My AhHa Moments building a Scenario-Based eLearning Course

The final project for OPWL 551 has been a massive undertaking, even though I currently work in the field of instructional design I never imagined one project would wrap my mind as this has.  While I am confident in my design abilities (always room to grow) and even my technology skills in Articulate, pulling it all together to create a massive branching Scenario-Based eLearning project was astounding!  I have found throughout my process of building my portfolio I struggle without concrete examples or topics to work from. In my position now, I am given projects and I fly, but thinking up a random topic to build a course around has been difficult in the past.

The usual sentiment is to go with something you know, so I originally thought about something teaching-related. I built a project plan for using accommodations within the classroom but felt like it wasn’t something I wanted on my portfolio so I went back to the drawing board.  I realized my answer was staring me right in the face, currently enrolled in Tim Slade’s eLearning Designer’s Academy, I remembered the case study I was working on and the project that I was intended to create to complete the course. With a new sense of focus, I crafted a new project plan using Tim’s template and submitted it.

From there I began to design the branching scenario, I knew I wanted to focus on customer service for phone representatives of a web company.  After reading Clark’s book I knew that I wanted to have a pretty complex branch, with three options for answers; Best, Adequate and Inadequate as well as having three pathways that had varied interactions with the customer based on the Learner’s previous choices but always allowing them to make it back to the main “best” path. Additionally, immediate and personalized feedback seemed best, so I made sure add that in for every choice.

When I started to design the pathway, it was difficult to visually understand how this would translate to Articulate so I started to do some extra research and a post on the eLearning Heroes community helped me visually see how to take a branched scenario and put it into Articulate. I also reached out to Tim Slade who pointed me towards one of his own projects, allowing me to reverse engineer it – I often kept this open while I worked through mine to ensure accuracy.  I started to design my branching scenario and ultimately came to this:

My Scenario-Based eLearning Branching Scenario Flow Chart

One major aspect of this design was color coding, for my own neurodiversity I was able to see the path more clearly and understand how the choices would influence a movement between the scripts.  I wanted this to be interactive, every choice made the interactions more difficult but always gave a chance for the learner to “redeem” themselves and make it back to the “green” path which Clark wrote was essential for designing the branching scenarios.

Once I got this done, I printed it and started to build the course, I could check off the terminals as I created the slide, and it was highly efficient in keeping me in line.  I wanted to push myself a little in Articulate and included some strategies like personalization, during the introduction Learners input their names and the next slide allows Learners to choose an avatar, both supported by Clark’s book and a recommendation from Tim Slade’s “Dealing with Angry Customers” project.

Another piece of the color-coding was using intrinsic feedback, on each feedback slide, the customer has a background based on their mood (and the response from the Learner.)  This was why it was so important to include different slides/interactions at each challenge level, I wanted the interaction to be authentic.  I previously have worked for both Netflix and Amazon in their call centers, so I used a lot of my own experiences with customers to craft logical and plausible interactions. When dealing with customers, they do not just go back to “happy” or “green” unless you go above and beyond to problem solve and fix the interaction, it was something I wanted to be central to this project.  While the project was a massive undertaking, it pushed me to use slide masters, become even more efficient at creating slides, and thinking about the large picture of where the learner would be going.

When I started to build my storyboard, which I did do in tandem with some light Articulate design (again I prefer to SEE the layout etc.) I got stuck again, trying to organize all of the choices, the personalized feedback for each slide, and the multiple challenge questions…I decided to build my own storyboard and make it color-coded.

An example of my Storyboard, the box is one slide (green path) with the options underneath based on Best, Adequate and Inadequate.

In closing to this long-winded post, I am so glad to have taken this course and learned so much about scenario-based eLearning that I plan to continue to grow in.  I already have an idea for a course at my current position that would use a different style that Clark mentions which is an interface for more diagnostics approaches and I am excited to get started!  In future projects, I feel like I am getting a flow down, and realizing that while there is a clear design and application process each project will have its own process, and that’s okay. The more I am able to research, adapt and change the better! And now…I can finally sleep for a week before the fall semester starts!   

Teachers Are Instructional Designers

Teachers ARE Instructional Designers!

After 8 years in the classroom, I started my journey to transition outside of the classroom in early 2021, I was fortunate to find several great communities that were instrumental to my growth, I have written about them here and here.  Now I hope to give back to other teachers who are making their transition.  This post aims to advise others on what I did to get noticed, what my interview process was like, what I did in my job search, and provide any resources I have used.

First, get connected. When I was applying to positions by myself, I had no idea what I needed to reframe, adjust and focus on. Teaching: A Path to L&D opened up my eyes to the idea that I could not only make it out, but it gave me clear guidance on what I needed to adjust.  I use; adjust because teachers ARE instructional designers, curriculum designers, LMS handlers, hard workers, expert multitaskers, we simply need to reframe our experience and education.  Spend regular time on LinkedIn, I found TWO real job leads from LinkedIn. The one I am in now came directly from putting Instructional Designer as my tag line and being followed by someone in my area.  This person then posted a job listing, I reached out, we spoke over the phone and the rest is history!

Second, research what you want to do and narrow it down.  Often, I hear teachers so desperate to leave (and I was one) that they are casting their net too wide.  It sounds cheesy but find something you know will bring you joy AND don’t worry about leaving mid-year, you can leave. While leaving teaching was the best thing I could do mentally and physically, I am still a teacher, and I miss my kids.  Without meaningful work, we won’t make it; I still fight the urge to return to teaching even after a month in a wonderful position.  Next, decide what type of company do you want to work for, do you want to work in an office? Work from home? DO you want an EdTech or Tech or Bank? With a lifelong love of technology, I set my eyes on the tech sector (although I ended up at a credit union!) 

Once you decide where you want to go, you can build your roadmap.  I was one year away from getting my Masters; and researched if Boise State had an ID program/certificate I could add.  I contacted the Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning (OPWL) and they worked with me and my credits to build a plan for my final year.  By summer 2022, I will have a Workplace Instructional Design certificate and a Masters in EdTech.  I also signed up for Tim Slade’s Academy, and I purchased LinkedIn’s premium membership for LinkedIn Learning.

My plan was to start the clock the day I left school for the summer, and complete 3 summer online courses through Boise State, eLearning Designer’s Academy and build a fleshed-out portfolio using my previous website (I had started branding while trying to make the jump to EdTech) and build a new resume with a focus on Instructional Design. My plans changed when I ended up taking an Instructional Design position a week after school was done!  In that application I was straightforward about my experience and my lack of formal experience in Instructional Design, they were impressed by my passion, the energy I had about Instructional Design, AND my learning plan. 

Third, ask questions. It seems simple but I had no idea who Cara North was, she posted an article and I messaged her about Instructional Design Academies. I was so confused if I HAD to pay for one and was getting approached by “academies” that just didn’t feel right.  She responded and pointed me to an amazing woman who had left the classroom a year before. She offered to mentor me and suggested Tim Slade’s academy.  It was an investment, but it has really pushed me and the mentoring by Tim has been invaluable. Request resume help through the Teaching to L&D group, I was lucky enough to spend time getting ready for my interview with my current position.  Heidi Kirby gave me a set of common ID interview questions that I was able to edit and type out my own answers – it was perfect after years of teaching interviews!

Fourth, stand tall and proud, you are a teacher, you can handle anything, and you are an asset to any company.  Spend time adjusting your resume and cover letter, I used this Reddit post and I have had good responses so far.  Get familiar with the programs, Articulate has been a lot of fun and very easy to pick up if you used PowerPoint in the classroom. The Articulate E-Learning Heroes Community has been a fantastic resource, I can look up ANYTHING I want to do in a flash, and I have learned best by jumping in.

You can do this journey for free using the resources I have provided, using YouTube etc.  You do NOT need to pay for mentorship or guidance. Everything we were taught about pedagogy carries over; it may have a different term but you already know the theory.  You ARE an instructional designer, customer success manager, problem solver, so put that as your title. We got this! /flex

The Suspense of it All!

So much suspense for our final projects! I don’t normally visit other students’ blogs very often (I need to, I just run out of time) but I plan to this week! Wowza, the last two months have been a whirlwind and I cannot believe we are so close to the end.  However I won’t lie, I thought we ended Week 8!  SO glad we get another couple of weeks to work on our projects and learn even more.

This past month I was offered a position in Instructional Design for a local community credit union, they are a powerhouse in this area and I was so honored to have been chosen as the final candidate.  With that being said I have been thrown in feet first (which IS the pace I am used to working as a teacher for 8 years!) I was immediately given three projects to work on. One of these will be the project I will be submitting for my final project. I feel like it demonstrates my growth in Articulate (when I started this job and this semester I had none!) I have quickly picked up different techniques and while I don’t always remember how to layer or change states, a quick google jogs my memory.  Using the Articulate community has been crucial, YouTube is a close second and I love thinking of creative ideas and finding a way to make them work.  Some slides have been challenging, I did give up a bingo game that will NOT be forgotten and I WILL figure it out even if it’s not in this project…

Most of all, I am excited to get feedback from Dr. Salik, he has always given such great advice (even when it stings) and as I moved into the corporate world I try to remember and heed that advice (especially logo and branding!). 

My Post (2)

Creating a Supportive ID Environment

The first blog I found was Lisa Zachau’s blog who is also an educator who is transitioning to Instructional Design like myself. From the outside, her blog seems straightforward and clear, not really any imposter syndrome. I started to think to myself, perhaps I should look at another blog, maybe they didn’t need my support.  But as I reviewed her blog posts I found a lack of her background present, no mention of teaching or how the topics drew from her educational experience. In that “light bulb” moment I felt like I needed to cheer her on, to encourage her to see the connections between teaching and instructional design. It’s a very fine line to walk as educators transitioning to ID, we have to appear confident like changing our tagline on LinkedIn to “Instructional Designer”, eliminating “aspiring” and we are encouraged not to include “Teacher” anywhere in our profiles using Educator or others.  While many people do not realize what we do on a daily basis, we have to find ways to make connections between what we have done and instructional design.  One of the most profound pieces of advice I got was when I had an early resume that stated “aspiring instructional designer” and my friend said “You are NOT aspiring, you ARE. You create these amazing learning pieces for your students, you know how to curriculum map and goal setting. You CAN do Instructional Design.” She forever changed my trajectory and outlook on Instructional Design. There are so many misconceptions about education, especially as many of the people who interview me haven’t experienced a 21st Century classroom, the engagement, the learning theories, the innovation, as teachers we are Masters of Learning and we can bring this to the instructional design field.

The second blog I found was Stephanie Hartwell’s blog, and right away I resonated with her post on perfectionism! This is something that I struggle with and I think it connects VERY closely with imposter syndrome. For myself, I often think if I can’t make it perfect then it won’t be good enough, and then when I start to look at others’ work or processes I realize I am doing pretty good (and often over the top.)  The last two years of my teaching career I really found myself, I started to find confidence in myself and my abilities (although hitting 30 helped with this.)  I really appreciated Stephanie’s candid conversations on how she commonly learns through rote memorization.  In education, I have to teach critical thinking and trial and error behaviors. Many students have spent their educational career memorizing things instead of asking questions, looking them up, and figuring things out.  I want to encourage Stephanie, you can problem-solve, you made some great points in your blog and it’s not something you don’t have in, just may not have been taught to you previously…but you got this!

Overall I think we can do a better job of supporting each other in this industry, when I started to transition it felt like little mini-communities everywhere with a lot of rogues doing their own thing.  One of the best things I found during my transition is the Teaching to L&D community who shares, support, and celebrates each other on a daily basis.  I know I can ask any question at any time, or even vent, and I know someone will be there to listen or help.  It’s been amazing and I think building a more supportive community especially for those transitioning is important. While I have heard some reservations about teachers transitioning, we are coming and the industry needs more folks and representation. Linkedin has been a great starting point but I think being open, helpful, and taking the time to pay forward any mentoring you received as you came into ID is imperative!

Two people playing Stark trek bridge crew in VR

From Star Trek to VR

Being an avid Star Trek fan, I have always been chasing the idea of a tablet you could write on digitally.  In the early 2000s, Gateway had a store, and they also had a tablet that cost several thousand dollars. I wanted it so bad and had dreams of taking notes in college with it.  Over the years I have seen computer companies try and fail to create a truly responsive tablet. I bought a Surface early on, but found the tablet was still “not right.”  Finally, with the advent of the Ipad Pro and the Apple pencil, my dreams have become realized (as nerdy as that may seem.) This summer I am using my iPad as the core of my classes,  I am able to take fantastic notes, split-screen between content and videos.  And I have seen the studies regarding writing notes over typing, and it seems to work for me.   

It took nearly 20 years for the technology to catch up to our dreams, and I hope to watch video evolve in this way as well.  Many of my friends already have VR, although it has a pricey entrance ticket, however, I think as more companies invest (especially in workforce learning) we will see some amazing advancements and it finally will be available to everyone.  I have been a Microsoft Innovative Educator for several years and about 2 years ago I was shown a product they were working on for elementary students AND neurodivergent students.  

Microsoft has an immersive reader product that really helps focus readers, utilizes text to speech, and more.  What Microsoft showed us (and was recently released) was using an immersive reader to actually put the student into a VR state while reading, enabling students to swipe text, move text, and separate words.  This advanced technology would allow so many neurodivergent students who often can’t understand text in the 1D world into the 3D world. 

For video, I hope that we can continue to build immersive, high-quality videos that will engage learners but also maintain the idea of diverse learners.  I can imagine, 3D screens (cue Hololens) and other interactive types of video, for my teaching practice Edpuzzle was a game-changer during the pandemic.  Normally in class, I would model efficient reading strategies and throw in comprehension, guiding, or summaries of text as we went.  When we went to 100% online, I was able to record myself reading and put in interactive questions and more for students.  I believe in the future our video will be rich, dynamic, and accessible anywhere and anytime.  Working in the Instructional Design field I am already seeing the demand for busy CEOs to get their learning when they can, from wherever they can.  

Another piece is that many college students are adults, with families and work — having interactive lectures that are available at any time with all of the prompts built-in, maybe even physically dragging and dropping items in VR would be amazing to see. I feel the same as I did in 2002 while standing in the Gateway store, I am excited for where tech takes us and the issues we have to grapple with along the way.

clapperboard icon with Tech Nerd to Screencaster

Tech Nerd to Screencaster

OPWL 523 – Week 2

Growing up I was always a tech nerd, I am an elder millennial, so my time with the internet began with AOL in middle school.  The minute I started working with computers I fell in love, I taught myself graphic design and used it to create personalized graphics in games. When things went wrong on our PC I found I had a knack for fixing them.  And I still remember changing all my Mom’s program icons and sounds to Jim Carry as a prank. Being in this early time and also a female, I was told the internet wouldn’t go anywhere….graphic design was filled with no jobs…so I moved on. 

Somehow I landed in teaching, and I brought with me my love for gaming, tech, and graphic design.  It served me well and I quickly became known as someone to go to for troubleshooting to innovative technology teaching practices.  For two years I advocated for the use of computers within the classroom in order to provide accessible learning to my neurodivergent students.  When the pandemic hit, I suddenly was thrown into the thick of it, walking some teachers through how to open their emails from home while also helping solve systematic problems like scheduling Teams chats.  

I started a Youtube channel to support the teachers in my district while we were home. I pushed out content quickly and efficiently because we didn’t have time to always plan and edit. TechSmith’s ‘Ultimate Guide to Easily Make Instructional Videos’ resonated with me on several levels.  

First, it was helpful to see the breakdown in different types of instructional videos, almost all I did during the pandemic were screencasts so teachers could follow along, however, I do have some microlearning videos I did for kids and I personally watch Presentation videos almost weekly.  

With my focus being teachers in my specific district with our specific tools, I really knew my audience which TechSmith lists as the #1 tip.  Being pressed for time, and the urgency strong, I was pressured into both not focusing on making sure it was perfect and worrying about my equipment.  I enjoyed making very short, to-the-point videos for busy teachers, and I quickly became recognized for it. 

TechSmith really does a great job of explaining the process for creating videos, it’s something I will keep to reference especially since I am currently taking a Storyboarding course. I am looking forward to doing a bit more work in overlaying audio and visuals, I never did this in my videos as I worked with screencast software like Screencastify. I am excited to start learning and working within Camtasia and finding out how I can use it to create professional videos.


OPWL Summer Learning

This summer I will be chronicling my journey through several Organizational Performance & Workplace Learning (OPWL) courses. My goal is to be keeping up with my studies and reflecting on my learning through this blog. My journey into Instructional Design started nearly 6 months ago as I began to find myself burnt out on Teaching. While I never thought I would ever pivot so much in my life, this year has brought to light some issues I had been having with work-life balance and the transfer of trauma from my students. Teaching Students have taught me so much over the course of the last 5 years, and I feel confident that I am skilled and able to take on any industry.

Originally I began applying for all types of positions within edtech and in the technology sector, I found a resounding “silence.” I had easily gotten teaching jobs but my resume was too “teacher” and my focus was too broad. While researching positions to transfer into, I found instructional design. The more I dove in, the more and more I realized the world of Instructional Design took all of the competencies I had but removed the stress and trauma. I began to research the field, finding a community of teachers who had escaped and were willing to help others escape as well.

What began as simple searching quickly turned into a passion, I began to purchase books and even connect with groups on LinkedIn. I reached out to my Masters program at Boise State where I was finishing a degree in Educational Technology and found the OPWL program. I made a plan, learn as much as I could within 2 months and begin to apply for positions once I had a completed portfolio and a redone resume and cover letter. Taking these summer OPWL courses is just the beginning, I am also working through Tim Slade’s eLearning Academy and part of several Instructional Design book clubs.

To new horizons!