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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

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Week 6 Reflection on Learning

Starting my new job has been wonderful but changing my working hours and environment has been so hard.  While I don’t have to lock myself in a dark room when I get home, I AM tired especially with our (have to drop my son off at the YMCA) daily commute.  That being said I glanced at our Week 6 discussion board and promptly closed it!  I have worked A LOT on my procrastination but it still creeps up from time to time.  My mind tells me it will take hours, my body tells me it can’t do it and I finally “leave” it for future Els.  

When I finally started to work on it, I felt so ridiculous.  I read the other students’ posts, it was a lot more simple than my brain told me and I started to analyze.  It didn’t take long and I was able to make a lot of connections with teaching, reverse engineering is much like backwards design in education!  

Using Piktochart I was able to create this great visual.

While I had analyzed the same eLearning project the week before, I now had a different lens and I was able to spot things I had previously missed about it (good and bad.). With Professor Debrow’s weekly feedback, I took Mike’s lead, created a slide flow using LucidChart, and loved it.  I immediately regretted that I had put it off and hadn’t turned it in on time. I could do it and I could do it well.  

While this post is a bit of my thoughts, I hope it reminds someone else, don’t put it off….just do the thing.  If it’s leaving teaching, finishing a project, asking for a raise, or just doing your homework! You got this. 

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Week 5 Tool: The Learning Coach Podcast

Every day I commute to work in Southern Oregon, coming from California the commute is a dream, about 40 minutes distance with an easy freeway with very little traffic.  However, as I bring my son into town to go to school I cannot listen to my normal true crime podcasts and had to start looking outside of that realm for a daily driving experience. The obvious choice was instructional design podcasts and I quickly came across The Learning Coach podcast, with Connie Malamed.  Connie does a great job of breaking down content, getting subject matter experts on the show, and making everyone feel welcome to the table.  I recently came across her episode on “Why You Need Scenario-based eLearning” which brought Dr. Clark onto the podcast to discuss a range of topics that are important to Dr. Clark and Connie. One of the strengths of the podcast is that she has created some great questions and topics but fits them into 20 minutes.  I really enjoyed finding out WHERE Dr. Clark had started the framework for Scenario-Based eLearning and how she defines everything.  While Dr. Clark’s book is really thorough and appeared scientifically backed Dr. Clark really goes into the evidence-based background that SBeL is based in.  This is a great resource to listen to for just this episode but also a great podcast to bookmark and listen to often!

Storyboarding for eLearning Design

When I started my journey into Instructional Design and I heard about storyboarding I felt a bit overwhelmed. I was convinced I had never done it before, but as I started to review my past courses at Boise State I found that during my Youtube for Educators course I had created a great storyboard for a documentary I had put together.  As a visual person, I really appreciated being able to tie pictures or visions to my ideas.  As I reviewed the work, I found that I could easily use it for both video and eLearning design.  Scripting is something that is very new to me, creating my own videos I usually just fly by the seat of my pants (a great teacher trait) but as I move into the corporate world I am finding that the more I can create or communicate my vision and get feedback from stakeholders FIRST is better.  Tim Slade mentions that communicating your vision and getting feedback from the storyboard is important instead of wasting time fixing a deliverable that could have been adjusted in just the storyboard phase.  

The first storyboard I am commenting on is the one I had from my Boise State course, it was for my Minecraft for Education Documentary. The template is a very linear, simple boxed design but I appreciate that I can easily communicate my ideas on the left with visuals on the right.  Using this format I can easily line things up, and I could easily cut and paste and move things around if I needed to.  I wonder if it is too simple and does not have enough for eLearning slides, it would be great for short videos but feel that I would need something more fleshed out for eLearning.

After watching the videos by Tim Slade I thought of my eLearning Storyboard notebook that he created, it’s very simple but packed with ideas. Recently when I started to build an instructional video for OPWL 523 I referenced it often to get ideas on what I needed to think of when I was building it. Tim Slade’s notebook has slide information, a slide-type with a checklist, a slide design that I can draw out with, a box for Audio Narration/On-Screen Text, and two boxes at the bottom with Technical Notes and Navigation. What I loved was all of this information that I didn’t even think about on one page, and it would really push me to think about these aspects.  The cons are that these are SO finite that I don’t know how reasonable they would be to use in my current practice. We are often rapidly deploying eLearning and the emphasis seems to be on getting content out, this process would make it difficult to do that.

On Tim’s blog, I did find more storyboarding templates including a visual and written storyboard, these were free and downloadable and much more reasonable for everyday use.  As someone who prefers visuals and often thinks in pictures, I really gravitated towards the visual Storyboard Template. It had a box for audio or text, interactivity and programming notes, and a slide mockup.  The pros of this were definitely the ability to create a visual mockup, but also take into consideration will I have to code a progress bar? What type of transition or movements. The only negative would be taking Tim’s advice about reducing visual design that could hinder a Stakeholder or SME’s ability to look at the content which would be difficult with this template including a visual mockup space. 

Lightbulb shining on a tree

Finding a Mentor in Tim Slade

Inspiration Post #6

Tim Slade has been such an amazing force in my life recently, after many recommendations I joined his eLearning Designers Academy.  As someone who started out “just working at a department store,” he has become a leader in the ID community and his book was one of my first purchases when I became serious about leaving the classroom. After much discussion with my Husband, research, and referrals from others I decided to sign up for his Academy.  Recently we had a 1:1 coaching session and it felt SO natural, I was able to discuss a lot of things and there weren’t any weird power dynamics at play.

As I am moving through 3 summer courses, I often jump into his academy training to find areas that correlate with what I am learning in OPWL.  His video explanations have helped me wrap my mind around some major concepts, and his workbooks have allowed me to clearly define my ideas for school projects. On top of that, the free eLearning Academy Community he has built has everyone from seasoned veterans to newbies like me. In the community we share resumes, portfolios and get quick feedback from everyone, including Tim. Tim has even created themes like Question of the Week or Feedback Fridays!

During our recent meeting, Tim helped me see the inside of the corporate world, guiding me to brand myself and keep pushing.  We discussed how unhappy I am in teaching, how broken the system is, and how hard interviewing as a teacher is. He gently encouraged me to see that while it’s tough, it’s clear I need to move on from teaching. It’s something I have felt inside for a long time, and it’s still scary to talk about.  Even writing this I feel overcome with sadness to leave a profession filled with children who need me. I remeber a teacher saying recently, we aren’t leaving them, we are picking ourselves and our families. Tim’s confidence in me was genuine and I am so grateful to have such a gentle force in my life, helping me with this pivot.  

If you are in the market for an eLearning Academy that is filled with positivity, resources, daily posts, and constant FANTASTIC feedback, please check out Tim Slade’s eLearning Designer’s Academy.  If you’re looking for a great book to read to see if ID is for you, I would also recommend Tim Slade’s The eLearning Designer’s Handbook: A Practical Guide to the eLearning Development Process for New eLearning Designers.  While some things are right out of a teacher’s manual, he frames in the corporate world, allowing me to take that into interviews, my resume, and practice.

Learning Reflection #5

As a transitioning teacher, it has been extremely tough, I never expected that while many start at 0 in the hiring process I am starting at -10.  I have to prove myself competent, I have to prove my tech skills and the fine line between relating my experience as a teacher and being seen as “too treachery”.  In an informal interview this week, simply a phone screen with the Manager of the department, we discussed her needs and I immediately went to scenario-based learning as a solution.  

The manager immediately perked up and we discussed how she also loves scenario learning, at the end of the call she encouraged me to apply, she said I sounded great.  And then there was the inevitable but….”but you have no corporate experience, I am not sure you will get past the recruiter.” she replied. I was devastated, my job fits perfectly in Instructional Design, I have almost two masters in education and a wealth of experience, and yet it feels like it hurts me?  

While I am still grappling with my “pivot” I am excited to continue to learn about SBeL and feel that the book we are reading could be one of the most important I read, and something I will refer back to often. It’s something I did in teaching. I even have a Mystery game I built for the Salem Witch Trials in PowerPoint, where the student is immersed in the world of Salem. The learner ultimately has to deduce who lied and what was happening in the Salem Witch trials. I am excited to see how my skills in this area continue to grow in this area and how I can translate these skills into corporate experince. 

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Teaching to L&D

Post #5 – OPWL 551

I recently watched the recording of Devlin Peck interviewing Sara Stevick on her transition from K12 to Instructional Design.  Sara has been a wonderful asset to teachers transitioning to the ID world, she has created a whole network of free resources for teachers to use to ease the transition.  These resources start with the Teaching a Path to Learning & Development website and the Linkedin group; it has expanded to include sign-ups for teachers to get 1:1 help with their resumes, interview practice, and just general mentoring.  Additionally, they have built some great connections within the Instructional Design field and have a fantastic job board.  

     This journey has been overwhelming at times, I often felt like I didn’t have what it took, and hearing from other teachers these feelings were normal were crucial in my journey.  While I have been waiting to start applying until I am done with many of these summer courses, I did apply for a local position and was able to sign up for a 1:1 call AND post in the group’s Slack channel for help or questions. 

Going forward I plan to continue to soak up any resource I can that will help me grow, and I would like to pay that back by helping in the group when I become established.  What so many of us teachers experience in the workplace is wrong, getting out is even harder because of the unconscious biases against teachers.  Knowing I have a large network of those who not only succeeded in getting out but are passionate about helping others is incredibly comforting. 

a seed growing into a flower with the wording a tangible growth experience.

Analyzing Content for eLearning Design

OPWL 551 – Post 3

Recently I went to an interview and they asked how I would know what I had created was engaging and would bring the learner in.  I was caught off guard, being a classroom teacher within a special education classroom I felt that I was a professional at being engaging, I often got kids engaged in learning whom no one else could!  However, during this week reading about scenario-based learning really opened my eyes to truly engaging content.

Scenario-based learning really pushed the idea of problem-based learning (PBL) to a whole new level.  As I reflected on the week, what I had learned and this blog post I realized that my relationship with students assisted in my ability to get them engaged.  However, in instructional design where we are building for a specific performance issue or task, I wasn’t there with my product to encourage, entice, or transfer my excitement.  The work I create has to be able to stand alone on its own, to pull the learner in wherever they are.  

During this same series of interviews, I also produced a very linear work sample, looking back with the knowledge I have now I could see that small tweaks would have helped make it even more dynamic and engaging.  With my presentation I could have added a more clear trigger event, I truly missed the mark here, while I “got into the mind of an employee” and chunked the information I should have started with a more immersive experience such as waking up and getting ready for work.  While the rest of my presentation was from this perspective, I think adding this trigger event would have pushed my presentation to the next level!  

Additionally, I am finding that there is SO MUCH more to instructional design and e-learning than I have ever imagined.  As I dig further I am finding more that I align with and I am finding more areas to grow in.  While I absolutely know what I would say to that interview question now, it was a tangible growth experience that makes me excited to continue to dive into the ID world. 

Horizons

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!