Looking Beyond the Physician Educator: the Evolving Roles of Instructional Designers in Medical Education



To explore how instructional designers (IDs) view their work and give insight to organizations intending to hire for this role.


In 2018, a 28-question survey was utilized to examine the role of instructional designers in medical education and their contributions as educational professionals. The survey was sent to members of the DR-ED listserv, the Instructional Designer listserv through AAMC, relevant EDUCAUSE listservs, and via Twitter in April 2018. Quantitative and qualitative results were analyzed. The target population was determined as those who self-identify as working in instructional design in medical education, understanding that titles of IDs may vary widely in academic medicine.


Participants in this study (72) were self-identified as 45 (63%) females and 23 (32%) males. Among the degrees held by participants, 33 (46%) hold a terminal degree, 37 (51%) a master’s degree, and 2 (3%) a bachelor’s degree. Seven (9%) of institutions employ one ID and 27 (36%) employ two to five IDs, and 19 (25%) of the participants did not know how many instructional designers were employed by their organization. Participants reported that 22 (40%) specialize in more than one type of work such as database development, classroom technology, faculty development, and assessment/evaluation.


There is a wide variety of work environments for IDs in academic medicine; these range from large academic research institutions to consultant companies. A significant portion of IDs advise faculty on pedagogy and teaching best practices and develop professional development training. Job titles for IDs are also varied, representative of a wide range of influence within academic medicine organizations. ID expertise that was considered most commonly needed in academic medicine includes familiarity with learning management systems, multimedia literacy, and pedagogy.

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Correspondence to Max C. Anderson.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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IRB No. 2018-0224 from the University of Illinois at Chicago

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Anderson, M.C., Love, L.M. & Haggar, F.L. Looking Beyond the Physician Educator: the Evolving Roles of Instructional Designers in Medical Education. Med.Sci.Educ. 29, 507–513 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40670-019-00720-6

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  • Instructional design
  • Professional development
  • Faculty development
  • Curriculum design