Recently, while filling out one of those mundane online forms that asks general demographic info like education level, industry, and various demographics, I was a bit puzzled that within the preconfigured options for occupation, my exact title of “Instructional Technology Consultant” wasn’t an option, though “Instructional Designer” was.
I admit now that I shouldn’t really have reason to take pause. For most of the ITCs I work with, instances like this wouldn’t faze them at all. I’m well aware that our nomenclature doesn’t really change the fact that what we do is, in fact, instructional design. Yet I have to admit that before that moment I’d never really seen myself as a designer—at least not in the sense of what people think of when they traditionally think of a “designer.” Consultant? Sure, I can easily recognize myself there, but not as a designer.
Can you remember feeling nervous, anxious, and fearful about the upcoming online course you registered for at the advice of an academic advisor? While the advisor gave you some basic information about the course and told you not to worry, the little voice inside would say, “Are you sure you can do this”? That little voice never really went away until the end of the course.
The online world of learning is so very different than the face-to-face classroom. Students don’t have the opportunity to speak to the instructor after class or stop by their instructor’s office on the way home to ask a question. Everything, everything is done virtually.
I have a confession to make. I confess that I jumped on the Pokémon Go bandwagon—and I am still riding it.
My first introduction to Pokémon was when my son was little. He had a collection of cards, carefully curated in protective binders. He spent hours reading the cards and developing the perfect deck to defeat his father—not an insignificant feat. For a child who was a “reluctant” reader these cards were one of the first times that he read for pleasure. He spent hours reading each card to learn the strengths and weaknesses of these unique creatures.
Downward facing dog
Lift your right leg up
Move your right leg forward
Land your right foot next to your right thumb
Move your right arm forward…Warrior II
Bend your right knee, move your left arm up, and right arm down…extended side angle
The voice of my yoga instructor whistled by my ears as I followed the flow of movement. My mind drifted. What should I write for my blog?
DePaul’s School for New Learning has an annual initiative called the Month of Writing (MOW) every October. The initiative is loosely based on National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and challenges the school’s students, faculty, and staff to write as many words as possible during the month.
This year I worked with a faculty member developing an online course designed to coincide with the MOW, where one course objective is to complete 25,000 words of a designated writing project by the end of the five week course. The emphasis here is on the writing process—on quantity over quality—to get students over the idea that every piece of writing must be perfect, and just start writing.
I think it is safe to say we have all experienced some form of stress in our life–whether it be in our personal life or at work. Stress isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes stress, in small doses, can help you perform better and keep you safe when in dangerous situations.
This week we had several interviews and one of the questions we always ask candidates is how are you under pressure and can you manage stress? Working in our field can be very stressful. There is a lot of customer support involved with instructional design. As Sharon Guan likes to say, we are free therapy. Whenever an instructor is struggling, they come to us with the hope that we can ease their worries and their stress. Which means a lot of the time we are not only dealing with our own personal stress but also taking on the stress of our faculty. Stress is only good if you keep it in a comfortable zone, so how do you make sure to not let yourself get overwhelmed? As one of the candidates said during the interview, you don’t want to get to the point where you are seconds away from throwing your computer out the window. It’s a long way down.
Drew Lapp, a product/interface designer and user experience researcher, wrote a blog post that resonated with me, “Design and the Art of Listening.” Over the years, with more design experience, gained trust by faculty, and a desire to move beyond a task list, I listen more. Listening closely and actively to faculty, students, and administrators have enabled me to propose ideas that put me in the position of a co-collaborator. By listening, I am able to empathize and offer an idea for a solution that is relevant and (hopefully) addresses the root of the issue. It’s amazing how much information can come from individual meetings with faculty, hallway comments by students, and discussions in department-wide meetings, just by listening. As I move amongst these user groups, I start to hear common complaints, challenges, and gripes…a designer’s dream! I get fired up to find that solution, but not so fast. As Lapp says, “…much of the time people aren’t able to tell you what they want right away. Sometimes it takes a while to get the answer; sometimes they aren’t able to articulate it themselves. So how do you figure this out? You listen and you listen some more.” Exactly. Back to listening, but now I can ask more intelligent and refined questions that start to get to the heart of the complaint or issue, so that eventually I can, as Lapp so eloquently says “give the people what they want.” Isn’t this the designer’s ultimate goal?
Collaborating across the globe is gaining much-needed traction thanks to the access we have to technology tools and internet connectivity. While there are some countries that still suffer from digital inadequacies, the proliferation of mobile device and tablet accessibility is changing the game and thankfully, beginning to level the playing field.
Social media and other mediums have shown the humanizing impact that integrating video into a conversation can have that somehow, makes us feel connected to those that we haven’t seen in years and/or live thousands of miles away. And now, other industries are starting to take notice.
The academic and business world as we knew it decades ago is evolving to new heights. With more online courses at the collegiate level increasing to the exponential growth of global virtual conferencing in the workforce, our brothers and sisters around the world are much easier to engage on a regular and consistent basis.
Make no mistake, if you’re going to connect sizeable groups of college students or colleagues in a meaningful and engaging way, it takes time and strategic planning. Unlike social media, in academia, business corporations, healthcare, and other industries, structured and formal real-time (live) video interactions can take weeks, maybe even a month, to execute flawlessly. Continue reading
For the past year and a half I have had the opportunity to work with a lot of great faculty members at DePaul University. I design online courses for the School for New Learning (SNL), DePaul’s online school. As a result, I rarely get the opportunity to meet in person many of the adjunct faculty that I am constantly collaborating with. A few months ago I attended a SNL spring professional development and some of the faculty members present were adjunct. At this time I was finally able to put names with faces. I almost felt like a superstar because so many people were saying with so much excitement in their voices, “Oh so you are Veronica! It’s finally a pleasure to put a face with a name!”
Although it was a pleasure meeting some adjunct faculty members, I have heard how sometimes there may be a struggle in making them feel as though they are essential to the growth and development of a learning institution. I can see how this can be plausible especially when adjunct faculty are teaching online. I taught for 14 years in the K-12 sector and the task of developing educators in that field is quite easy. Every day they are physically reporting to work, and at least once a week teachers are required to meet for collaboration or professional development. However, when a faculty member is teaching online part time how do you get them to strengthen their teaching skills? How do you motivate adjunct faculty so they will want to participate in the events that are sponsored by the learning institution? These were some questions that I have had for a while and this past August my questions were answered when I attended the Distance Learning & Teaching Conference in Madison, Wisconsin. While at the conference I had the opportunity to attend a workshop facilitated by Brad Garner and Mike Mendenhall of Indiana Wesleyan University. The purpose of this workshop was to give strategies on how to motivate adjunct faculty members. Below I have listed 6c’s to follow and if this is done correctly then it will ensure that adjunct faculty members will be successful when teaching online.
This year, I missed shopping for school supplies.
(If you’re a parent, you can stop reading here. I get it. The journey to procure the specific list of items denoted by your child’s teacher seems horrific. A colleague was just telling me about how her child’s school decided to go to a color-coding system, where each student needs to have a specifically colored folder for each subject [orange for Social Studies, blue for Math, etc.], along with other color-coded items. This sounds miserable. This is not the experience I was feeling fun heart flutters about.)
When I was a high-school teacher, shopping for school supplies was the exciting part of back-to-school time; you know, before the panic-inducing part where you have to think about an entire year’s worth of curriculum that you need to plan. School supply shopping was also a space to see what new, unblemished organizational items I could use in my classroom.
In an effort to recapture that feeling, I went to one of the traditional office supply chains to see what new “technologies” they’re peddling (because, of course, even the pencil is technically a technology). My findings: