What does it take to be a good e-learning designer?

With the Serious eLearning Manifesto drawing attention to a current lack of e-learning design skills, as evidenced by more than a little tedious and ineffective content out there, it got me thinking about what it takes to be a good designer. Or rather, it was actually Stephen Walsh at City & Guilds Kineo  who started this train of thought as he sought out my help in tracking down a great Lead Designer.

Stephen felt, as I do, that the best place to start is with someone who already has a strong grounding in one of the component disciplines of e-learning, perhaps a journalist, a web designer or someone similar. Here is what I would look for in someone who would have the potential to be really special and help us to do some ‘serious e-learning’:

  • Someone who is a clear and confident communicator, especially in writing: this skill is particularly important and sadly rare.
  • An ability to empathise with their audience: this is a critical ‘teaching’ quality and sometimes lacking in those who view e-learning as an engineering discipline.
  • Someone who is enthusiastic about technology and certainly not afraid of it: this is not the same as being seriously technical.
  • They are appreciative of good visual design (you could call this ‘good taste’): it’s surprising how many people just don’t care what anything looks like.
  • They are capable of concentrating for prolonged periods when necessary: extroverts who can only function in the company of others will not enjoy sitting down for hours at a time writing a proposal, a design document or a script.
  • But not a loner: the e-learning designer is part of a team and must enjoy working with others; they should thrive on making sense of a whole range of contrasting perspectives and opinions.
  • They are well organised: working with hundreds of files, multiple formats, languages and versions provides lots of opportunity for error and confusion: anyone who tries to wing it will soon get found out. 

These qualities are more likely to get you there than strong technical IT or graphical skills, although if you’re a Leonardo and have these as well then you’re flying.

So, is this list realistic or is it pie in the sky. Are there other qualities that matter?
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