Level Up: How we created a level framework for learning experience designers

Concurrent Session 3
Streamed Session

Watch This Session

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

This facilitated roundtable discussion explores the challenge around career advancement for instructional designers and related positions. We’ll discuss challenges around defining the role of instructional designers, identifying skill sets for instructional design positions, and how to establish a level framework for growth.


Breana Yaklin is an Instructional Designer for the MSU Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology and for Teaching and Learning Technology with IT Services. She supports faculty to design strong student-focused learning experiences, and has been conducting interviews with undergraduate students to gather student voice and better inform curriculum design. Lately, she has been working closely with academic advising units to support proactive advising and student success change initiatives.

Extended Abstract

Over the past few years our department has grown with academic specialists and instructional designers. Between our rapid expansion and the flat culture we sought to maintain, we had a bit of a mess. We had a lot of staff and no sense of a classification system and no clear pathway for growth. Over the past year, we have worked to establish a level framework to clearly identify and differentiate the positions, roles, and responsibilities within our department. We began by identifying the core skill sets necessary for work in our department, and building a framework around these skill sets. Next, we referred to a design organization level framework developed by Merholz and Skinner (2016) to inform our framework structure. By creating a framework rooted in our core skill sets, we have created a clear classification system within our department and a corresponding pathway for growth. 

At this roundtable discussion, we will discuss the challenge of career advancement for instructional designers, learning experience designers, and related positions. We will share the process we followed to create our level framework and discuss the opportunity for creating a framework and pathway for growth. The goal of this discussion will be for participants to identify the challenges with career advancement they experience and how they can begin to clarify the work and identify a corresponding structure to represent this work. 

The primary audience for this career forum is instructional designers, learning experience designers, education technologists, directors, administrators, consultants, and related specialists who experience the challenge of career advancement. 

This career forum will be structured similarly to a previous roundtable conducted by this team at the OLC Innovate 2018 Conference: Role and Identity of an Instructional Designer, White and Yaklin, (2018). In the 2018 presentation, our team posed questions around the role of instructional designers, related titles, power dynamics, and career challenges. In this presentation, we will pick up with one of the questions we discussed in our 2018 presentation and continue the conversation forward: 

  1. What are some of the challenges you have faced in defining your role? In the role you have played?

  2. Is there a classification system and pathway for growth at your institution? If so, what does it look like? If not, what needs do you have?

  3. What are the core skill sets necessary for success in your department? How can you identify these with your team?

  4. How can you identify a framework to fit your needs? 

As presenters, we will pose these questions to participants and share how we worked to address these questions. Participants will walk away with examples of our core skill set and level framework. 

Works Cited:

Merholz, P., & Skinner, K. (2016). Developing the Team: Professional Growth and Managing People. In Org Design for Design Orgs: Building and Managing In-House Design Teams (1st ed., pp. 111–133). Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media.

White, C. & Yaklin, B. (2018). Role and Identity of an Instructional Designer. Presentation at the Online Learning Consortium Innovate 2018. Nashville, TN.