ID Bookshelf Part 1: Start With These

If you’re like me about a year ago, trying to learn about Instructional Design as a career, I’d bet that you have dozens of windows open on your laptop, computer, or phone, all presenting exciting information, but taking you on a detour.

 If you then decided to focus your search and dive deeper, you might have selected some podcasts or Youtube channels to follow. You might have even enrolled in the IDOL courses Academy to guide you through your journey. 

And then when you get a bit more confident, you want to read books to really feel knowledgeable. 

 I am with you. I was there. 

I used to solely read fiction; I loved stories about unusual characters and different cultures. I still do. But when I started transitioning into Instructional Design from teaching, I went on a Non-Fiction binge.

If you ever googled “Instructional Design books”, you have come across lists of 10, 20, 40+ books, each of which could take weeks to finish when working full time and would cost $30 or more. So, you will have to select and prioritise books.  

I will help you get started with only 3. 

1. The Non-Designer’s Design Book

Yes, this is a non-ID book. One thing that most novice Instructional Designers struggle with is visual design. Drafting effective learning solutions to meet a performance goal is one thing, but designing beautiful and accessible graphics is a challenge to many.

Robin Williams’ book is a collection of eye-openers. She thoroughly explains the most important concepts and includes plenty of images to illustrate how she transforms mediocre documents into more professional designs. 

In the two days it took me to read it, I learnt a huge amount about the mistakes I had committed in the past decade. Who knew centre alignment was for amateurs?


2. Design For How People Learn

Julie Dirksen’s book is a timeless classic. It’s full of useful content and she goes through a range of learner-centred topics.

At times it feels like reading the most illustrated and practical textbook due to the amount of information and the chunking of the content. After some scenarios, she even prompts the reader to pause and answer questions before moving on. And there are a lot of scenarios and examples which we all appreciate.

It gives a comprehensive overview of the learning process and even experienced educators can pick up a few tips from the many chapters. Coming from a teaching background, I personally found the ‘social and informal learning’ chapter the most interesting.

3. Map It

Cathy Moore’s Map It: The hands-on guide to strategic training design lives up to the hype. It’s the most expensive book out of the 3, but it’s worth every penny.

Her action mapping technique is a game-changer, trying to “save the world from boring training”. She repeatedly mentions how training is not the solution in many cases and she teaches Instructional Designers how to become performance consultants rather than training order-takers. 

The process is incredibly detailed and enriched with scenarios, sample conversations, activities and some laugh-out-loud moments. There’s a lot, so I recommend getting some highlighters.

I have read many more books, but I can say with confidence that these 3 are going to provide the best foundation for anyone interested in becoming an Instructional Designer. These 3 taught me the most and I’m yet to read another book that would shape my ID thinking as much as these have. 


Written by: Ivett Csordas 

Ivett is a teacher turned Instructional Designer. She has over 8 years of experience in secondary schools and 5 years in EFL classrooms. As a life-long learner, she is passionate about sharing knowledge and creating meaningful learning experiences. Her niche is breaking concepts down and anticipating potential learning obstacles. Before the pandemic, she loved watching plays in the theatre and going on backpacking adventures. Connect with her on LinkedIn or check out her portfolio.    


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