Bachelor of Arts in Instructional Design: Courses and Skills

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published October 8, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Instructional design is a growing field that combines educational theory with technology, allowing experts to create learning and assessment programs for different learners. Professionals in this field might work in education or a wide range of professional industries, including technology, publishing and health care. If you're interested in designing tools to help people learn, you might consider pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in instructional design. In this article, we explain what a Bachelor of Arts in instructional design is, provide examples of course content and describe skills you might develop in this program.

What is a Bachelor of Arts in instructional design?

A Bachelor of Arts in instructional design is a four-year degree program that helps you develop skills and knowledge in the field. This degree program can prepare you for an entry-level or associate position in learning and development, curriculum design or a related field. As an instructional design professional, you might create school curriculum or training and professional development materials for professionals in many industries. To qualify for a high-level instructional design position, such as a learning director, you might gain professional experience and then earn a graduate degree in a related field.

Related: 50 Learning and Development Interview Questions

Content included in a Bachelor of Arts in instructional design

While the specific course content of an instructional design degree program might depend on the school, here are some common topics for this course of study:

Human development

Human development classes teach students about how humans develop intellectually, socially and emotionally over the course of their lives. Depending on the program, students might learn about brain development, social groups, family units and emotional stages. After taking these classes, students might understand how age and other factors affect the way people learn new information, which can help them create effective content for a wide range of learners.

Related: Cognitive Learning: Definition, Benefits and Examples

Educational theory

Classes in educational theory can help students learn about different methods of teaching. These classes might feature different learning styles, like visual or kinesthetic learning, and historical information about the field of education. In these courses, students might observe teachers or take part in other field experiences. Universities or professional organizations might prefer certain methods for their educational and professional development material, so learning a range of theories can help an instructional designer create a curriculum that aligns with their organization's goals.

Related: 8 Common Types of Learning Styles

Curriculum development

Curriculum development courses teach students how to create content that helps students learn. These classes might focus on key parts of curriculum development, such as designing a learning sequence, selecting objectives for a section of curriculum or developing practice exercises. Students might learn about creating training material for different industries, like health care and legal services. They might develop their skills through projects where they develop a curriculum from content their professor provides.

Related: 13 Curriculum Development Jobs (With Duties and Salaries)

Assessment methods

A key component of instructional design is effective assessment, which allows teachers and learning directors to measure how much their students or colleagues have learned. Students in assessment courses might learn about different purposes of assessment and its effect on the learner. They may also learn how to incorporate assessment methods into their curriculum as a teaching tool, which can help both learners and instructors expand their knowledge.

Multimedia design

Instructional design students often learn to use a wide range of multimedia software and online tools to create educational material for different kinds of learners. They may learn how to use common graphic design software to create visually appealing content for textbooks, online portals and other resources. Students might also learn video and audio editing so they can make multimedia presentations or videos that explain complex concepts. Depending on the focus of their program, students may develop basic coding skills, which can allow them to create interactive assessment tools.

Benefits of studying instructional design

A Bachelor of Arts in instructional design can give you the knowledge to become an instructional designer or related professional. In this degree program, you can also develop skills through internships or research opportunities, which may give you an advantage in the hiring process. You might build a mentoring relationship with a professor or other expert in the field who can give you professional development advice and suggest a career path for you. Some schools offer their instructional design degree courses online, which can allow you to find a program that's ideal for your career goals and other obligations.

Skills you can develop while studying instructional design

A BA program in instructional design might help students build many key skills, including:

Writing skills

Students might build writing skills through projects and research papers in their instructional design courses. Instructional designers often use writing skills to draft learning objectives, explain key concepts and create practice exercises. When creating multimedia content, instructional designers often begin with a written script, which they convert into visual and audio content. They might also collaborate with instructors or experts in the field to write training manuals and other guidelines for training managers or team leaders.


Research skills help instructional design students to be successful in their classes and internships and can give them an advantage in their careers. Instructional designers might use their research skills to gain knowledge about their client firm's industry so they can create training materials and assessments that reflect industry standards. For example, an instructional designer for a construction consulting firm might research building codes and local laws to create learning material about regulations and compliance.

Critical thinking

Instructional designers often use critical thinking skills to design units of curriculum that follow a logical progression, which allows learners to build upon the knowledge they gain as they progress through the curriculum. An instructional designer's ability to think critically about different perspectives can help them provide students with different ways of learning the same concept or technique, which can increase the value of a piece of curriculum. They might also use their critical thinking skills in their discussion with clients or content experts, as they ask questions to clarify a unit's scope and assessment techniques.

Project management

Instructional designers might use project management skills to create new training and assessment programs for an organization. Depending on their position, they may lead the project management process or assist a learning director or other manager. For example, an instructional designer for a community college system might design a project to train instructors and administrators on a new remote learning platform before the system implements it throughout its campuses. Students in instructional design degree programs can develop project management skills in their high level courses, where they might complete complex projects and work on a team with others.

Visual design

Understanding how to use graphics to teach students can help instructional designers reach a wide range of learners. Classes in curriculum development, educational theory and multimedia design might teach instructional design students how to use graphic design principles like size and placement to communicate information visually. In their work, instructional designers might create diagrams, charts or other visual content for training programs or educational curriculum.

Related: A Guide to Visual Learning

Technical skills

Instructional designers might use a wide range of technology for their daily tasks, including project management software, video editing programs, page layout software and audiovisual equipment. They might develop their technical skills in multimedia or technology classes while pursuing their Bachelor of Arts in instructional design. Some organizations prefer instructional designers who have competencies in specific software, while others might provide training for their preferred platforms.

What can you do with a Bachelor of Arts in instructional design?

Here are 10 jobs you can get with a degree in instructional design:

  1. Instructional designer

  2. Online learning specialist

  3. Curriculum developer

  4. Learning architect

  5. Textbook editor

  6. Instructional coordinator

  7. Learning consultant

  8. Training manager

  9. Senior program coordinator

  10. Learning development specialist

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