Blog #200: My New Instructional Design Job at UCLA

Sandra Rogers stands in front of the UCLA Bruin bear statue

UCLA is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year!

How I Got to Here

After completing my doctoral program in 2017, I looked for employment that would utilize and reward my Ph.D. and research efforts. I was working for a small college near my alma mater for which I am grateful to have had my start as an instructional designer (ID). My reference to how I got here refers to leaving a small college to work for the number one public university in the US. One of my new acquaintances said my work experience sounded like I was a ’20-year overnight success’! Jokes aside, all my past work experience (20 years as an educator + 7 as an ID) has lead me to this new role. View my LinkedIn Profile to learn more.

I’d like to give a shout out to the Educause Listserv for instructional designers for alerting me to this position. When I read the posting from the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA), I knew I had a good chance because I met all the criteria including the preferred ones. This was due to my broad work experience including fellowships and partly from my serving as the only ID for a small college and wearing multiple hats (e.g., designer, trainer, learning management system administrator). By 2019, I had fined tuned my resume, portfolio, and interview skills after submitting 25+ applications and landing relevant interviews with the Carnegie Foundation, Harvard, and Global LT.

My New Role

I’m part of a team of 5 IDs working on the UCLA Chancellor’s initiative for online teaching and learning. We’re a diverse team in our skill set and experience with shared education and interests. I’ve been on the job for six months now and have learned so much from my team and colleagues across campus. There are other IDs on our campus working to support specific departments or academic units, while we assist any instructor who’s interested in designing a hybrid or fully online course in our new Instructional Design Studio.

I’m currently co-designing two new courses with different instructors that will be offered in Spring quarter. UCLA uses Moodle as their LMS. I blogged about one of the courses I’m co-designing for the new minor in urban literature for the English Department. It’s a hybrid Irish literature course. The other course is for the Classics Department and will cover medical terminology through the sociocultural and historical context of Greek and Latin. For that course, I’m  co-developing H5P interactive learning objects to review course concepts and terminology. See my blog post on H5P: Free Software.

My other role as instructional designer is to support existing online courses and provide technical training. I’ve been able to shadow and learn from one of my new colleagues that has been at UCLA for many years. I’m helping her support existing courses (e.g., refreshing dates, checking links, configuring TA discussion sessions), as well as transitioning to new technologies. For example, UCLA instructors will use Respondus LockDown Browser and Monitor for unproctored online tests. I used this at my prior workplace, so I’ve taken the initiative to learn all I can to train my team, instructors, and TAs, as well as develop supporting documents (e.g, FAQs, practice tests, student guides).

Challenges

Any new job comes with a learning curve. For technologists, it’s even steeper! I wasn’t familiar with designing courses on Moodle nor Canvas, which are both used for distance education in the UC system. My first month on the job I had to learn both of these in addition to workplace culture, university policy, UCLA campus, and all the acronyms used to describe the various learning communities of practice. Plus, I decided to get a new type of computer, a MS Surface Pro (tablet with stylus and detachable keyboard and special dongle for connections). My transition would have been a lot easier if I had gone with something familiar.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to learn my way around Los Angeles because I lived here 20 years ago. It was a challenge moving across the country and leaving my house behind to be setup as rental property for the first time. I’m feeling settled in now. I’ve even reconnected with old friends here. I also have family in California. Other LA challenges have been the earthquakes this summer and the nearby fires this fall. I’ve got my emergency kit in the car and backpack in the house.

Next Steps

It looks like our new office space will be ready upon our return on Jan 2nd. I look forward to working with my teammates and instructors in our new space. We’re housed in the Young Research Library on campus that has great multimedia interactive pod spaces and the 451 Cafe area where we can meet with instructors besides are office space. I have 4 other new courses in the initial planning phase that I’ll report on as they develop. They are all equally exciting to me. I feel extremely blessed to have this opportunity.


I can’t believe this is my 200th blog! As mentioned on #199, I’ve gone back and revised blogs as I’ve grown academically. If you’ve been with me for the past decade, thank you! If you’re a new reader, welcome. What comes next may be a podcast or vlog. I’d love to hear your feedback.

Cheers!

Sandra Annette Rogers, Ph.D.

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