Note: The original list in this blog post included 41 courses. Since launching our first post we've updated the list with 4 courses that were suggested by our readers
Instructional designers often take a winding career path. Most professional IDs don’t start out as such; instead, they begin their careers as educators, trainers, or something else entirely.
There are many roads that lead to an interest in ID, and there is no single unified educational path to qualify to work in the field. Your work history and experience level will dictate whether you want to pursue a bachelor’s or a master’s in the field. Or you may be able to acquire the skills you need through a short course or certificate program.
We scoured the web, looked at academic ratings, and read numerous reviews to put together this list of good quality courses, ranging from free two hours introductory courses to full masters degrees.
Whether you’re just considering a career in instructional design, you simply want to sharpen some ID-related skills, or you’re fully devoted to choosing ID as a career path, we’ve got you covered with our extensive list of instructional design courses. For each course we will tell you a little about what makes it unique, how long it takes to complete, and the price point.
Free Online Instructional Design Courses
A free online instructional design course is a great way to see whether you’re interested in the subject matter. Or, if you are already pursuing a career in ID, these courses can help you brush up on skills or learn a new viewpoint.
- Introduction to Instructional Systems Design: This 3- to 4-hour course on Alison.com will introduce you to the fundamentals of designing and developing instructional materials for courses.
- Learning to Teach Online: Over the course of 6 weeks (with a time commitment of 3-4 hours each week), you’ll develop an understanding of basic online teaching strategies and learn how they can enhance course design. This is a beginner-level course sponsored by the University of New South Wales Sydney.
- Instructional Design Foundations and Applications: This foundational course for the University of Illinois Instructional Design MasterTrack Certificate is free to audit, which makes it a great choice for testing the waters of pursuing higher education in ID. The 4-week course touches on the major concepts of instructional systems design, major theories of learning, instructional design models, and various analysis activities.
- e-Learning Ecologies: Innovative Approaches to Teaching and Learning for the Digital Age: This is another course from the same track as above, free for auditing. This one focuses on how educational technology can open up possibilities for transformative “new learning.”
- Learning design basics: pedagogy into practice: The OpenLearning team offers this interactive course on how to design and develop learning programs using the constructivist theory of education. The 12-15 hour course is free to take, and for $50 AUD you can receive a certificate of completion at the end.
- Gamification: Gamification, applying game principles to business and learning, is a key component of instructional design. This free course was created by the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business and focuses on the use of game elements and game design techniques to nongaming-related problems, such as education. It takes about 33 hours to complete.
- Motivating Students to Learn: This short (just 2-3 hours) course by the Global Text Project focuses on the factors that contribute to student motivation and how IDs can harness different theories of motivation to inspire students.
- Instructional Design Video Series: This is a series of 39 YouTube videos put together by Dr. Ray Pastore, a professor at UNC Wilmington. It covers a host of different instructional design theories and concepts. Dip in for a certain skill refresher, or watch the whole series for a crash course in ID.
Paid Online Instructional Design Courses
These courses are frequently more in-depth, have a participation element, and result in a professional certificate.
- Instructional Design for ELearning: This course provides an introduction and overview of the instructional design field over the course of 34 lectures (4.5 hours of video total). It costs $39.99, and participants receive a certificate upon completion.
- Introduction to Instructional Design: Online Course Creation: What is pedagogy? Why do different people learn in different ways? How do you deal with SMEs? This 1.5-hour course answers these questions and more, with the goal of helping you set yourself up as a freelance ID. It costs $39.99 for lifetime access.
- Instructional Design Pro (Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3): These are three courses that build on each other to help advanced-level instructional design professionals create more effective and enjoyable curriculums. Combined, the three courses make up about 21 hours of video and include over 100 downloadable resources. The full series costs $65, separately each course costs around $22
- Instructional Design Essentials: Models of ID: While most ID courses are geared toward institutional settings, this LinkedIn Learning Course is directed at the business world of learning. Dr. Joe Pulichino, an ID at T-Mobile, walks through different frameworks for creating quality training materials. The course is $24.99, or you can sign up for a monthly subscription to LinkedIn Learning for $19.99 a month.
- Instructional Design Mastery Series: The Online Learning Consortium presents an asynchronous learning workshop focused on course design. The series consists of three weeklong modules, with time in between for solo work and reflection, the next cohort will start June 2020. The course costs $750 for nonmembers.
- Principles of Instructional Design: Drawing from their own experiences building hundreds of online courses, the staff at CourseArc has created a course covering the theories, systems, and considerations of basic instructional design. This self-paced course costs $195 for non CourseArc clients and consists of five modules, each taking 4-5 hours to complete.
- IDOL Courses Academy: The IDOL academy program will provide you with the knowledge and skills that will help you land your first ID job. This program is taught by Dr. Robin Sargent, instructional designer and online learning developer, in collaboration with other experts in the field. You will learn the different tools used in instructional design, learn how to build your own portfolio, and get training in instructional design. The academy consists of 30 modules for $1,497, upon completion you will have earned 4 verified credentials and can proudly call yourself a Master IDOL. As a bonus, you will be a part of an active community, and will have unlimited access to the IDOL academy materials.
- Introduction to Instructional Design: The Harvard Extension School offers this intermediate-level, project-based course on converting theory and framework of ID into practical applications. The 15-week course is $1840 for undergraduates, and can count toward degree credit. Applications for Spring Term 2020 are currently closed, orientation to Fall Term 2020 opens August 12 this year.
- Instructional Designer Certificate Program: A series of four online courses, each 4 weeks long, that cover practical ID skills. The program costs $2,000, can be completed on your own timeline, and results in a PDF certificate.
Instructional Design Bachelor’s Degrees
Instructional design bachelor’s-degree programs are beginning to crop up in universities across the United States. They can be a good option for students who are committed to the field early on, but it’s important to choose the right kind of program for your needs.
- Bachelor of Arts in Instructional Design at Ashford University. An online degree programming geared toward helping students to become “learning architects.” It requires 120 credit hours to complete.
- Instructional Training and Design B.S. at Texas A&M University Commerce. In addition to a standard ID degree, students can complete a second major or minor in fields such as business, computer science, psychology, or industrial technology.
- B.S. in Applied Management – Instructional Technology, Training and Evaluation at Northern Illinois University. This online degree program focuses tightly on the technological aspect of instructional design. It is specifically for students who already hold an associates degree in web development, graphic design, software development.
- Minor in Instructional Design and Technology at California State University Chico. Students can supplement their degree in any subject with a minor in instructional design by taking 6 designated courses. This is an on-campus, full-time degree program.
Higher-Education Certificates and MicroMasters
If you already have a teaching degree or experience in your field, you can save time and money by pursuing a certificate or mini-master’s program instead of an entire master’s degree.
- MicroMasters Program in Instructional Design and Technology at the University of Maryland. Consists of four graduate-level classes in ID theories, models, and technology, including a capstone project. Students can complete this program online over the course of 8 months, with a time commitment of 8-10 hours a week.
- Certificate in E-Learning Instructional Design at UC Irvine. This seven-course online series focuses on the methodology, skills, and techniques necessary for aligning e-learning strategies with business. Depending on course scheduling, it can take 9-18 months to complete and costs $4,085.
- Learning Design and Technology Certificate at Harvard Extension School. Complete four online courses on subjects like media design and web design, with at least a B grade over the course of three years to earn this certificate. The Harvard name doesn’t come cheap though; this series costs $11,360, on average.
- Certificate in E-Learning Instructional Design at the University of Washington. There are two versions of this course of study: the regular version involves taking four courses over three quarters, and the intensified version is completed in just two. The course is online and costs $4,606.
- Instructional and Technology Design Certificate at UMass Boston. This online program is geared toward creating curriculums for adult learners in both for-profit and traditional education environments. Consists of five courses and costs $8,625.
- Online Instructional Design Certificate at the University of Central Florida. This online certificate takes an interdisciplinary approach to learning ID. Includes a total of 15 credit hours, with separate in-state and out-of-state price points.
- E-learning Instructional Design and Development Certificate at Oregon State University. This online learning program provides you with broad exposure to principles and applications of e-learning. The five-course series costs $2,175.
- Online Graduate Certificate in Instructional Design and Technology at Purdue University. This is one of the more expansive certificate programs, requiring a commitment of 20-25 hours a week for a 6-week term. If you decide to continue your education, you can apply the 20 credits toward a master’s program at Purdue.
Instructional Design Master’s Programs
Our latest research into ID salaries showed that a degree is generally a minimum job requirement, with 90% of survey participants reporting to having at least a bachelor's degree, and 71% having a master's degree or PhD. However, having a master's degree, compared to having only a bachelor's degree, did not show any significant increases in salary amongst IDs. You can sign up to our newsletter and access our report if you like to get more insight in whether an Instructional Design Master's Degree can further your career as an ID.
- eLearning and Instructional Design Master's Program at Northeastern University. A 2-year online program that prepares you to pursue an ID career in nearly any industry. Average tuition is $26,900.
- Master of Education in Learning, Design, and Technology—Instructional Design & Development at the University of Georgia. This online program is aimed at helping professionals across diverse industries translate their skills into an ID career. The course takes 1.5 years to complete and costs $26,226.
- Instructional Systems and Learning Technologies Masters at Florida State University. The #1-ranked online ID program in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report. The 2-year program can be completed online or in person, and there is also the option to pursue a Ph.D. in ID.
- M.S. in Instructional Technology at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. Bloomsburg University has an internationally recognized faculty in the area of gamification of learning, and offers two 100% online (with a face-to-face option) M.S. in Instructional Technology. You can also choose to follow one of their two online certificates: eLearning Specialist Certificate and the Instructional Game Design Certificate.
- Instructional Design and Technology at California State University Fullerton. This 2-year online degree is geared toward working professionals looking to make a career change.
- M.A. in Instructional Design and Technology at Seton Hall University. This program combines technology expertise with educational theory to help students create modern course materials. The 2-year course can be completed online or on campus.
- Instructional Systems Design M.S. at the University of Kentucky. Students in this program can specialize in distance education, statistical analysis, or community engagement. The 2- to 3-year online course is completed in a series of intensive 8-week semesters.
- M.S. in Instructional Design and Technology at Walden University. This online degree focuses on mastering the software tools you need to design high-quality teaching materials.
- M.ED in Curriculum & Instruction at the University of Virginia. This online master’s degree is offered part time over the course of 5 years or full time over the course of 2.5 years. You can choose from a variety of specializations, including literacy, special education, and social and emotional learning.
- M.S. in Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning at Boise State University. OPWL programs focus on solving workplace issues through education. Students can specialize in Instructional Design.
- M.S. in Instructional Design for Online Learning at Capella University. An online masters in education and instructional design focusing on online learning.
Taking your ID Career to the Next Level
We’ve created an interactive spreadsheet of the courses in this article, where you can find the right course for you based on price, number of hours, or type of degree. We will continue to update, if you know a course or program that should definitely be on the list, let us know here. We'd love to hear more about the path you are taking (or took) to become an ID!
Getting a career in the fast-growing field of instructional design is an exciting journey. Here at Eduflow we are committed to providing the resources you need to thrive as an ID. Sign up to our newsletter to stay plugged into our content.