
eLearning Industry’s Instructional Designer
Association for Talent Development
Chief Learning Officer
Freelance in Instructional Design and E-Learning Industry
Instructional Design Central
The Learning Guild
Training & Development