This year, I’m celebrating my 5th anniversary as an instructional designer (ID). Prior to this career path, I was an educator for 18 years, so the transition was not difficult. As I reflect on the success I’m enjoying at Spring Hill College (SHC) now, I want to acknowledge the invaluable practical experience gained as an instructional designer during my doctoral program at the University of South Alabama (USA). I had a graduate assistantship with the Innovation in Learning Center (ILC) at the USA for 2 years.
Besides benefitting from tuition remission and a stipend, the apprenticeship provided me with the opportunity to work beside skilled IDs, collaborate with a dozen of my classmates, and interact with faculty and students to address their needs. The assistantship purposefully had us cycle through various project teams, train-the-trainer sessions, and production tasks. Specifically, I was able to add these experiences to my resume:
- Assisted the director of online learning with designing, developing, and delivering professional development and teaching tips for faculty to support student online learning via Sakai learning management system (LMS);
- Moderated and maintained the online competency-based certificate course for faculty (Sakai 101: The Basics Online) and the orientation course for students (USAonline Student Course);
- Supported the LMS administrator by answering technical calls from faculty and students; and
- Served on the accessibility, resources, and USAonline teams to produce corresponding questionnaires, job aids, video tutorials, and reports (to include photography).
This apprenticeship grounded my doctoral studies, as I was able to think of developing trainer scripts based on Gagne’s 9 events of learning. See my previous post on a Pixlr workshop training plan. Additionally, the formal and informal interactions with my peers provided opportunities to learn from each other, as the ID program is an interdisciplinary one. For example, my peers had advanced degrees in engineering, English, math, sociology, and IT. Many of my peers and co-workers from the ILC continue to shape my understanding of ID today through networking, professional development, and subject matter expertise on research interests.
If I didn’t have this well-rounded training and hands-on experience along with my doctoral coursework, I probably wouldn’t have had such as good start at my current workplace. For example, I was the first ID hired with a degree in the field at SHC. The previous person serving in the capacity of ID was actually the learning management system administrator and instructional technologist. All of the framework for collaborating with instructors as the ID (e.g., Online Course Design Guide, benchmarks, needs assessments, knowledge management, training), needed to be created from scratch. These documents initially relied on my ILC work experience but have since shifted to include the mission and identify of SHC. Nevertheless, I’m forever indebted to the ILC and my cohort of peers during my graduate assistantship!