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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!   

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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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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.

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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!