Cartoon of a computer with a webcam icon on it. Wording "Webcam On or Off? The potential impact on learning.

Webcam On or Off? The potential impact on learning.

Introduction

Navigating the workplace can be daunting for anyone but it is often heightened for People of Color (POC), LGBTQIA+, and neurodivergent folks.  For some, the remote work option created an even playing field and allowed many who were discriminated against in the past a place in the workforce.  However, there are MANY considerations when preparing for inclusive virtual training to ensure the safety, equity, respect, and inclusion of those involved.  

Why should we care? As instructional designers, our job is to ensure knowledge acquisition across all learners, not specific groups.  Creating environments with only one population in mind can lead to reduced retention, impact the safety of a classroom, and above all is harmful to certain individuals.  Rothwell states, “adults must feel psychologically safe to learn” (Rothwell, pg. 1716) and as learning designers, we have to ensure not only is the content accessible and inclusive but the environmental conditions are as well.  

Computer screen with a zoom call, six faces and all their cameras are turned on.One of these environmental conditions is webcam use in the workplace which has been a hot discussion since COVID began, and corporate policies seem to be based heavily on company superiors’ beliefs or own experience.  Relying on personal experience when setting policies is dangerous, we all have biases and need to make sure you are researching, involving marginalized voices, and being considerate.  After reading a fantastic article “Do you show your face in Zoom meetings? Your gender may play a role,” I was able to see a clear correlation between allowing the option for webcams and better learner retention due largely to the impact it could have on cognitive load.  This lead me down a rabbit hole of research 

Feeling Safe to Learn

The [article by Zlati Meyer] is really interesting and I encourage you to check it out, it describes the link between gender identity, race, and webcam use.  Essentially men are more likely to show their faces on webcams during meetings than their female-presenting or nonbinary peers and people of color (POC). Additionally, when discussing the numbers between genders, women were found to prepare for using a webcam or chose not to use a webcam solely based on their beliefs about their appearance.   Culturally this makes sense as we place the burden of ‘beauty’ on female-presenting AND people of color disproportionately often with very strict white hetero normative “beauty.” 

One aspect that the article didn’t mention was the impact on neurodivergent learners, when researching for this blog I came across a great [youtube video by Challenge Solutions] in the video the consultant describes how to set up for a virtual meeting as a blind person.  She gives tips and tricks, but what struck me was the prep needed to prepare for a virtual meeting as a blind person.  She recommends having a seeing person set up the computer first to make sure the webcam has the correct frame. Another thing I didn’t think about was the fact that she needed a seeing person to tell her what would be in the background. This never crossed my mind, but you can see the undue burden that requiring cameras for a neurodivergent person could cause. 

Can you imagine having to do this in an impromptu virtual meeting?  What about rushing to put on makeup, a binder, hiding children, a messy house, or “nice” clothes?  When we account for the number of steps and thoughts that it takes to just prepare for a meeting, can you imagine being ready to take in learning after that? 

How Does This Affect Learning?

This idea of cognitive load is based on the idea that working memory has a limited capacity and that the brain can only do, remember and problem solve so much before its retention is affected. The prep required for someone to be on camera, or the effects of being on camera in class are called extraneous load.  Extraneous cognitive load is simply unnecessary information, activities (even sound), or stimuli that will affect a learner’s ability to attend and retain.  With the implication that turning on a webcam takes up many different problem-solving processes, a need for remembering, and emotional labor it is easy to make the connection between cognitive load theory and its effects on a learner.  

I feel like I have said several keywords over and over; autonomy (choice), respect, safe, and inclusive.  These are all based on adult learning theory and what researchers have found adult learners need in order to be open or comfortable enough to learn. Malcom Knowles created a set of [Adult Learning Characteristics] which is a generalized list of adult learner traits.  These traits are very important when we are talking about creating learning environments.  

According to Knowles, adults crave autonomy or the ability to make their own decisions and have options in their learning.  We need to treat adults as the wealth of knowledge they are, including their experiences and knowledge is crucial.  Emotional barriers happen, such as anxiety about a subject, environment, or life event.  Adult learners have potential physical and mental limitations, our learning should not be geared towards neurotypicals nor rooted in white culture.  Adults also crave community, and building a safe and inclusive learning community is important. And last but not least, adults have outside responsibilities that can impact their ability to learn, being mindful of this and potentially reduce the extraneous load for those who may be having a difficult time outside of training.

How Can We Reduce Cognitive Load?

First, give the learner the option to turn their webcam on for as long and in what capacity they wish. We are working with adults, who are able to manage their time, work independently and pay attention.  By providing the message of respect; “I know you will be paying attention whether or not your webcam is on” you are building a foundation of trust AND respect. 

Additionally ensure that you have communicated training dates, times, and expectations clearly with enough notice to allow folks who need extra time to prepare to do so. Go the extra mile and provide an agenda ahead of time, this will allow those with children at home the ability to plan ahead, build in breaks for those who may have to take a break or medication, cognitive load theory states 7 minutes is the maximum length of attention by an adult learner. By providing time to prepare before the meeting, you are starting with respect, which is essential for building a community.   

Next, use breakout rooms to facilitate safe, small group learning, employing learner choice on group roles, webcam use, and giving a structured activity.  This will not only break up learning, and provide connection but the autonomy and community adults crave. We all should be checking for understanding throughout our courses but providing multiple modalities for response including; chat, observation, speech, etc. will provide a more inclusive and less stressful learning environment.  One of my favorite methods for this is Waterfall which asks a question to the class and asks everyone to input their answer in the chatbox but not send it until you say “okay” this reduces the stress of having to answer and with all of the answers flying at once its a lot more comfortable for learners. 

Ensure you have captioning active and are checking chat often for those participants who may not be comfortable speaking.  Additionally, ensure your mouth is visible for participants who may need to lip-read. Sending out the PowerPoint or links to activities ahead of time allowing learners to prepare is also a great idea. Providing wait time and utilizing an order for responses will be more inclusive for those with cognitive disabilities. 

Conclusion

Building a safe community for learning starts with very simple acts of respect, learner choice, and forethought.  As architects of learning, designing for who is coming to your building is just as important as the visual design or cost of your building. And as always, check your own biases, our learners are diverse and our methods must be anti-racist, trauma-informed, and inclusive in order to produce an even learning field for all of our learners.

Do you require webcams to be turned on? Were you surprised by the data in the article? Let me know below!

References

Mavilidi, M. F., & Zhong, L. (2019). Exploring the Development and Research Focus of Cognitive Load Theory, as Described by Its Founders: Interviewing John Sweller, Fred Paas, and Jeroen van Merriënboer. Educational Psychology Review, 31(2), 499–508. https://doi-org.libproxy.boisestate.edu/10.1007/s10648-019-09463-7

Merriam, S. B., & Bierema, L. L. (2013). Adult Learning: Linking Theory and Practice. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/boisestate/detail.action?docID=1376941

Meyer, Z. (2020, June 23). Do you show your face in Zoom meetings? Your gender may play a role. Fast Company. https://www.fastcompany.com/90514033/do-you-show-your-face-in-zoom-meetings-your-gender-may-play-a-role

Rothwell, W. J. (2020). Adult learning basics. (2nd ed.). ATD. ISBN: 978-1950496143

About Video Conferencing – OneHE. (n.d.). Retrieved May 1, 2022, from https://onehe.org/resources/about-video-conferencing/

Business, S. M. K., CNN. (n.d.). Stop making employees turn on webcams during meetings. CNN. Retrieved May 1, 2022, from https://www.cnn.com/2021/09/24/tech/webcams-workplace-meetings/index.html

Challenge Solutions. (2021, March 29). Zoom Etiquette for the blind and Visually Impaired. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1J9VdNW6X0

Characteristics of Adult Learners. (2019, September 28). The ELearning Coach. https://theelearningcoach.com/learning/characteristics-of-adult-learners/

Cheetham, J., & Thomson, S. (n.d.). Webinars: Webcams off or on? 2.

Chin, M. (2021, January 28). University will stop using controversial remote-testing software following student outcry. The Verge. https://www.theverge.com/2021/1/28/22254631/university-of-illinois-urbana-champaign-proctorio-online-test-proctoring-privacy

Gilmour, A. (2021). Let’s talk about webcams, and a pedagogy of kindness. Compass: Journal of Learning and Teaching, 14(2), Article 2. https://doi.org/10.21100/compass.v14i2.1177

Neurodivergence and online learning through the pandemic: What is neurodiversity? (Post 1 of 3). (2022, March 4). #ALTC Blog. https://altc.alt.ac.uk/blog/2022/03/neurodivergence-and-online-learning-through-the-pandemic-what-is-neurodiversity-post-1-of-3/

Student Video Equity Assessment – Ethical EdTech @DigCiz. (n.d.). Retrieved May 1, 2022, from https://ethicaledtech.digciz.org/index.php/student-video-equity-assessment/

Webcam Anxiety from a Neurodiversity perspective during Covid-19. (2020, April 7). Exceptional Individuals. https://exceptionalindividuals.com/about-us/blog/webcam-anxiety-from-a-neurodiversity-perspective-during-covid-19/

Why forcing people to turn on their Zoom cameras isn’t inclusive. (n.d.). Retrieved May 1, 2022, from https://uk.finance.yahoo.com/news/why-forcing-people-to-turn-on-their-zoom-cameras-isnt-inclusive-110251431.html

Coffee cup with a heart inside, title of blog is Emotional Intellegience & Performance Improvement

Emotional Intelligence & Performance Improvement

A co-worker shared her recently acquired knowledge of Fika, a Swedish tradition.  Fika means “to hava coffee” and is a coffee break, commonly occurring at 10 am and 3 pm. Instantly I asked why those seemingly random times, she responded that Sweden reviewed accidents in the workplace and found that they often happened at 10 am and 3 pm.  In order to combat these accidents, Sweden implemented Fika, to not only give workers a break but encourage emotional intelligence.  

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Goleman’s theory of Emotional Intelligence is based on the idea that EQ affects personal outcomes more than IQ (Merriam & Bierema, 2013)  Bierema describes it by saying, “The premise of emotional intelligence is that IQ comprises only a small portion of intelligence and that the ability to identify and manage one’s emotions, and anticipate those of others, is a key interpersonal competency” (2008).  On the recommendation of our book I actually went to Berkeley’s Emotional Intelligence Quiz and scored above average.  What was interesting was that the test was solely on human facial expressions, I got some wrong but I ended up with 14/20.

So what do Goleman, facial expressions, and performance improvement have in common?  A lot actually, imagine a software engineer who has amazing coding abilities but struggles to work with others.  The engineer can do the job, and has the skills but if they don’t feel comfortable starting conversations or connecting with others, what happens when they get stuck on a project? Will they be able to innovate alone? 

For those who work in emotion labor positions, it is even more crucial to teach and encourage emotional intelligence. This is everything from police who must stay calm in stressful situations, or to those who must appear “authentically” happy as a customer service workers. Essentially this pretending interferes with attention and adds to cognitive load which is a “key factor contributing to job exhaustion and job satisfaction.”    

Conclusion

So how do learning designers include emotional intelligence in their courses?  First, check your own biases, look inward, and assess your feelings before you begin a course. Next, include a lot of space for retrospectives and feedback for both learner and instructor. Third, create a safe learning space for discourse and encourage discussion around feelings and emotions (Bierma, 2008).  And last, we often look at learner motivations with a narrow lens, I encourage you to take into consideration all feelings that a learner could have, including; fear of failure, trauma surrounding being wrong, confusion or worry, imposter syndrome to just name a few. Use empathy with your learners, encourage empathy among your learners and create a safe space for all learners to not only acquire knowledge but keep it!


References

Bierema, L. L. (2008). Adult learning in the workplace: Emotion work or emotion learning? New Directions for Adult & Continuing Education, 2008(120), 55–64.

Emotional Intelligence Quiz. (n.d.). Greater Good. Retrieved March 30, 2022, from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/quizzes/ei_quiz​

Fika—A Very Swedish Tradition—How to Fika Like a Swede. (2016, June 16). Hej Sweden. https://hejsweden.com/en/have-coffee-breaks-called-fika-swedish/

Merriam, S. B., & Bierema, L. L. (2013). Adult Learning: Linking Theory and Practice. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/boisestate/detail.action?docID=1376941

Brain with arrows coming out of it with the words Experiential Learning Theory

Experiential Learning Theory

My blog has always been one of reflection. I often advocate for teachers and the hard work they put in. I try to highlight the similarities between teaching and instructional design, but this week I had a breakthrough. In classrooms, we are told what strategies and theories to use, these are often provided by the “latest” research, curriculum or a book your principal happened to read.  As teachers, we go all in, we read the books, research the theory, and put it into practice. Hattie’s work on visual learning was HUGE in my school district before I left, we were receiving training, books, and more but it was only ONE theory.    

     As I have been reflecting on what we have learned so far, I started to realize my own biases. Before today I would tell you that there are just some good teaching practices and some bad.  Being neurodivergent I often think in black and white, but learning is not black and white, corporate performance issues are not black and white!  So where am I going with this? Each learning theory I have discussed is built to tackle different learning topics or audiences, it’s not a one size fits all nor should it lend to a specific preference.  When designing learning experiences you must take a step back from your preferences and look at what the goal of the course is and find the appropriate learning theory to support this. 

It may not seem like a big deal to some, but this adds an additional step to my design process and something I have been missing for a while.  To transition, last week we discussed transformative learning theory which promotes transformative change, and community building and provides a fantastic framework for tackling hard to discuss topics.  This week we will be reviewing experiential learning, at its core is learner experience, whether that is leveraging past experiences or working through current experiences with practice and mentoring.  Experiential learning is great for job processes that may need modeling and cognitive guidance, I will expand on the strategies below. (Merriam & Bierema, 2013 pg 108)

Reflective Practice

Personally, I love the science behind learning. It’s fascinating to me how the brain works and the impact simple things like reflection can have.  Reflective practice is a strategy that can be used before, during, and after a learning experience.  This practice is something I would encourage no matter what learning theory you are using and it is crucial as IDs to include this in our professional practice. 

Recently I finished a large learning project, it spanned several months and it was a highly anticipated course.  It was also one of my first at my current employer, coming from teaching where you are often “thinking on your feet” I employ what our texts call ‘reflection-in-action’ a lot. Meaning I think about what I am doing, reflect on what I could do differently/better, and then institute those changes in live time. However, without communicating those to my team it may not seem like I learned anything from the deployment. In comes post-mortem reviews! 

The post-mortem review allows me an avenue to not only reflect and adjust but communicate to my team what was my success and areas of improvement.  Smartsheet listed some of the benefits of a post-mortem as; streamlining workflows, fostering team collaboration, improving efficiency, celebrating success, and learning from mistakes.  I have sent out surveys to all of the stakeholders and will be reviewing my process from their eyes. I am also preparing a document that will discuss my reflections and suggestions for future projects.  

Situated Cognition

Situated cognition is the idea that where we learn is significant, Merriam & Bierema mention research by Jean Lave who asked study participants to figure out what items in a store were “best buys” some participants were allowed into the store and able to see the aisles and communicate with the community within the store. (2013)  Others were asked to figure out based on paper and pencil via looking at sales, costs, etc. Lave found that those who were inside the store obtained the correct answer with 98% while paper and pencil participants scored 59% (p. 118).   This idea of situated cognition makes clear the impact of “context and social interaction” on learning versus thinking all learning happens within the brain. 

Cognitive apprenticeship is a great example of this, not only is the mentor demonstrating what they are doing but also walking their apprentice through what is happening cognitively.  This is used in tandem with faded support, meaning that as the apprentice gains ability and knowledge, the master teacher fades out their support. One very useful tool when designing this would be to look at the prompt hierarchy which was designed for students with autism but very helpful when thinking about the support we provide to learners.  Prompt hierarchy is a spectrum of prompts starting at restrictive or less independent up to more independent. It starts with full physical (guiding the person, potentially hand over hand) then partial physical, maybe the learner just needs their hand placed on the right lever, next is modeling, then verbal prompts such as “Don’t forget” or “Look at the symbol on the screen”, next is gestural which would be pointing to the correct lever and last would be visual, we see this every time we go to the bathroom at a restaurant and there is a visual prompt for workers to wash their hands.      

Community of Practice

Community of practice is a strategy that is used to bring together learners of varied experiences for the purpose of growing on a specific topic.  This is one I use on a daily basis, I am a part of Reddit and many discord channels which have brought together a lot of different people together for one common purpose, to learn more about video games, share and answer questions about video games, and other topics.  Not only do those new to the topic learn, but those who are teaching others are also growing in proficiency.

At my organization, we use Slack, which is a secure web-based messaging platform, it allows employees to create their own channels, join channels of interest and interact with their department.  Working at such a large organization there is a channel for literally any topic, profession, community, and more. These channels are hosted by departments to support others using tools or on specific topics like security.  It brings together employees from all different walks of life, and experiences and promotes learning.  It has been one of my favorite features and has been crucial in my growth within my current company. 

Conclusion

Whenever I was asked what was the most important trait for a teacher to possess, I almost always included reflection. It was a crucial part of my practice then and it is still just as important within the instructional design.  My hope is that sharing my own revelation on learning theories will proactively help a transitioning teacher, research learning theories, and gather more tools for that toolbox! 

Have you ever heard of a prompt hierarchy? Do you think it would be useful within the adult learning space? Let me know by leaving a comment below!


References

Guide to Post-Mortem in Business | Smartsheet. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2022, from https://www.smartsheet.com/content/business-post-mortem

Learning by teaching others is extremely effective – a new study tested a key reason why. (2018, May 4). Research Digest. https://digest.bps.org.uk/2018/05/04/learning-by-teaching-others-is-extremely-effective-a-new-study-tested-a-key-reason-why/

Merriam, S. B., & Bierema, L. L. (2013). Adult Learning: Linking Theory and Practice. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/boisestate/detail.action?docID=1376941Steps for Implementation: Least-to-Most Prompts. (n.d.). Autism Spectrum Disorders, 13. Retrieved March 18, 2022, from https://autismpdc.fpg.unc.edu/sites/autismpdc.fpg.unc.edu/files/Prompting_Steps-Least.pdf

Road Map for Growth

Creating Corporate Roadmaps for Change Using Transformative Learning Theory

This past year I went through a major transformation, I went from a High School Special Education teacher to a corporate Instructional Designer.  The journey I took is much like a road trip, I spent time planning, I stopped and admired the view and the experience changed me forever.  In transformative learning theory, we (instructional designers) create the road trip in order for learners to grow and change.  

Transformative learning uses community to build support around a learner, this connection and orientation of others into the learners’ world are essential. Transformative Learning creates a safe learning space for discourse and disagreement.  This discourse is one of the anchors of Transformative Learning, the ability to respectfully discuss hot button issues while also coming up with reasoning, using metacognition to think about their beliefs/learning, and reorientation based on the discourse.  While often used in corporate settings to transform learners on sensitive topics such as racism or sexism, research backs up the idea that transformative learning theory strategies are just good learning.  

Designing a Roadmap

When thinking of designing a curriculum for your workforce, I am brought back to the concept of a road trip.  While there are different ways to make it across America, each route depends on several things; road conditions, mode of transportation, season, and destination.   We evaluate where we are and keep our ultimate destination in mind, designing our road trip around the many variables that come with any project;  our intended audience, tools, objectives, and ultimate learning goal.  Below I have included a quick video on a mock proposal I created using transformative learning.

Now that we have an idea of where we are, where we want to go, and what mode of transportation (transformative learning) we have to determine the strategies that will benefit our learners most and are specific to the performance goal.  Start by researching, find a scholarly article that is peer-reviewed and measured, specify conditions such as farming or automation, corporate or education, and get reading!  Erika Boney wrote an excellent article that gives some great applications of transformational Learning in the corporate setting.  

The Strategies

Merriam & Bierema described the work of transformational learning as “…accessing the unconscious world and incorporating it into our conscious being, our ego.” (2013) Transformational learning is about the process the learner endures and how they change in the end. This “soul work” is tied to premise reflection which is a deep thought process, Mezirow describes it as “why we perceive, think, feel, or act as we do” (1991).  

With this in mind, some of my favorite strategies are personalized learning paths, scenario-based eLearning, and metacognition.  Personalized learning paths are beneficial on many levels.  For the learner, it gives them the autonomy to decide how, when and what they will learn.  Learning paths also cut down on work for administration as the learner is driving their knowledge, and becoming more independent.  Serving small pieces of learning within a larger pathway provides better learning retention and can make learning more understandable as well (Gautam, 2021).  

Scenario-based elearning has deep ties in academic literature as well, it is a great strategy to use and works well with transformational learning.  Scenario-based elearning is all about immersive decision-making with the goal of having the learner reflect on the processes, know where to find their resources, and learn by doing.  eLearningIndustry.com cites several perks to using scenario-based elearning including; increased learner engagement and knowledge retention, confidence building, and a safe place to fail and learn (Hout, 2020).  

Last but not least is metacognition, which I love implementing in corporate learning environments.  Metacognition is about the journey of problem-solving, it happens before instruction such as having a learner make a goal or decide on a pathway.  During instruction such as having learners reflect and rate their performance on a task.  And after instruction in a retrospective of what went well, what didn’t, and what to change for next time. Hattie once said;  “We need to develop an awareness of what we are doing, where we are going, and how are we going there; we need to know what to do when we do not know what to do. Such self-regulation or meta-cognitive skills are one of the ultimate goals of all learning” (Hattie, 2012).

The Conclusion

It may sound cliche, but whoever said: “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey” was right!  By building road trips for our learners, we are using evidence-based practices that yield high engagement and knowledge retention.  Research additional strategies that fit your company’s needs, there is so much literature written on transformative learning you shouldn’t have a problem finding something.  Good luck and happy road tripping!

Do you use transformational learning theory? Have you ever heard of the 16 Habits of Mind? Let me know in the comments below!


References

Boney, E. (2018, December 19). Fostering A Culture Of Transformative Learning 

Through Informal Learning Experiences [web log]. Retrieved March 5, 2022, from https://elearningindustry.com/transformative-learning-informal-learning-experiences-fostering-culture.

Day, A. (n.d.). Metacognition Importance and Overview. Missouri EduSAIL. Retrieved March 

14, 2022, from https://www.moedu-sail.org/lessons/metacognition-importance-overview/

Hout, N. (2020, February 26). The Benefits Of Scenario-Based Learning In Customer Service 

Training. ELearning Industry. https://elearningindustry.com/scenario-based-learning-benefits-customer-service-training

Lorenzetti, L., Halvorsen, J., Dhungel, R., Lorenzetti, D., Oshchepkova, T., Haile, L., & 

Biscette, K. (2019). Community-based mentors and journey guides: a transformative learning approach to social work education. Social Work Education, 38(7), 875–893. https://doi-org.libproxy.boisestate.edu/10.1080/02615479.2019.1593956

Maiese, M. (2017). Transformative Learning, Enactivism, and Affectivity. Studies in 

Philosophy & Education, 36(2), 197–216. https://doi-org.libproxy.boisestate.edu/10.1007/s11217-015-9506-z

Merriam, S. B., & Bierema, L. L. (2013). Adult learning: Linking theory and practice

John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.

Owen, R. (2021). Using Mindfulness to Promote Transformative Learning in Implicit Racial 

Bias Training. Adult Learning, 32(3), 125–131. https://doi-org.libproxy.boisestate.edu/10.1177/1045159520981165How Personalized Learning Paths Can Put Learners in the Driver’s Seat. (n.d.). Training Industry. Retrieved March 14, 2022, from https://trainingindustry.com/articles/content-development/how-personalized-learning-paths-can-put-learners-in-the-drivers-seat/

My Post Copy (4)

Growth is Uncomfortable – Tips for Teachers Transitioning to ID.

I am seeing lots of disappointed teachers returning to the classroom this fall, first I’m sorry for what you are returning to and I’m sorry we couldn’t do better.  Secondly, don’t give up. I know it sounds cheesy, but there really is a science to this career change and it takes A LOT of work.  I know you are staring at me, with the “I HAVE DONE THE WORK” and you probably did….this market is crazy.  But let me give you a couple of suggestions based on my own observations (absolutely biases and based on my own lens.)

Your LinkedIn Profile could be a problem.

I often come across teachers who are posting about the difficulty in finding work, and then when I look at their profile – they have “Educator” or “Teacher” as a title, their LinkedIn page is bare and/or very educator heavy.  Check out this post about the LinkedIn title formula. As much as it HURTS it’s time to change from who you are to what you WANT to be.  Even in the EdTech field, companies are corporate…while we have proven ourselves in the educational world, we haven’t done the same for corporate.  Yes, I know ALL the reasons why you would be a great fit BUT we have an uphill battle sadly, so put on your boots and let’s climb.

Start changing your language, student to learner, etc.  Simple changes to your vocabulary will be essential not only in speaking with people within the field, your LinkedIn page, your resume but also in interviews. Read Tim Slade’s book, it leads you through the WHOLE process of building eLearning. You WILL use this in your everyday job, I promise. And if you have the money, join his academy – he even has Articulate courses with it.

Brand Yourself & Your Portfolio?

SO MANY times I check out educator’s portfolios and they have no domain. I know this seems simple but this honestly is a telling sign, one of the biggest things moving into corporate was the fear that I was a teacher and didn’t REALLY want to make the move (or I wouldn’t stay.) You have to build a brand that distinguishes you from teaching, this includes a professional portfolio.  Many academies build their portfolios differently but I do believe that having a fleshed-out, professional WordPress website that I built (with the help of some tools…) got me a job.  I also believe my ID-focused blog has brought a lot of positive attention – which has helped with my job search.

The final iteration of my website has no educational pieces, and I removed A LOT of fluff. I also didn’t apply until I had two really fleshed-out eLearning pieces on my portfolio.  These pieces had a quick intro video showing some of the animations, a write-up on them, and screenshots. I got help and feedback from several communities as well as Tim Slade and Tyler Banh. I asked everyone I could to take a look, I absorbed their feedback and made changes. The response I got BEFORE and AFTER this was testament.  Building my portfolio showed my diversity, I can do screencasts, edit a lengthy video, create eLearning, build a website, and everything is branded, and as Tyler Banh likes to say “consistent.”

Track Your Applications

I hear a lot about “I have APPLIED TO SO MANY” but not really a definitive number, this LinkedIn post was telling, she applied to 188 positions! But as many people say, it only takes ONE yes. After I found this post I started my own spreadsheet and kept track of my applications. While I felt I had applied to so many, it wasn’t REALLY that much. And to put it into perspective many people (besides cybersecurity analysts and programmers) are applying for HUNDREDS of positions.

Be Realistic

I see a lot of teachers attempting to apply for big positions right away, Senior positions or positions at Wayfair, Amazon, etc. Start small. I looked at “uncool” industries like cybersecurity or cloud service providers (these two industries will only grow.) Credit Unions seem to be partial to teachers, I think it’s both the philosophy AND that we can pass background checks like nobody’s business. EdTech positions are getting applications in the HUNDREDS – think about your background, where you want to go, and apply strategically. Remote positions without a previous ID position under your belt or a REALLY solid brand/portfolio will be difficult. Look local, that’s how I got in…I live in a rural area and with my educational background, I was ahead of the hiring pool.  From what I have heard in the industry, you should start with a local position, then move to remote, and then you’re golden. And don’t be afraid of contract work…if it’s a W2 position (1099 is a hot mess tax situation.) Some have benefits or even 401ks and it can often get your foot in the door at some legendary companies (Apple, Google, etc.)

Change Your Resume…Again…

Please, meet with someone from teachlearndev.org, its free and they will walk you through adapting your resume from teacher language to corporate language. I have changed my resume several times and after meeting with Tyler I finally feel my resume is where it should be.  The ATS checker is real, sadly no one reads resumes…a computer does. And if that machine doesn’t ding green, you aren’t going to have a human look at it.  If you are getting constant denials or just plain ghosted….I would bet it was that.

Be Careful who you Trust

I really wish I didn’t have to type this one out. There are a lot of helpful people on the internet (I guess myself included) however some may not have the experience or background you think.  If someone who has NEVER worked a corporate job is telling you what you need to do to build your portfolio…I would analyze that.  If someone has been out of the market for several years and is calling teachers entitled, I would analyze that.  Also, Academies are not a cure-all, they will NOT get you a job in ID (they may help depending on the author though). And salaries are all over the place, no academy can guarantee any salary. Please investigate the resources that Cara North has posted before you put your money down. 

Also, not every company is legit. Vet their website, do they have a lock displayed in the address bar (this indicates that it’s secure), is the website fleshed out? Can you search them on Glassdoor, LinkedIn, or Indeed? Do your research and follow your gut, lots of people out here trying to steal everybody’s SSN.

Network

I cannot talk about this enough, it’s very foreign for teachers to do this…we often go to the district website to apply and BOOM we have an interview. As a Special Education teacher, I got every position I ever applied for…so it was HARD when I started to get 100’s of rejections (and believe me I wavered a lot about this transition.) But the biggest thing was following companies I wanted to work for, following the companies that are in the same industry as what I wanted to work in, and then interacting with posts by the company or that the company liked. At first, I built a strong connection with teachers who had or were transitioning but then I started to branch out to other seasoned Instructional Designers, and you know what? They taught me some amazing ID concepts – but I also brought my own STRONG educational background – especially inaccessibility. I love nerding out on learning and other IDs do too! So don’t be afraid to make those connections and you will find that many like job postings or post jobs…BOOM instant-in!


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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

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!). 

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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!

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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!