Quest for the Golden Unicorn: What Instructional Designers Really Aim to Do in the Workplace

Concurrent Session 6

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Is the grass greener working elsewhere? Or is your work environment the golden unicorn everyone desires? Come learn about the competencies instructional designers expressed are needed in the field, those they are actually using in the workplace, and ways instructional designers would prefer filling their capacity in the workplace. 

Sponsored By


Dr. Olysha Magruder is currently the Assistant Director, Center for Learning Design, at the Whiting School of Engineering, Engineering for Professionals, Johns Hopkins University. Prior to this, she worked as an instructional design at Hopkins and other higher education institutions as an instructional designer and adjunct faculty. Olysha started her career in a K-12 classroom, which sparked her love for all things teaching and learning. She is a graduate of the University of Florida's Educational Technology doctoral program. Her research interests include faculty development, blended learning, instructional design, and leadership.
Shaun Moore is the Director of e-Learning at Oakland University, where he earned a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership, with a specialization in Higher Education. Along with his staff position, he is a part-time faculty in the School of Business and the Writing and Rhetoric departments.
Mel Edwards, CAPM, M.A. is Lead Instructional Designer for Quality Enhancement and Accessibility, and Quality Matters coordinator at Purdue University, and serves as Vice-Chair in UPCEA eDesign Collaborative and Online Administration networks. Prior to her roles at Purdue and joining UPCEA, Edwards began her career as a public educator, adjunct instructor, and served as a Curriculum Coordinator at Montana State University-Northern. She is a Certified Associate Project Manager (CAPM), earned her M.A. in education from East Tennessee State University, a B.A. in English education from SUNY New Paltz, and an A.A. in liberal arts from SUNY Adirondack. She can be reached at

Extended Abstract

Instructional designers (IDs) are an integral component of online learning operations. Yet employers do not seem to agree on what an ID actually does from workplace to workplace - and neither do IDs! Likewise, IDs' workloads and aspirations of their roles often do not sync up. The authors will present findings from a study of 104 ID respondents informed by a literature review of ID competencies. Based on the literature, the authors created a survey that asked, "How do instructional designers view the profession of instructional design?"

The results of the study imply that there were seven constructs ranked as most important from among the 20 competencies presented in the study. These are: Program Evaluation, Theory, Top Down Leadership, Bottom Up Leadership, Faculty Problems, Course Design/Editing, Technology/Media. The highest ranked competencies from the survey were collaboration and design. The presenters will explore the findings and implications of the findings in more detail. 

Based upon the data from this study, you will learn how your daily workload stacks up against that of your peers, and walk away with a concrete list of core competencies and tasks you can adopt in your current role. 

In this presentation, you will:

  • Explore how instructional designers view the profession of instructional design.
  • Review the identified competencies that were rated as most important by respondents.
  • Discover the identified competencies (consulting, designing, content creation, collaboration, training, etc) that IDs regularly use on the job.
  • Discuss ways in which IDs are actually spending their time in the workplace.

The authors will present similar questions posed in the survey to compare audience perception against actual findings. You will engage in discussions throughout the presentation.