Looking for the best instructional design courses?
In this post, I’ve listed some of the top courses online. They’ll help you gain the skills you need to become an instructional designer and get a high-paying job in the industry.
Want to learn more? Read on!
Let's start from the beginning:
What is an instructional designer?
Instructional design is the process of designing and developing learning experiences and resources. It’s an interdisciplinary field that draws on learning science, human-computer interaction, educational psychology, systems theory, and more.
And it’s an in-demand career path. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, instructional design positions are expected to grow by 11% by the year 2026. What’s more, instructional designers tend to be very satisfied with their careers–partly due to the challenges and versatility that the job offers.
Instructional designers design and develop learning experiences and resources. As an instructional designer, or ID, you help people learn, make learning more fun, or completely remove the need for learning to help people do their jobs more effectively.
So put simply:
Instructional designers help people learn by bridging the gap between people's current knowledge and skill and the desired knowledge and skill.
IDs work in all types of workplaces–from higher education to corporate (at companies like Apple or Amazon) to their own businesses as freelancers, consultants, or eLearning developers.
The types of projects you work on depend on your position, but some common deliverables include interactive eLearning experiences (such as corporate training), eLearning experiences created with a Learning Management System (such as online college classes), video-based courses, and materials for face-to-face or virtual instructor-led trainings (slide decks, documents, and so on).
Some key skills successful IDs have include:
If you want to dive deeper into what instructional design is, I talk more about it in this short video:
But how do you learn instructional design? Here’s what you need to know to become an instructional designer.
Becoming an instructional designer is a lucrative and rewarding career. You can either learn instructional design in college or on your own.
Either way, your online education should include a deep dive into mastering learning objectives, learning activities, methods, and evaluation processes.
Plus, as instructional design is interdisciplinary by nature, you may need to learn about:
Understanding action mapping, behaviorism, and cognitive information processing are also essential to mastering instructional design.
And learning the psychology behind instructional design and its theories, design principles, and instructional methodologies is a crucial part of your education.
Start with the ADDIE model and Gagne's nine events of instruction. You can also brush up on Kirkpatrick's Model of Evaluation and Mayer's principles of multimedia learning to understand objectives and instructional alignment.
If you want to learn more about what to learn to become an instructional designer, I run you through the entire ID process in this video:
However, do you need to get an ID certificate to become an instructional designer? Here’s what you need to know.
There are technically no qualifications required to become an instructional designer. Some professionals hold bachelor’s and master's degrees, but you can break into the field through a combination of quality online courses and real-world experience.
That said, the kind of qualifications you need may also depend on the type of clients you want to land. A higher education institution or government agency may prefer someone with an advanced degree.
But for most corporate jobs, you don’t need a certificate or advanced degree.
There's also an upside to forgoing an advanced degree and favoring independent online courses; the cost and time it takes you to sign up for a college degree.
To give you an example of what a college degree can cost:
Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania is one of the most popular schools for IDs (according to Zippia). A master’s degree in Instructional Design at this college costs around $30,000 and takes at least 18 months to complete.
On the other hand, online courses tend to cost between a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the skills you learn. And they tend to be self-taught so you can go through them at your own pace.
Instead of a certificate, your portfolio is much more important than your qualifications, something I talk about in this short video:
But before you dive into learning instructional design, is there even demand for IDs? Let’s find out if this is a worthwhile career path.
Yes, instructional designers are always in demand with room for career growth. Instructional design salaries average around $84,421 and are based on your education, location, and specific role within the industry. And as I mentioned earlier, growth is high with a projected 11% growth. So while there’s a healthy amount of competition in this industry, the job market is also relatively secure.
There's also a gap between highly skilled and unskilled IDs, and there is a huge demand for people with sharp skillsets that combine ID skills with eLearning development skills. The best courses will often help you develop both of these skillsets to maximize your earning potential.
That’s it! Now you know how to learn instructional design. But how do you pick the right courses to get started? Here’s how!
Instead of following the traditional route through higher education, you can shorten the process and master your skills with some of the best instructional design courses online.
And here below, we’ve listed the 20 best online courses for you.
How do you pick a course, though?
Simple: If your goal is to become an instructional designer, look for courses that are in-depth and help you figure out some of the most important parts of landing a job: ID skills and portfolio creation. Also take a look at the final product and job outcomes from the courses. For instance, here are the results our students get after working with us.
The ID Bootcamp is designed to help you land your top-choice instructional design opportunities. It gives you hands-on experience with a proven instructional design process and a ton of practice with the top tools in the field.
To ensure that the bootcamp leads to new, high-paying opportunities, it helps you create a portfolio website that shows off your in-demand skills and establishes your credibility.
The bootcamp is unique because it includes weekly feedback sessions with Devlin Peck, 1-on-1 sessions with Devlin’s team, and a dedicated community space for you to get feedback and support throughout the week.
This level of feedback ensures that your portfolio stands out, and the dedicated resume, LinkedIn, and interview support helps you secure great offers.
Overall, the bootcamp helps you:
What types of results can you expect?
In short, you can expect to develop in-demand ID skills and land competitive full-time and freelance instructional design opportunities.
For instance, here’s what our student Aleksandra, who landed a learning design job at Fidelity, has to say about the bootcamp:
“The bootcamp pushed me to create my best work and learn plenty of skills in the process. I also built authentic friendships with people in the community, and this made working on my portfolio even more enjoyable and motivating.
Once my portfolio and projects went live, I began interviewing at some of my top-choice companies in the city that I wanted to move to. I received multiple offers and wound up taking a remote learning experience design role that I’ve been very happy with so far. I could not have done it without the support of Devlin and the bootcamp community!”
Price: Price available upon request
Articulate Storyline is the most in-demand technical skill in the instructional design market, and demonstrating this skill requires strong work samples and confidence. That’s what the Storyline Project Lab delivers.
The Storyline Project Lab is your all-in-one resource to learn Articulate Storyline. This course helps you quickly upskill and create portfolio-worthy projects to land more offers at the higher salary you deserve.
The course is more than just instructional design theory, although you'll get a grasp on that, but we also focus on real-world development projects. You'll learn practical skills for creating interactive videos, software simulations, and scenario-based learning.
There's also a private community space to get feedback on your projects and foster connections to grow your network. Students can ask questions, help out their fellow students, and join teams for a collaborative learning environment.
This course is also the first step of the ID Bootcamp and it’s a great starting point if you’re new to instructional design.
Here’s what my student Lisa used the Storyline Project Lab:
“Before joining the Storyline Project Lab, I had been an instructional designer for years and was already producing eLearning using my skills. I had only lightly used variables and conditions, mostly related to quiz scoring.
I decided to invest in this program to upskill and dive into the more advanced features, such as variables and conditions (and learn a few efficiency tips along the way).
The program has helped me become way more confident in my skills, and I am already applying what I've learned to real client projects! I know I will be even more confident in my Storyline programming skills going forward which will allow me to be more creative when designing eLearning solutions.”
Harvard’s The Introduction to Instructional Design course focuses on staying agile and adaptable. Instructional Designers need to quickly grasp and understand unfamiliar content, consider new technologies, and develop learning content and solutions to meet an audience with diverse interests and needs.
Although there are tons of benefits in this class, it is an introductory course, so you will likely need supplementary training if your goal is to find a job in the industry.
Instructional Design Principles for Course Creation takes a practical, problem-based approach where students are encouraged to develop a course idea in three weeks. You don't need to know much about instructional design, but they encourage coming in with ideas for a learning project you want to create.
One of the upsides to this course is peer feedback and support and building a learning intervention from scratch. On the downside, the duration is only around three weeks, so it may not dive as deep into instructional design theories, principles, or best practices as other programs.
Price: This course is free but requires an application, as seating and student selection are limited.
Learning Experience Design is an SHRM-certified course focused on training, assignments, and peer-to-peer learning with global colleagues. The Learning Experience Design curriculum includes creating a vision, applying techniques to better understand the business and social-emotional needs of your client and audience, and rapid prototyping. You'll also walk away with a design blueprint to help shape further projects.
There's no experience necessary for this course, but it is designed for training and business professionals looking to expand their knowledge and skills. Coursework isn't in-depth with plenty of ID methodologies or how to land a job but does include the latest industry trends, research, and development.
As the name implies, Instructional Design Foundations and Applications is an introduction to the conceptual and theoretical foundations of instructional design. It's a to-the-point, beginner's course where you're mastering major concepts, learning and instructional theories, design models, and analysis activities for instructional design.
Price: Included with Coursera, which costs $39.99 monthly
This beginner-level course introduces students to challenges faced in online learning environments. Although Online Learning Design for Educators is open to everyone, it's designed for educators looking to expand their skills in instructional design geared towards school-age to adult learners.
Price: Included with Coursera, which costs $39.99 monthly
Becoming an Instructional Designer is part of the LinkedIn learning platform that helps you master the essentials. Students also learn how to manage information gathering, delivery, and project organization.
You'll get the ins and outs of creating video training and how to design for adult audiences. But the course is pretty general without much emphasis on project creation or walking away with something or your portfolio.
Price: LinkedIn learning offers a free, one-month trial. After that, you'll pay $39.99 a month when you pay monthly or $26.99 a month when you pay annually.
Course Design 101 covers concepts involved in creating learning experiences, including identifying gaps, developing personas, and completing summaries. This course comes with just 30-minutes of on-demand video, two downloadable resources, and three articles.
You'll get some basic knowledge at a reasonable price, but will need additional courses to dig deeper and develop your skills. It might be an ideal course if you're looking to solve training challenges in the workplace and need some ideas to get started.
Price: $34.99, but Udemy instructors regularly discount their courses and offer promotions
Georgetown's Online Certificate in Instructional Design introduces the fundamentals of creating online learning experiences. There's more emphasis on integrating social impact concepts to help inform and activate social change globally. Students leave the course with the skills to help mission-driven organizations create professional online learning experiences.
Price: Prices vary, but tuition for certificate courses is around $4,990
The MicroMasters® Program in Instructional Design and Technology reviews contemporary learning theories to develop online learning experiences. You'll discover best practices for selecting and evaluating digital media to support online learning. This course also helps design and implement a process for online learning while applying data mining techniques when designing learning experiences.
Price: $1,196 or a pre-discounted price of $1,076.40
The Online Course Creation: Introduction to Instructional Design looks at pedagogy or the theory and practice of learning. Pedagogy explores how learning is impacted by the learner's social, political, and psychological development. There are also lessons on how to immerse students into their learning and get access to free images to create visually-appealing courses.
This course offers short, succinct general instructional design information, so you'll need to supplement your learning to master the instructional design and eLearning development process.
Price: Skillshare costs $168 a year to take multiple classes
Oregon State University's instructional design course is based on the constructionist learning theory, or the ability to learn through experimentation as you design your own course with your chosen content. Despite the asynchronous learning style, you'll still get guidance from your instructor and feedback from your peers. Students focus on Articulate Storyline and Rise training and e-learning best practices around accessibility, mobile-friendly design, gamification, and audio.
Price: $469 plus a $60 non-refundable registration fee
Articulate 360 Training offers online or in-person classes ranging from beginner to expert training on the Articulate software. Students learn through Yukon Learning, available in the U.S., Canada, and online. The course is a good opportunity to learn Articulate software, but it just covers the basics and doesn't go very deep into instructional design principles and theories.
Mastering Design Thinking was created for teams and individuals looking for a proven, systematic approach to new product development. They also recommend the course if you work in product management, marketing, growth manager, UX design, C-suite executives, and innovation and growth consultants.
You'll strengthen your instructional design skills through 128 video lectures, live teaching sessions, group projects, real-world applications, and a capstone project.
The ADDIE model for instructional design is the original instructional design framework that has inspired most of the other models. This course by ATD, ADDIE Model for Instructional Design, teaches you the five phases of the ADDIE model and how to apply them in a real-life setting. Perfect for you if you need to brush up on the fundamentals of instructional design.
Price: $295 for non-members and $195 for members
Using Adobe Illustrator is a key skill for instructional designers. And so, if you need to improve your Adobe Illustrator skills, this course, Get Started with Adobe Illustrator, is a great option. It’s just 1.5 hours long and takes you through the steps of creating your first design.
Price: Included with Coursera, which costs $39.99 monthly
How content is displayed visually has a big impact on how the content is consumed. This course, Visual Design Principles, by the University of California, Berkeley teaches you the fundamental design principles. Note that this course has fixed dates, so make sure you sign up on time!
As an instructional designer, you need to know how to create and edit video content. This short LinkedIn course, Learning Video Production and Editing, is a great way to learn basic production and editing skills.
Price: LinkedIn Learning costs $39.99/month
Finally, Adobe XD is a tool you can use to rapidly prototype for your eLearning experience. The way you’d do this is by iterating your design and then jumping into Storyline, as Adobe XD is more user-friendly than Storyline. That’s why this course, Adobe XD UI/UX Design, prototype, and handoff from scratch, can help you get started right away with using Adobe XD.
Price: $109.99, but Udemy instructors regularly discount their courses and offer promotions
There you have it. Now you know what the top instructional design courses are.
What it comes down to is that you pick a course that works for your goals. If you want to improve your ID skills, a shorter and more general course might be what you’re looking for. And if you’re looking to become an instructional designer, choose a course that specializes in helping you find a job.
Either way, thank you for reading this guide! If you want to learn more about how to find a job in the industry, take a look at the portfolios and results our students have achieved from going through the ID Bootcamp.