Demystifying Instructional Design

S2E11: Rachael Assignon - Adding value to asynchronous solutions

May 30, 2022 Rebecca J. Hogue Season 2 Episode 11
Demystifying Instructional Design
S2E11: Rachael Assignon - Adding value to asynchronous solutions
Show Notes Transcript

Rachael Assignon started her career as a foreign language teacher. She transitioned to corporate learning and development and has experience in automotive, health care, finance, and military. As an instructional designer and facilitator, she finds there is a lot of crossover between teaching and corporate learning. The outcome for both is the same: creating an environment where learners of all ages thrive.

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REBECCA:

Welcome to Demystifying Instructional Design, a podcast where I interview various instructional designers to figure out what instructional designers do. I'm Rebecca Hogue, your podcast host. If you're interested in a different kind of professional development

REBECCA: this season, check out https:

//myfest.equityunbound.org

REBECCA:

That's myfest.equityunbound.org If you enjoy this podcast, please consider subscribing or leaving a comment on the show notes blog post and consider helping to support the podcast with a donation to my Patreon account. Welcome, Rachael, to Demystifying Instructional Design, a podcast where I interview instructional designers about what instructional designers do. Can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?

RACHAEL:

Certainly. Thanks for having me, Rebecca. My name is Rachel Assignon, and I started my career as a teacher and then I had a lot of tripping and falling before I actually got into the corporate learning space. And I found that there are so many similarities and I just absolutely love what I do now.

REBECCA:

Can you tell us how you got into instructional design? How did you make that transition.

RACHAEL:

The housing crisis in 2008, a lot of teachers like myself were getting cut from the budget, and what I discovered at that time is that I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do with my life because I had just pictured myself being a teacher for my entire career. So I was a French teacher and there was a call center locally where I was living and they were looking for French and English bilingual agents. So I got a job there and I quickly found out that the structure of that company had an entire training department that involved quality assurance and also trainers and then also instructional designers. And as a teacher, I had purchased curriculum for my classroom and I had visited with different representatives, sales representatives for different curriculum companies. It never dawned on me that someone actually wrote this curriculum, and that was a career path. That's how I discovered instructional design is after I had left teaching altogether and found that this was something that was very common in the corporate space. So I made that transition and I absolutely loved it.

REBECCA:

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to make that transition today?

RACHAEL:

If you are currently a teacher or you've already left the education sector and you want to break into corporate learning, whether it's as a trainer or as an instructional designer, my biggest piece of advice is learn the lingo. That is something that took me a long time to do. I was always thinking about lessons and units and things like that, and we don't talk about lessons. A lot of times in instructional designs, we might talk about modules, we might talk about sections or themes or things like that. So learning the language of corporate learning is huge.

REBECCA:

How do you describe what you do if someone says, Hey, you're an instructional designer, what does that mean?

RACHAEL:

How I don't describe myself is as an instructional designer because people usually get hung up on the word designer and they think, I'm a graphic designer or I'm an interior designer, or sometimes something in like the UX designer, IT sort of space. So I usually just say that I am in corporate training and that I spend my time either building or revising the existing curriculum or even facilitating courses and conducting the training.

REBECCA:

And that flows into the next question, which is what are your typical tasks?

RACHAEL:

My typical tasks usually involve balancing several projects. Some of the projects are curriculum complete, and I have to go in and do some revisions or some updates. It might be part of our annual audit. That's time to look at the material again and make sure that it is still current. Or it might be some policy change or some legislation that is different that we have to make sure that everything falls in line with that. But also looking at storyboarding and or using the storyboard to build another e-learning module, it might be working with trainers to make sure that the handoff between what my intention of the training material is, matches what they're going to do in the classroom. If there is classroom involvement. And sometimes it's project management updating different software to make sure that we're all on track for the progress of a specific project. It varies. I'm always toggling between tasks.

REBECCA:

Who else do you work with? What other professionals are on your team in creating e-learning?

RACHAEL:

I have fellow instructional designers and we pitch in to help one another where there might be one project that is too laborious compared to another, so we'll work with one another. If there is instructor-led training involved, I'm going to be working with trainers. I might also be working with subject matter experts. I don't claim to be an expert really in anything except for learning. So whatever we're trying to put together for any of these training materials, I'm usually working with a subject matter expert and trying to extrapolate their expertize into bite size learning bites.

REBECCA:

When you're doing your e-learning, are you programing that all yourself or are you do you have graphic designers or any of that?

RACHAEL:

I typically do it myself. I do have some graphic designers and some really creative design type people in my network. So sometimes I'll reach out to them and just ask them if this spatially makes sense. Are the colors on brand, things like that. Sometimes I'm looking for a way to put a combination of text and graphics on one particular slide that doesn't necessarily look like it would go well together. So those graphic designers can help me make sure that there's a logical flow. It's not crowded and it is esthetically pleasing at the same time.

REBECCA:

What tools do you use for your e-learning?

RACHAEL:

I use Articulate the Storyline 360. Part of that suite is also Rise 360, which is rapid authoring. So it's got some beautiful templates that I can just drop some content in it and produce something relatively quickly. I also use Review 360 and they usually set that up for those who don't have an Articulate license so that they can go through it, preview it, revise it, they can make comments, and then we have the feedback loop is closed between me as the designer and them as the SME or them as the end user.

REBECCA:

What kind of projects do you find fun?

RACHAEL:

I love learning in general, so I love the front end analysis that takes place where we're really looking at the needs of the learners and also matching that with what is the business problem that we're trying to solve and coming up with some really innovative learning solutions that is going to fit the company culture and also what the workforce needs.

REBECCA:

One of the bits of advice we give our students when they're first starting out is to, throughout the program, figure out what your niche is, what's the thing that's going to make you different than everyone else. And so what would you describe your niche to be?

RACHAEL:

I would say for me, I really like asynchronous learning solutions. I really try and leverage learning in a place where we can do it any time anywhere and not necessarily at the same time. So it's not necessarily a class that we all have to attend at the same time, place and space. But it might be something like watch a video or here's some sort of a tool to use, and then we have some sort of a chat room or some cloud based space where we can have a conversation and everybody just chimes in, its a group tasks, but not as annoying. And everyone gets a say and they can all chime in at different times and being able to monitor what is happening in there and even asking additional questions. So everyone is really participating as a social learning platform is something that I really try and incorporate and that isn't super common throughout the instructional designer network that I have.

REBECCA:

Yeah. So my question for you on that one is what's your sort of critical mass? How many students are you looking at in order to do that any time and still be able to maintain that social presence?

RACHAEL:

It could be anywhere from five all the way up to 100. So depending on what the nature of the content is right now, I'm in the space of doing a lot of leader development. And in the leadership development space, a lot of these leaders are pulled in every single direction, so they don't necessarily have time to be in a class every day, all day for a week or two weeks or a month or whatever it is. So that's what I'm thinking about with asynchronous learning is there have been a lot of studies done by Deloitte, by LinkedIn Learning, by Josh Berson and others in the last few years, saying that a lot of learners prefer in the modern workforce to do tasks in between their work. So this is a great base for not just spaced learning but also social learning as I can do this little task and then I can jump in and watch that two, three minute video and make a couple comments or ask a question and move on to the next thing and then get notifications that other people are chiming in on that same topic.

REBECCA:

That sounds fascinating. What do you use for a learning management system for that?

RACHAEL:

It doesn't really take a learning management system necessarily for the social learning aspect. It really depends on what does the company culture already has in place. So if they're using some sort of internal messenger system like Microsoft Teams or Slack or something like that, we can set up a channel that's specific to this group of learners and post our links in their post files in there and everyone can talk at the same time. And then we would also be in that space so we could see what's happening in the chat. And then as instructional designers, we glean a lot from what really took off with this group and what was a discussion that we had that didn't really seem to be as meaningful as others. There are some learning record stores, LRS's that are really good for stuff like this where you can get all of the data of how often are people logging in and what kind of content are they touching and how much time are they spending with that content? Could be an e-learning module or could be an article. Could be a playlist of podcasts or other audio files that we want them to listen to. A lot of it depends on the appetite of the clients. What do they already have in place and are they willing to put another solution implemented? Or like, what's their budget for that kind of a project? That's really what I like to do, but it's not necessarily feasible for all. This goes into one of your questions later, so I'll elaborate.

REBECCA:

What are the biggest challenges you face as an instructional designer?

RACHAEL:

Really biggest challenges I face is traditionalism. I have a lot of clients and even if I work for a specific company that I'm just handling their internal type learning and it's not an external client, but it's an internal client. I have a lot of requests for instructor led training and as I mentioned, sometimes with leaders or other people, they just don't have the time to dedicate because they're hired to do a job. They're not hired to be learners. Having the ability to add value to asynchronous type solutions and alternate means that are really going to help the modern workforce get their learning in at the same time as their daily job tasks is a big challenge. So some of those traditionalists only see that classrooms are the place where learning takes place, and all other mediums are nice to haves or extras, but they're not the primary learning tools. That's honestly one of my biggest challenges that I have all of these hopes and dreams for, all of these amazing solutions and a wide variety. And a lot of times it comes down to, Nope, we just want instructor led training.

REBECCA:

Totally appreciate that one. What skills do you find most useful in your work?

RACHAEL:

Aside from learning science and knowing a lot about Bloom's taxonomy or different instructional design methodologies like ADDIE or SAM, I really find that project management is a big one. Project management is huge. Change management is huge. You can't necessarily spring something on the learners when they have no warning that it's coming. So being able to balance a good project and having those elements of change management is really big.

REBECCA:

What do you wish you'd learned sooner?

RACHAEL:

I wish I knew that this profession existed sooner. I wanted to be a teacher since I was a little kid. And I love that part. I love learning. And I didn't know that there were other professions that had such a heavy emphasis on learning. Some people in the industry are calling it instructional design. It used to be called instructional systems design. A lot of it now is going towards learning experience design. Either way, I wish this profession was exposed. Earlier in my career, I may have taken a different path. I'm happy with the path that I've taken because it gave me a lot of background as a teacher going through teacher training in my undergrad, we covered all the basics of assessment and evaluation and so many things that are really relevant too. Or being learner centric. And that made for a delightful transition into instructional design. Once I found out that even existed.

REBECCA:

I always knew I wasn't a teacher of children, but I was a teacher of professionals. And so I found I was doing customer demonstrations and I'd teaching customers how to use our products and all of this kind of stuff, but not actually realizing that, yeah, that's actually a career path. It's something that you can do. What advice would you give to new instructional designers?

RACHAEL:

I would say cast a wide net. And the reason I say that is because I see a lot of new instructional designers get really bogged down with whatever projects they're on. They feel like they have to be experts in the content. And your job is to be an expert in learning and what works for the learner. Let the subject matter experts be the experts on that content. Take what you need from them to be able to administer the correct medicine and the correct dosage for the learning. But don't think that you have to learn it all. So don't be afraid to dabble in different topics, whether it's industrial, it's medicine, it's construction, it's stuff for call centers or whatever profession is out there. Whatever types of industry is. Cast a wide net get exposed to as much of it as you possibly can.

REBECCA:

Is there anything else you want to share our add, with the audience before we move on to the final question.

RACHAEL:

Well, if you are a teacher and you're trying to transition into the corporate learning space, I see a lot of people mistakenly think that they have to go back to school and get more degrees, and that's not necessarily where you need to be. I left education with a master's in education and curriculum and instruction, and after I had done a lot with different groups on LinkedIn and just reading so much out there, that is specifically about instructional design and corporate learning in general. I found that a lot of it was transferable from my teacher training, from both my graduate and my undergraduate. So don't go back to school unless you have the means to do it, you have the time to do it and you really want to do it. I think you can make the pivot without doing all of that. If you want to pick up a certificate or a certification, you're welcome to do that. But I wouldn't run out and get another degree.

REBECCA:

One of the things that I see with a lot of the teachers who are transitioning into instructional design, one of their challenges is self-confidence. When did you decide to change the terminology in your brain from teacher to instructional designer and feel comfortable saying, Hey, I'm an instructional designer?

RACHAEL:

I had applied for a lot of jobs as a trainer in different corporations and companies, and being able to get the interview is amazing. Some companies are actually willing to take a chance on a teacher. But what I found over and over was I was getting rejected either in an interview or even just by the recruiter, because there's this perception that if you're a teacher, you sit on a little carpet and you color all day and you don't really do anything substantial. Despite us having a Bachelors of Science and Education and having to study all of the brain science and the psychology that goes along with education, it was a lot of rejection at first, and some of the perceptions of adults are very different from children. How they learn and things like pedagogy is very different than andragody that whole debacle. I found out that I needed to learn a lot more about what they were talking about. Where were they coming from? Because I was coming from a different place. Once I had learned a lot about Malcolm Knowles and Adult Learning Theory and some other experts out there, I could start to talk their talk and start to convert some of my teacher education language over to corporate learning language, and it took me a few years to get there. So from the time I learned about instructional design as a career path, it took me another few years to actually make the full pivot to get there. Learning the language was really a big part of it, and then learning all about the different types of concepts, theories, methodology out there that helped me confidently move forward and talk the talk that they expected me to have. And then I could call myself an instructional designer.

REBECCA:

One final question I like to ask everybody is, what's your prediction for the future of instructional design?

RACHAEL:

I think what's going to be happening in the future is more instructional designers are going to get certified in other disciplines. There really isn't certification that people recognize for instructional designers or even trainers, anybody in corporate learning. If we said something like It's a CPA or it's an MBA or it's a PMP, people recognize those acronyms and those monikers. One of the things I did for myself was I had an opportunity to get certified in Lean Six Sigma continuous process improvement methodology. And having that on my resume, really spoke to recruiters and other people just in the corporate space, whether they had anything to do with instructional design or not, because it was a little bit more recognizable. That's where we're headed, is we're not really given a great opportunity to become recognized with our own types of certificates and certifications. But I think if we cast a wide net again and go from knowing our craft, but then knowing a little bit about the corporate space as well, whether it's a change management certificate or it's a project management professional or it's a Lean Six Sigma or an any of those things out there, I feel like that's where we're headed for instructional designers.

REBECCA:

And I think that speaks also to the corporate sector and that transition in language as well. If these are things that are somewhat different than what you would do in K-12.

RACHAEL:

Absolutely.

REBECCA:

Thank you very much, Rachael, for this interview. This has been fantastic learning more about what your journey has been and also about your world as a corporate instructional designer.

RACHAEL:

Thank you so much. This has been a privilege to talk with you and hopefully your students benefit as well.

REBECCA:

You've been listening to Demystifying Instructional Design, a podcast where I interview instructional designers about what they do. I'm Rebecca Hogue, your podcast host. Show notes are posted as a blog post on Demystifying Instructional Design dot com. If you enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe or leave a comment in the show notes blog post.