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Best Instructional Design Certificate Programs Online & Courses

best instructional design certificate programs online

Instructional designers are among the most highly sought-after professionals. Therefore, it is not surprising to see the upward trend in enrollment in instructional design programs. This article provides you with all the information you need to choose the best instructional design certificate programs online. It also covers courses, certifications, and graduate certificates that can prove beneficial for your career.

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Who Are Instructional Designers?

Instructional designers develop, administer, and evaluate learning programs. They work for businesses or schools. Instructional designers have the unique ability to create courses for different audiences.

What Do Instructional Designers Do?

The ATD’s Talent Development Capability Model states that instructional designers follow a systemized process of evaluating needs, and creating a process. They also develop relevant materials and assess effectiveness. To this end, instructional design involves evaluating and selecting the most suitable strategies, technologies, and methodologies for the learning experience.

Instructional designers possess a diverse skill set to develop effective learning materials and courses. When an ID begins to develop learning materials and course, they first conduct a needs assessment that determines the educational goals. Then, they apply methodologies, based on instructional theories and models, to develop and design content. Lastly, the content is given to instructors to use in educational settings, such as a classroom.

When creating educational content, instructional designers ask, “what should…:

  • Learners gather from the training or learning solution?
  • They be able to achieve after completing the learning process?
  • Users know already or be able to do?

Instructional designer have a wide variety of responsibilities outside of educational content creation. They also create course outlines and develop relevant instructional materials, such as presentations, handouts, and participant guides. Another aspect of their job is to evaluate trainings. They want to know if the educational goals where achieved.

Because of the wide range of responsibilities, IDs must have expertise in learning design and technology to excel in their field.

Some of the most common instructional designer duties include the following:

  • Designing instructional management systems
  • Developing educational content, videos, and podcasts
  • Evaluating innovative eLearning materials
  • Revamping and creating both new and previously existing learning models
  • Providing training to other professionals on the ways of delivering learning materials
  • Conducting extensive research to develop innovations in learning design and education

What Are the Basic Components of Instructional Design?

Instructional design includes several processes and models. Any of the best instructional design certificate programs online will include analysis, design and development, and evaluation components.


Analysis entails understanding both the learners and goals. It will also include understanding why a learning solution or training is necessary. At this stage, an ID may begin to develop the training objectives and outline the training plans.

Design and Development

Design and development is the step in which the instructional designer designs and develops the course material. The ID will select the best strategies and delivery methods in this step. Based on those decisions, the instructional designer will create instructional material such as a curriculum and lesson plans. They will also develop e-learning materials, presentations, and participant guides.


Evaluation determines whether a learning solution or training solution was successful. An instructional designer evaluates if there was a measurable impact on the learner. It also deals with whether it led to the pre-established goals.

There are several popular evaluation models for consideration, such as the following:

  • Brinkerhoff’s Success Case Method
  • Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Training Evaluation
  • Learning-Transfer Evaluation Model (LTEM)
  • Phillips ROI Methodology

Instructional Design Models

One of the most widely known and used instructional design models is ADDIE (Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation). However, there are several other models to consider, such as Michael Allen’s Successive Approximation Model (SAM). Such newer models entail a quicker prototype creation, review, and revision process because of their agility.

Some other standard instructional design models include the following:

  • Cathy Moore’s Action Mapping
  • Kemp Design Model
  • Dick and Carey Model
  • Agile or rapid prototyping

Where Do Instructional Designers Work?

Instructional designers work in various industries, ranging from the government to the military to business to schools of all levels. Moreover, they can find work as an individual or as part of a design team.

What Level of Education Should Instructional Designers Have?

Most instructional designers hold a master’s degree. A master’s degree ensures that these professionals are equipped to meet the demands of the modern work world. Advanced degrees also aid IDs in developing materials that meet the requirements of a particular group and setting. This additional education allows them to design, develop, implement, and evaluate learning methods for diverse contexts. It also provides hands-on experience through practical courses.

The Best Instructional Design Certificate Programs Online

Professionals seeking flexible certificate courses have plenty of reliable online options. Some programs have admission requirements. Some programs require a few weeks of study. In contrast, more comprehensive programs can take months to complete. Read on to find a few of the best certificate instructional design courses online:

Athens State University

Program: Certificate in Educational Technology
Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and School Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)

Athens State University offers a fully online Certificate in Educational Technology. Accordingly, the certificate provides the skills to incorporate technology in the classroom and create spaces for e-Learning. Specifically, how to utilize digital instruments to foster efficient learning environments in elementary school. In addition, this certification provides career advancement in instructional design and more professional opportunities in the field. The curriculum consists of topics such as:

  • Strategies in the digital age
  • Different forms of media in education
  • Technology integration
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American Public University System

Program: Certificate in Instructional Design and Delivery
Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

The American Public University offers prospective students a Certificate in Instructional Design and Delivery. In the first place, these courses prepare students for effective curriculum development in adult learning environments. Fully online, this program is perfect for working students. On the other hand, this certificate does not qualify students for state licensure. However, the program provides professional development in the following areas:

  • Concepts and theories of curriculum design as advocated by professional instructors
  • Organizing effective instructions that challenge learners in the best ways
  • Practice learning measures and evaluation of teaching methods
  • Teacher-focused vs. student-focused models
  • Emphasis on life-long learning
  • Study technological differences between online, face-to-face, and hybrid models
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Oregon State University

Program: E-Learning Instructional Design and Development Certificate
Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)

Oregon State University’s College of Education helps professionals attain the necessary skills to enter the instructional design domain. To begin with, course content entails five-component courses. In the long run, it culminates in a learning practicum required to earn the certificate. These component courses allow comprehensive insight into instructional technology, effective e-learning strategies, and design theories. Each class takes about six weeks to complete.

Students must complete all five courses to receive their certificate. Although there are no prerequisite requirements, OSU encourages those without instructional design experience to undertake the studies sequentially.

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Graduate Certificates in Instructional Design

Several reputable online universities across the US also offer graduate certificates in instructional design. Each of these programs helps professionals prepare for a stellar career in this field. Furthermore, many provide credits to apply toward a master’s degree. The best graduate certificate programs in instructional design offer instruction in technical instructional design skills to advance your career:

Avila University

Program: Workplace Instructional Design
Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

Avila University offers this Instructional Design graduate certificate program. It provides insights into defining an organization’s learning needs, designing materials to attain academic results, and identifying instructional formats. Students have the flexibility to take the program entirely online while connecting and networking with mentors and peers. Professionals also complete training projects to compile a portfolio. In addition, certificate credits apply to organizational development psychology or management master’s programs. The university recommends this program to professionals seeking employment opportunities or advancement in instructional design.

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University of Wisconsin-Stout

Program: Instructional Design Graduate Certificate
Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

This University of Wisconsin-Stout Instructional Design Graduate Certificate typically spans about nine months. However, the program provides a reasonably relaxed pace allowing students to complete it in as long as three years. The most beneficial aspect is that afterward, these credits can be easily applied to the MS in Education at UW-Stout.

The course content advances student careers as instructional designers, project managers, and content developers. It also focuses on providing broad theoretical and practical perspectives to instructional design. Subsequently, undertake new job responsibilities by applying the skills and notions supplied by this program.

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Ohio University

Program: Graduate Certificate in Professional Instructional Design
Accreditation: Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)

Ohio University offers a graduate certificate in professional instructional design to working adult students. Graduates know how to develop integrated educational experiences in organization training systems. Overall, the program provides the necessary instructional design skills for faculty support and e-Learning systems in K-12 and higher education. In addition, the program prepares individuals as technology leaders in their schools or districts. o

The certificate accounts for nine credit hours of a graduate degree after completion. Also, the program is 100% online with accreditation that boasts the highest instructor and educator certifications standards.

Coursework includes the following:

  • Teaching and Learning Online
  • Principles of Instructional Design
  • Workshop in Computer Education
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Purdue University Global

Program: Graduate Certificate in Instructional Design & Technology
Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

Purdue University Global offers this Graduate Certificate in Instructional Design and Technology. The program provides the skills required to design, develop and assess instructional materials, media, and programs in different sectors. These may include non-profit organizations, higher education systems, the military, and the corporate sector, for example.

The certificate can help individuals pursue the following careers after completion:

  • Instructional Designer
  • Instructional Technology Specialist
  • Learning and Development Specialist
  • Curriculum Coordinator

This program accounts for 20 graduate credit hours. Furthermore, the courses focus on practical applications in instructional design, such as:

  • Online instructional material design
  • eLearning mechanisms and
  • Instructional design process models for maximum efficiency
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Saint Joseph’s University

Program: Instructional Technology Specialist Certification
Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Saint Joseph’s University offers a graduate certification for an Instructional Technology Specialist. The program is primarily online and focuses on technological integration in the K-12 school environment. In addition, this certificate points professionals toward working in digital learning systems in schools, districts, or regions. Individuals pursuing this certification will gain competencies such as:

  • Understand the role of technology in the classroom
  • Implement the right digital systems as learning aids to facilitate students
  • Perform educational research or instructional design research
  • Write a research proposal.
  • Operate interactive software and multimedia
  • Understand core concepts/theories related to instructional design and their implications in today’s K12 school environment.

Students may pursue the certificate independently or with a master’s program. However, applicants may need internship experience to get admission.

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Texas A&M University

Program: Commerce Instructional Design Graduate Certificate
Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Texas A&M University offers this online graduate certificate to working professionals interested in career advancement. Specifically, students will learn how to develop, evaluate, implement, and analyze various learning modalities. Generally, the program includes 12 credits, with instructional design and development classes, presentation design, and instructional technologies. The university also requires students to have a 3.0 GPA to earn the certification. Professionals learn how to:

  • Choose and apply instructional techniques.
  • Determine the effectiveness of particular learning programs
  • Develop and deliver presentations
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Online Graduate Certificate Programs Vs. Master’s Degree Programs

It is crucial for professionals who wish to undertake an instructional design certificate program to weigh its pros and cons against a master's degree program. For instance, in most graduate certificate programs, students can quickly transfer their online credits to their master’s degree program. Thus it is not unwise or impractical to commence with the more flexible option of a certificate. In addition, distance learning technology courses are relatively cheaper than a degree program and provide a comprehensive outline of what a degree course entails. Students interested in the certification program can go for the degree program later.

Salary and Job Outlook for Instructional Designers

The BLS predicts the median annual pay for instructional designers to be $63,740 per year as of 2021 with a master’s degree. Furthermore, instructional designers do not require relevant work experience in a related occupation. In addition, they do not have to undergo on-the-job employment training. About 190,400 jobs were available for these professionals in 2020, with their anticipated job outlook increasing as fast as the average for all other occupations. About 1,800 new jobs may arise each year in the next decade.

In addition, a career as an instructional designer offers considerable job security. The Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates a 10% increase in the job outlook for this profession in the next ten years.

What is the Future of Instructional Design?

Instructional design plays a crucial role in developing successful and practical learning solutions, such as classroom instruction plans, an on-demand performance support solutions, or e-learning courses.

With new digital technologies, the business world continues to change. Professionals and experts lend more value to creativity, flexibility, and innovation. Thus flexible and dynamic design models are becoming more and more sought-after. Elements from other areas of design thinking and user experience (UX) design are also seeping into instructional design. Therefore, comprehensive knowledge of instructional design can lead to many career opportunities.

Final Thoughts – Get Started with an Online Certification Program in Instructional Design

Of course, the ever-growing need for skilled professionals has increased the demand for instructional design courses. To this end, offers information on a wide variety of online courses to advance your current career, start a new one, or change occupations.

Such online certification programs offer immensely flexible options for professionals, allowing them to juggle the responsibilities of work and home life and their studies. If you want to pursue a career in instructional design or undertake advanced duties in this field, then start with an ID certification. Head over to to know more and make an informed decision!

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