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Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - e-learning job titles

Last year I facilitated a number of elearning workshops with about 1800 participants who are either considering elearning as a career or are active in the elearning industry. Here’s a common question that I’m asked: What job title best describes the person who builds elearning courses?

Most Common E-Learning Job Titles

The people I meet have all sorts of titles. Some are clear and some are a bit ambiguous. Looking over the job listings in the elearning community, here are the most common titles:

  • Instructional Designer
  • E-Learning Developer or Designer
  • Learning Strategist
  • Learning & Development Specialist
  • E-Learning Consultant

I find that instructional designer is usually the most common with elearning developer being second and gaining ground. A few years ago, most of the open job titles were instructional designers. But now it’s pretty common to see the position referenced as an elearning developer or designer.

What Does the E-Learning Job Title Mean?

Personally I prefer something along the lines of E-Learning Course Designer or Developer. I think that job title best describes the role and the product produced. Instructional Designer is very broad and doesn’t include all the skills required to actually construct the elearning course.

In a previous post we reviewed some of the skills required to build elearning courses in today’s environment. They include:

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - e-learning job title online training course design skills

  • Performance consulting so that you know how to determine the appropriate training solution. Sometimes an elearning course isn’t the right solution. A performance consultant recognizes that.
  • Instructional design so that you know how to craft a great learning experience. E-learning is more than putting a bunch of text on the screen.
  • Visual & graphic design skills are key because the course will look like something and you want that something to be good. In many cases, the course developer is also responsible for creating and laying out the graphics and visual design.
  • Network & media technologies play a key role in course design. Many courses include audio narration and videos that need to be streamed over a network. The course designer should have a good understanding of the technologies related to course design and delivery so that you build a course appropriate to the technology available in the organization and by the user.
  • Authoring tool proficiency is important. You’ll use an elearning application like Storyline to build your courses. So you need to know how it works and how to get the most out of it to build good elearning courses.

The person who designs courses typically is expected to do more than just instructional design, so a title that best describes that role and expectations makes sense.

What job title do you prefer? What is your current job title and what would you change if you could? Add your thoughts here.

Also, I’ll be available for a live Q&A in the community tomorrow. See the link below for more details.


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31 responses to “What’s the Best Job Title for Those Who Build E-Learning Courses?”

Really Nice Article. Thanks and Be Continue..

I prefer your recommendation: E-Learning Course Designer or Developer

Instructional Design is the umbrella profession for those who create education, learning, and training experiences, be it school teachers, professors, business training pros, consultants, etc. E-Learning is a specialty area, as might be a measurement and evaluation expert. I can use my instructional design expertise to design job aids, lectures, action learning, interactive classes, etc., but never choose to design an e-learning course. I just wish hiring managers and recruiters could get this straight, so folks don’t apply to an instructional design job only to find out they really are looking for someone to develop e-learning, and only e-learning.

We often just say ‘instructional designer’ and mean both the designer and developer but often our developers are building courses based on what the instructional designer put together and so our clients think of them as two different groups of people – which works because they refer to the different groups or people during the production cycle.

In reality we have a creative director who designs the look and feel – the user experience, the instructional designer who designs the educational flow and content breakdown, and the developers who bring the content to life through text, graphics, animation, and interactivity. Of course, it is important that these three groups work with each other throughout the life of the project because there are a number of overlaps.

I would love a term for someone who manages all three of these roles.

Personally I have no idea what a good title would be. Perhaps Instructional Design Developer, Instructional Developer, Learning Master (or Learning Master of the Universe).

Anyway love to see what people think!

January 13th, 2015

I think that which title is most descriptive depends on the scope of an individual’s responsibilities. If engaged solely, or primarily in Elearning, then Elearning Instructional Designer is the most descriptive. On the other hand, if the job also involves designing or facilitating other forms of learning, such as instructor led, or synchronous remote classes then Instructional Designer is the better title. We’ve sort of struggled with the idea of a job title for what I do. we have settled on an unofficial title of Traininig Coordinator, since, even though most of my time is in developing Elearning content, it is expected that I will also work on the development of instructor led training as well. I have also become an unofficial “expert” on designing PowerPoint presentations within the group. I imagine for many, they may, like me, work in organizations where such a position has no precedent so some generic salary grade title is officially used.min my case, my official title is Industy Consultant which goes back several job assignments ago.

There are three Instructional Design Specialists on my team. We do Storyline development (no capability yet for audio or video, but we fervently hope that will be coming soon); but in addition to e-learning we also create Assessments, Acknowledgements, Job Aids, Facilitator Guides, Participant Guides, PowerPoints, Quick Reference Guides, Reference Guides, and Surveys.

Hi Tom –

I was very pleased to see that you did NOT include the title “Learning Designer,” which seems to be gaining popularity as an alternative to “instructional designer.”

The intent behind this title, to emphasize learning, is great; but learning is internal to the learner and deeply personal. In my view, we do not actually design learning directly. That is, we do not create a blueprint for learning – whose specifications are expected to be followed – in the same sense that we create a blueprint for instruction. Thus “Designing learning” could subtly invite a behaviorist slant of having control over the learner.

Actually, “Learning Strategist” strikes me as a very appropriate synonym for “instructional designer” and offers the desired emphasis on learning as over instruction. But for eLearning, this is still not specific enough to imply that one has both design and development skills.

In titles, accuracy tends toward length, while simplification tends toward ambiguity. At the moment I find myself leaning toward slightly more length so as to convey the meaning clearly enough:

How about “eLearning Design & Development Specialist”?

All the best,

Greg

We use Instructional Designer where I work. I don’t think it encompasses all that I do, but I also do a lot of work outside of elearning, do baseing the title around elearning doesn’t really work either. I do a lot of design work for elearning, and also for instructor led classes now, and I do development for both too. And when I have time I do whatever else we need to do like making videos or maintaining our intranet. Unlike David, we don’t really have a division of jobs out side of having trainers and instructional designers, so I can’t pick a name that is too specific.

I kind of like Learning Strategist, or L&D Specialist. Specialist seems to work when you can’t always define what you do, and we used to have an eLearning Specialist position (but it didn’t really work out that way) It’s really hard to nail down a name when I find that our job description doesn’t even really cover everything we do.

If all else fails, I think we can all agree on Learning Master!

January 13th, 2015

The “specialist” title usually is associated with less pay, at least in the market where I reside and work. I started out creating Computer Based Training back in 2003 and my title was simply “technical writer”. By 2008, I was working at Microchip and creating e-learning using Articulate. My title was changed to “technical publisher”, a title not recognized by the Labor Dept. In 2009, I went to work on some Oracle training and was “training engineer”. None of these titles seemed to be a good fit. By 2010, I was contracted by Volt Technical who simply wanted my title to be Articulate. I was like, “no, that is the tool I use to create the e-learning!” My title then became Learning Analyst because I was also researching LMS options.

Ultimately, I became Director of E-Learning because I managed the LMS, e-Learning module development, UAT, QA, reports and several employees.

For simply creating modules, I would like to see e-Learning developer or e-Learning designer.

However, I don’t know that an e-Learning creator is siloed into simply one facet of the trade. In other words, I often find that I am doing a multitude of tasks as e-Learning developer and there are some companies that will have the e-Learning person go way out of scope, even to the point of doing in person workshops and other tasks.

I suppose it also will depend on the department. If there is a training department, that is ideal. Some people work in HR. Others will be displaced until a department is either created or a transfer to some relevant department is made.

At the State of AZ Department of Education, the implementation project manager thought I belonged in Implementation of all things. However, developing courses is not an implementation task. I was developing courses for various departments along with managing the LMS. The Dept of Ed had eliminated their Training Department years prior. I was definitely displaced there.

Many organizations have no idea where to place e-learning people. Some places want to pay less than an e-learning “specialist” is worth. Again, even though we may be specialists, the association with “specialist” in the title seems to offer much less pay.

As a consultant, I want the title on my resume to be as broad as possible. My prospective clients can then read about my skill set and experience to gain an accurate perception of whether I am a good fit for their needs. Having all the right keywords on my resume is…well, key!

In other words, if a potential client is looking for an instructional designer (whether or not that is what I would specify), then I need to have that title on my resume if I want the attention of that [employment specialist] [headhunter][hr generalist][interviewer][job recruiter][talent manager]…

I’d approach the job title in a similar manner, knowing that promotions, relationships (up, down, and across), and future jobs are built off that title.

Of course, you must also be accurate.

I just looked and the sign on my door says “Instructional Media Developer” but as I am also responsible for shooting and editing training videos (and being the tech person for live webinars) as well as development of the eLearning courses, I think that is a pretty fair summation of what I do.

Quite honestly it’s just a title and I am more than happy to answer to “Hey you”.

January 13th, 2015

While I like the terms elearning designer and developer, I personally prefer elearning CREATOR (I wish I could have changed the font to something suitably grand instead of just using caps!). First, because creator acknowledges our rightful status as deities ;-), and secondly because of the hugely creative process that is involved on so many levels.

Knowledge writers or eLearning writers just like copywriters.

Whenever I tell someone that I’m an Instructional Designer, no one ever seems to know what an ID does. Conversely, if I were to say I’m an eLearning Developer, that is also not valid because I have never been in a role where I only design eLearning. I think the percentage of professionals who just do pure eLearning development is very small.

Also, I have noticed that many people out in the workforce call themselves titles such as Instructional Designer or some other similar title but when I inquire about their background, they often have very little formal training in Instructional Design. They are Graphic Designers, Trainers, or other folks who have somehow feel into their careers. Sometimes, they think that all they need to do to become an ID is to learn some authoring tools like Storyline or Articulate.

I agree that to be a true learning professional, one must have a variety of experiences and training in a number of areas. However, I think the number one priority is to have a solid foundation on how to develop training using established educational theorems, educational psychology principles on how the brain learns, etc… Everything else is just bells and whistles… the proverbial icing on the cake.

January 13th, 2015

Mine is “Technical Developer” but I put “& Multimedia Specialist” in my email sig… I love what I do so I don’t really care about titles, I am more interested in being known as “The magical dude who can make anything happen!” All in a days’ work. ACE

Good stuff. At a few of the organizations I’ve worked we labeled everyone a training specialist regardless of what you did. Then we assinged a number to it based on experience and skill set.

My title is Multimedia Developer and have been defending for my ‘real’ title that should have summarise my responsibilities in elearning course design, development, delivery, QA, assessment, technical support, consultancy, LMS management, marketing and sales. No joy so far.

January 13th, 2015

Instructional designer is broader than elearning designer or developer, so like a lot of people say here it depends on your job duties and how your position develops in the organization in the future. I prefer instructional designer because of the broader scope of work implied (e.g., in-person training development and job aid development). What I think is more problematic is “designer” vs. “developer.” For whatever reasons anyone outside of our field has a difficult time understanding how design is different from development. And then once you explain to them “design” they respond why do we need you?

January 14th, 2015

Why do elearning vendors and industry continually segregate the learning profession – we are all Learning and Development Consultants – some of us have specialists skills but we are all L&D. I think this is one of the reasons why we are not taken seriously by business – we keep bamboozling them with new titles and roles and no wonder they are confused.

January 14th, 2015

I’m petitioning for the title “Admiral e-Learning”. The prognosis isn’t good.

January 14th, 2015

I prefer e-Learning course Designer. I agree with the statement that the title of Instructional designer does not describe the roll in full.

January 14th, 2015

I’ve heard the term Learning Engineer starting to kick around at the CLO level. It has some merits to consider as the field grows and evolves, when it comes to the realities of the design and development sides.

My title is Design Specialist, Education Programs. I wear both the instructional design and development hats, so this the compromise reached with recognizable job titles at my organization.

Great topic as usual and something I often think about.

My official title is eLearning Instructional Designer. I would prefer the title, eLearning Instructional Designer and Developer. That way, consumers of my eLearning will know they’re getting a professional equipped with the complete skillset you’ve outlined earlier, Tom (Performance Consulting through to Authoring Tool Proficiency).

@Con: I don’t see how asking what title people have or prefer is segragating the learning profession. It’s a question I get all the time from your peers at workshops. As far as business taking L&D serious I think if the L&D folks contribute to real success they do take them serious. However, if they waste time building useless training they don’t. If there’s any bamboozling in our industry it’s not coming from the job titles. 🙂

I used to joke that as trainers we shoot an arrow and then at the end of the year spray paint a bull’s eye around it to show what we’ve done. There’s the bamboozling if there is any.

My first title in this industry was a Training Analyst II. Yes Tom, we did the same thing with a couple job tiles and then ranked them with numbers. Others on my team were Tr (w role as LMS Administrator (didn’t have an LMS yet). Just before I left corporate the role I held was Elearning Manager/LMS Admin.

Looking back, the challenge HR departments are faced with (or did when I was in corporate) was the wide array of job titles across the country when putting together compensation packages. This became proof positive when the role of Training Specialist (which is in most national salary registers) was changed to “Training Project Coordinator (TPC)”, which at the time rarely existed and not sure how widely used that title is today.

The rationale was that a TPC would be responsible from cradle to grave (client-facing, needs analysis, instructions design, graphic design, development, publishing, metric reporting, maintenance, and more). Not just elearning either as they were tasked with designing and delivering face-to-face workshops. That’s a LOT to ask one person to do in a corporate environment let alone pay a fair salary for the wealth of skills needed to perform successfully.

When people used to ask outside the industry what I do including family I’d say, “I’m an elearning designer and developer” followed by a, “Huh?” Which led to an explanation that still fell on deaf ears.

Now I just say, “I design stuff.”

January 15th, 2015

Also, I think you’ll always find differences between state gov.t, federal gov’t, corporate and higher ed.

January 17th, 2015

I am new to the Instructional Design family. Currently I am enrolled in the MS program for instructional design through Walden University. This blog gives me insight as what an “Instructional Designer” (I know only one of the titles) does. In the beginning of this process I thought that they only created the websites for companies, schools and universities. I now know that they have many responsibilities that include designing courses, helping instructors with the layout along with course work, and helping organizations with training. I am looking forward to reading many more responses to this as to what others think about job titles.

January 21st, 2015

Thank you for the good writeup. It if truth be told was a leisure account it.
Glance complex to more brought agreeable from you!

By the way, how could we communicate?

Although in my company’s records my job title is “Sr. Learning & Development Consultant,” on my business cards I use “Sr. Learning & Development Consultant, E-Learning Specialist.” It’s long and ungainly, but it successfully communicates both my job level (“Sr. Consultant” is the highest individual-contributor level in my company for a training-related role) and my main area of focus, e-learning.

I don’t like the idea of “E-Learning Course Designer or Developer” or “Instructional Designer” because, at least in my case, I both design AND develop e-courses. (I also coach other e-learning designers/developers and do non-e-learning-related stuff, but, for the sake of this discussion, I’ll put that aside.) So any title I’d prefer, if it were to be purely e-learning-specific, would either have to include both the “design” and “development” components or neither.

Hi Tom,
I plan on writing an essay about this very subject very soon. I think it is unfair that UX (user experience) people and IA (information architecture) people have two-letter acronyms! I want equal acronyms for all.

I say we go for LX Designers. That would be Learning Experience. Just think of how cool we would be, going around talking about LX. LX Designers is my vote. Does anyone else agree?
Connie Malamed
The eLearning Coach

@Connie: I had a similar conversation with someone at Devlearn. I know a few people who’ve been using LX design. I saw it referenced at SxSW in one of their sessions a few years back.

Once clients make contact with me, I often call myself the “Chief Simplicity Officer”.