Demystifying Instructional Design

S3E2: Darlesa Cahoon and Janet Lee - Trashflix and Teacher Things

December 04, 2022 Rebecca J. Hogue / Darlesa Cahoon & Janet Lee Season 3 Episode 2
Demystifying Instructional Design
S3E2: Darlesa Cahoon and Janet Lee - Trashflix and Teacher Things
Show Notes Transcript

Janet Lee (Janet’s LinkedIn Profile) is an Instructional Designer specializing in practical professional development strategies and content development for professors wishing to transition meaning-full training from face-to-face to online learning. She has a varied background in international K-12/higher education including curriculum development publications, international speaking, media literacy, and micro-learning video production. Currently, she is a Lead Learning Architect and inspirational speaker working on various projects in higher education. She likes being known for inspiring teams with a fun practical approach @fenixliteracy

Darlesa Cahoon (Darlesa’s LinkedIn Profile) has been an instructional designer and learning technologist for over 15 years with 10 of those working for the Port of Seattle at Seattle Tacoma International Airport. She holds an MA in Instructional Technology from University of Colorado at Denver. She gets excited about imagining and developing online, hybrid, and instructor-led learning experiences which grab attention, encourage reflection, get learners laughing, sharing, and playing and motivating them to improve their lives … and at times simply making compliance training as painless as possible!

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Rebecca Hogue:

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 enjoyed 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. In this episode, I continue my interview with Janet Lee and Darlesa Cahoon. I was going to shift us a little bit to thinking about design because you've gotten into some of the creativity and I think you're both very creative people, which is fun. What does the design process look like for you?

Janet Lee:

Go ahead, Darlesa. I want to hear.

Darlesa Cahoon:

It certainly varies. It does certainly always depends on if we have an idea of it's usually five ideas of what we might decide that we need to create for a certain work group, whether it's a it could be a job aid even, or an informational video, or is it a full blown class or whatever it is. And so also and maybe really what that means is how big is the team that's going to be working on this? ADDIE is always... it's great. It's the basics. And I really think...I got really excited about I think when I was first learning about instructional design, about SAM Success of Approximation Method, and it was a time I think I became I started learning about instructional design at the time that there was a big hot topic in every conference I went to that there were like ADDIE followers and then there were SAM followers, and then Michael Allen. He wrote the book called Leaving ADDIE for SAM, and it was a hot topic in instructional design circles. But I really think that all SAM really is using ADDIE in a little bit different way, just not in a waterfall process. But I always like that success of approximation idea of getting the team together, whoever they are, to begin with. And maybe it's just me. I'm the team. I get myself together and then having that sort of kickoff where you want to talk about all these things and then cover any problems that you have and then figure out how to go forward. And also that is getting everybody on board in the same and getting everybody going in the same direction. Pointing in the same direction is a big deal.

Janet Lee:

When I think about that design element and I like Sam as well, but if we focus on design in higher ed as an instructional designer in a college, many times it is just you. You do that. All the planning, you gather, all the things you do, all your accessibility checks, you organize, you build the templates, you decide how you're going to work with the SME, you decide their timeline. Sometimes you can't, but usually the timeline is really extended, which actually it frustrated me to no end in my role at the college just because it was like this never ending. We're never going to finish this course. Maybe it will be like next year was a hard thing for me, but basically I had to convince them that it worked and then help people to be concise with their directions and clear. It was all on me. So designing everything was it was a huge task and it felt very overwhelming. So in order to get through that and all colleges are different, some people have huge teams that they work with and some people do one piece and then the other group picks it up. But I was at a college where it was just very barebones and I had to learn right there on my feet and be creative and try and make things work. And get it done as well. So that's what design looks like. But when I was like typing this up and it's funny, I won't lie to you, I had to look

Speaker 0:

up ADDIE and find out again what all the pieces

Janet Lee:

mean, because I'm just doing it all the time and I never think about the pieces of ADDIE, but I took I wrote Alignment is invisible and I put it in gray because it is. People do not want to design. I have had two hour long conversations about how it needs to align to the objectives, and the objectives need to be measurable. And what does that mean? And just getting that down is a big deal. And if you're a new designer, you have to have some serious guts to have these conversations with people because you're talking to like physicists and people who are super duper, amazingly way smarter than me. And you have to say to them, Look, I'm not the subject matter expert. That's you. You have that. You're here for that reason. Bring what you know, bring your passion. And my job is to translate that so that your passion can be just as effective online as it is when I'm sitting here face to face with you. And just to be strong in that is it can be a challenge for somebody who's brand new to this, especially if you don't have the teaching experience. It's hard. It can be hard.

Darlesa Cahoon:

Yeah, for sure. Yeah. And I think also, especially when it comes to virtual, any kind of virtual or self-paced or whatever you're trying to design, it can be so hard to just describe when you have an idea of how you might, oh, we might be able to deliver this like this, and you realize this is going to be great for this learner population, but it's so hard to describe that to somebody. And I just had one fairly recently where and this goes back to Rebecca, what we talked about, I think the last time we talked is how the process is messy. Like we have these different processes that we know that we learn when we go to school or that we learn throughout our experience in our work. But the truth is that I think a lot of times we're taking a little bit of something from learning learner centric design or some other adult learning theory we're adding or throwing in a little ADDIE... We're using a little SAM. I think so often we're doing that and it makes sense that you don't sit there and go, oh, analyze, design, develop, implement, evaluate every time you're creating a program, we just don't do that. I had one recently that it was and I know this is going to sound really unfun, but I actually thought it was interesting and it didn't even smell down there. I couldn't believe it. But they took -- now you're wondering, aren't you? They needed help. People were using the trash compactors and recycling compactors, not using them well and throwing garbage outside of them. And they were trying to figure out how to motivate people. They were figuring that there's a lot of new employees and they're not being taught to begin with how to use these this machinery correctly. And then aside from that, they're overworked, understaffed. It's hard to do. We came up with eventually it took a lot of steps because we're like, Oh, maybe we put QR codes on the signage and then sent them to a little video and show them how this works and now it can go wrong. Oh, turns out that these people that work in dining establishments at the airport, they can't have their phone with them at work. Okay, we can't do that. So then what we did come up with that I thought was a really pretty neat solution. They said that they could and would pay for a big monitor to be right above the equipment that could have like videos running on it. And then what I came up with that I thought might be fun. And, you know, there are so many things that you have to think about. So with the airport employee population, there is a huge population of people that don't have English as a first language. That might have really minimal. So everything that we do for that population, it may be a bunch of English text that is just nobody's going to pay attention to it. It has to be very visual and very graphically oriented. So I came up with kind of this idea of doing a framework that looked kind of like Netflix. And I called it trashflix, and it's silly and stupid, but I think silly and stupid sometimes makes people pay attention. You know, we used the color scheme and I did it where like the one of the main like the biggest problem that video would be playing all the time but as a touch screen and they could go through and click on the other types of things to have them. But it was really hard to describe that in a way that the guy could figure it out. So I marked something up really quick, sent it out to him and hopefully we are in the budget, in the budget process, trying to get the money to do that, to get that equipment, to make that happen now. But I feel like that was a long way to answer your question about design.

Janet Lee:

But I think that. What do you mean when you mock something out? So tell us what you meant by that. Did you draw a storyboard or did you describe how did you do that for him so he could see it?

Darlesa Cahoon:

Yeah. Okay. That was where I started. Thank you so much.

Janet Lee:

I just want to know.

Darlesa Cahoon:

Yeah, because sometimes a storyboard is good enough, but I find it maybe it's the people that I work with. Or maybe it's me. I don't know that I'm a terrible drawer, but I find, like, people don't even sometimes a storyboard and you take a bunch of papers and show them like how they can navigate through this thing or whatever, and they still don't really get it. So what I did was I threw something into Articulate and through some old videos that we had in the places where they needed. And I just built basically a slide and made it a little bit interactive as little as possible because I didn't want to spend much time doing it, obviously, but just made it look enough in something that it had a little bit of Jish to it so he could see that this is something that... and I said, Oh, and these buttons will work when we with real content when we get there. But something that just went and that is probably the trick at least I find is just going far enough that it fills those holes in their imagination that then they can imagine what you're talking about, because you certainly don't want to develop a whole elearning to just show somebody what you're talking about and find out that you went the wrong direction.

Rebecca Hogue:

It's an interesting point that you bring up, because I was I had actually written down the question I wanted to ask is, what do you do from the perspective of design documentation? You're creating stuff because I can tell you I know exactly what you're talking about. Even when I worked as a tech writer, you send something out with not quite right and you say, Don't worry about the grammar, just tell me if I'm technically right and they come back with a whole bunch of suggestions to fix your grammar and...

Darlesa Cahoon:

Oh my God, I can totally relate to something. It's so frustrating.

Rebecca Hogue:

And so what kinds of things do you do for design documentation?

Janet Lee:

No, it's good. So do you have a blueprint that you use or what do you use in your in your place, your contacts?

Darlesa Cahoon:

And if you could. I'm sorry, if you could describe. Do you mean documentation out to your subject matter experts? Your approvers? Is that. You mean along the way or in the end?

Rebecca Hogue:

Along the way. Along the way. For example, our students in the first class, they create an instructional design document that sort of steps through everything that in theory could be used To go to stakeholders. But of course, in reality you run into exactly the problem that you described, the lack of imagination. And the lack of ability to imagine the same thing.

Darlesa Cahoon:

Yeah, I think it's just going to highly depend on who you're working with, right? I think that kind of documentation I love to build something that's I will always have something that say, Oh my gosh, my words are not coming to me today. What do we call it in our industry? The mock-up, It's the common term, the storyboard. That was actually the first the most basic type of mockup is the storyboard. So I always love to build some kind of storyboard. And even if it's with instructional -- phased instructional design to build some kind of a storyboard. But it really does depend. I think that you have to sense if you build a storyboard and build out your objectives and put together this documentation and send it out to people, you sense that they're still not getting what you're putting down then. And that's really where that success of Approximation Method comes in. With those prototypes, I think you can figure out it is that understanding what communication you're having, if people are getting what you're talking about, and if they're also agreeing with what you're talking about. Right. That kind of drives you to know whether what you need to go further with. And do we actually need a prototype that is a working prototype rather than just a paper prototype to have them check off on before you go forward? So you know that you haven't just wasted two months of your life in the wrong direction.

Rebecca Hogue:

And so, Janet, what do you guys use as your

Janet Lee:

check points to make sure that everyone's on the same page? We do use smart sheets. Go through step by step. What do we need to do for each milestone as we go forward? But it's really important that we like. We'll write it out in a blueprint. We don't like. When you talk about a storyboard, I always get mixed up with it because to me, video production storyboard is different from an instructional design storyboard and we can get into that some other day. But really, we just we do the blueprint where it's we've got our objectives, we got information about the course materials assessments, and we try and we work for that alignment, but we use those quality matters standards or a quality review rubric to make sure that the people reviewing what we've done are actually looking for things other than grammar. They're zeroing in on the quality of the course, on what... on content and not the grammar and not things that are copy edit stuff. Basically, just to get people to hone in on what we want. And then we have people checking to make sure that whatever is being asked to be addressed is actually addressed in the end. Because sometimes when the reviewers come back with thoughts to us, we misunderstand what it is they think needs to be improved upon or what where the gaps exist, and we don't improve upon what they're saying to improve upon. So it's this back and forth all the time. So we're going from like implement, we're trying, we're developing, we're getting evaluations and we're just it's this constant process of evolving until we're ready to roll out the course. But that blueprint for us, it looks really a lot like just a 14,000 word document. In the end, you. know, of words, which it's hard to visualize what it could be. We've also been talking about streamlining the video production process and actually including video production elements in the blueprint. So it's not like a separate thing where we're creating video, but we're actually incorporating the script development and purpose within the blueprint. So that's a new idea that I haven't seen anywhere else is happening in my world right now.

Rebecca Hogue:

You mentioned the term smart sheets. Can you explain that?

Janet Lee:

Yes. So smart sheets, I'm going to do this very poorly, but it's like an Excel sheet where all items are dependent on the others. So once so there's columns and we have different milestones. So we have somebody who... we're brainstorming, we have a kickoff meeting, and then we're brainstorming with the SME, And then once you get past that first kickoff meeting, you go to the next column and you change it from 0% complete to 100% complete, and then it triggers the next line. So if there's let's say you just turned in your blueprint, it'll trigger the next line when you're done with it. And that person who's in charge of review will see that they've been triggered and then they can go ahead and do their work. That way. You're out of the document while they're in the document reviewing, and it goes forward like that. And if somebody misses a deadline, that column will turn red and then you'll know this course is behind schedule and we're not going to meet our delivery date. So we have to do something. So it really does alert you and it's nice little thing. It takes a lot of honing in. And sometimes by the end of a course development, it's Ugh! We wish we could do that again because we could have used all these different line elements to catch some mistakes that we found. But as time goes on it just gets better and better and that's that evaluation process. So not only are we evaluating what the course looks like, but also evaluating what we're evaluating. So does that make sense! (laughs)

Darlesa Cahoon:

You know what I love more than anything? I don't know if you would be curious to me to find out if you do this in your setting, too. But I love it when I can grab some learners, and especially when it's some sort of like an experience, like a self-paced elearning or something or whatever kind of thing, or even a job aid or a video. I love to grab some learners from the population that's that we're actually wanting to consume it and have them take a look at it and have them write down their opinion and hopefully they won't just say, I wish that slide was blue or they didn't like the word on that slide, but so you still have to direct them. But that's one of my favorite things because they uncover things that you might not have even thought about and the subject matter expert wouldn't have thought about too.

Janet Lee:

And it takes courage. It takes a lot of courage to ask those questions and to get an actual student to look at it and give you their true opinion.

Rebecca Hogue:

I've been lucky this summer. I've been working with a couple of prior students, so students that have graduated and they've been looking for experience and so they've come to me and so I've been working with them on my course development. And so I've been able to take things like activities and stuff like that or say, I think this would be a perfect reading and send it to this student and she can look at it and go, I don't understand this, or here's the activity, I'm trying this and this. And so every time she hits a roadblock, I know it's something that I haven't documented well enough, and that has been amazingly helpful. I would recommend that for any college professor or any time you get a chance. Even like for me, it's prior students, but they haven't necessarily seen that content or the specific content that you're working with.

Janet Lee:

And we call that over the shoulder roll out where I'm from. So we grab whoever's in the house and we bring them. We put them in front of the computer and I say, okay, do it. Let's see. And you can watch where people's eyes go. What kind of trouble do they have? What questions come up even if they're not your authentic learner? You just pull somebody into your office and have them do navigate the course in front of you. You can pick out a lot of things. So I kind of try and teach my SMEs to do that. Once this is being rolled out, watch somebody go through the course, just look over their shoulders, the over the shoulder rollout.

Darlesa Cahoon:

Yeah, I love that. Yeah.

Rebecca Hogue:

That's interesting. I never heard it explained that way because I. I'm aware of a speak aloud protocol where you have the learner or the person going through it. It's used in UI design a lot where you have the person go through it, say everything they're thinking. As they navigate through it.

Darlesa Cahoon:

Nice.

Rebecca Hogue:

And that's super useful to see where you're going wrong. Oh, my gosh.

Darlesa Cahoon:

That's so nice. And it's so much less taxing for the learner. I like that too, because you're not asking them to write all this stuff. You just turn on the say, I'm going to record this. Is that okay? You can even be showing them... I could send them a Teams meeting and have them go through an elearning like that. And then I'm not asking them to do a bunch of writing. I love that. Rebecca! That is so cool. But you know what? I feel like I'm so lucky that I went back to school in what it was 2014 when I went back to do my graduate, my master's degree, and it was 100% online and it was a master's degree in learning technology. And just being a student was one of the most helpful things that I ever got to do and to see. It really definitely changed the way that I thought about the learner and how to keep them motivated to see that.. The most important thing, I think, with online instruction for my opinion for college professors is just constant communication with your students. The worst thing is when you send an email or a message or whatever kind of format you're communicating with and you hear nothing back, you just want to go away and not go back to that class ever again.

Janet Lee:

And that's another thing I would say if you are an instructional designer that wants to go into the college or university setting to be an ID, always make sure that you're also teaching. Once you're there so long, you can pick up the class and just do it because credibility is a big deal. Knowing the frustrations of faculty, knowing how they're really feeling, dealing with real people, that's invaluable.

Rebecca Hogue:

I think it's really neat the way you picked up the two sides right? The things that we always have to balance, there's the learner perspective and really understanding what it means to be the learner, but also really understanding what it means to be the instructor, because they both you can have this great learner centric design, but if the instructor can't implement it, it's pointless. You need to have something that works for both.

Darlesa Cahoon:

Yeah.

Rebecca Hogue:

Cool. Let's talk a little bit about evaluation. What do you do to evaluate something that's out there?

Darlesa Cahoon:

We don't really get to evaluation, right?

Janet Lee:

I think evaluation can look different than you think it's going to look. We can ask for feedback. We can send out a survey. Nobody sends back their survey. Or you can just like how many people come back. Do you see a shift in behavior and how do you know it worked? There are so many different ways to evaluate the success of what you implement that you have to be very flexible with that and be gracious about it and be kind to yourself if you see something good happening. Keep going with that. But if you see something that needs to be adjusted or changed, then do that. But gathering information and data can look different for every situation.

Darlesa Cahoon:

That was well said, Janet.

Janet Lee:

Sure thing.

Darlesa Cahoon:

That's it. Yeah, That's exactly what I was thinking, too, is there are so many things that what you're evaluating just highly depends on who cares about it. So it is a little different when you're talking about college students, probably that you need to evaluate their learning most heavily. I don't know. But yeah, like it depends on if this is a topic that for our airport, if it's a topic that is. Something that shows up in the Seattle Times or something we're being sued about. That may really affect how we want to. We need to make sure that we're evaluating really closely that people's behavior has changed or that we're really moving the needle on performance in a certain area. If it's improving our accessibility or service to accessibility or customer service in general, or if it's checkpoint wait times or whatever it is. So even aside from certainly also we need to evaluate the learner's experience and whether they enjoyed the class, what they learned out of it, but then it's taking it to that next level that will that helps us continue to remain employed.

Rebecca Hogue:

That return on investment from the college perspective, like as a college instructor, one of the things that I think about is the number of students that I have that want to take a different course with me. So you've taken one course. How many of them want to take a different course with me or another course with me? And I know that I'm doing something right. If students want to come back and take other courses that I teach or that I design and teach, because I do both. So before we close off, I wonder if either of you have questions for each other on anything that we haven't have covered or haven't covered?

Janet Lee:

I have one. So could somebody. Here's the thing. In instructional design, when you get a job at the college level or the university level when you're there, some people would like to make the transition to corporate. And when they do want to make that transition, people look at you and go, Why would you ever want to do that? There's a lot of reasons why I actually made that leap. But I want to ask you, what's your advice for somebody, Darlesa, that wants to leave higher ed and become an instructional designer for corporate. What should we do?

Darlesa Cahoon:

Gosh, I think that, and maybe it's just my perspective, that I've always been a corporate instructional designer, that it seems to me like it'd be a lot harder to go from corporate instructional design to institutional instructional design. I think probably the biggest advice is go for it. You're awesome with what you guys have to do and have to come up with. It seems like you've got all the skills and it's just a matter of maybe delving deeper into what the job is really going to be like, which is cool that it's so cool that Rebecca does this to try to help people understand what those jobs are going to be like. But like really understanding what kind of work you're going to do and if you're going to like it and if you're going to be passionate about it, because I just feel like I know it all depends on what you've been doing, but it seems like you're building college courses. You're probably you've probably got all the skills that you need to use in a corporate environment. And I would think that, and you're going to have that probably a lot of times more education than somebody who is in the corporate learning world, because a lot of times people do just get pulled into training and development in the corporate world who don't necessarily have the education behind it. I don't know if I answered your question very well.

Janet Lee:

No... it's inspiring to hear you say that. And I think like, one person really needed to hear that. And I wanted you to say it.

Speaker 0:

So good, good.

Janet Lee:

Thank you so much. Because that.

Darlesa Cahoon:

Yeah, it's funny, though, I hear that. I have heard that a lot. Maybe it's like on LinkedIn or something. I see that people ask that question a lot and I always think, gosh, you know, just go for it. And you've been a... when I remember my university experience to going back to school, we probably had 50-50, we had 50% corporate type of trainer people, 50% people who were K through 12 or college level instructors that were trying to learn technology. And it was having that back and forth between the people that were in K through 12 and the people that were in corporate. It was awesome. I think we learned from each other and maybe it's in K through 12. they were so creative in figuring out new neat ways to motivate their students and get them engaged. And I think in corporate learning, sometimes one of our biggest skills is just pumping stuff out that needs to get done, which doesn't sound very fun, but it is something that certainly helps you as you go through your career. So we all bring different things to the table.

Rebecca Hogue:

I think one of the things that is different is different, and yet the same, is that in the corporate sector you're looking at business priorities. So if we go back to that alignment question and look at that alignment, it's just instead of being program goals, being that key alignment piece, it's business priorities.

Darlesa Cahoon:

Exactly.

Rebecca Hogue:

Yeah. So you've got to be able to look at that big picture.

Darlesa Cahoon:

And I said I thought was so cool because I never even really thought about that. That kind of is along the same lines. It's certainly parallel.

Rebecca Hogue:

Cool. Is there anything else either of you want to say before I do the sort of close off?

Janet Lee:

Just I want to say, you know what? You picked a great career because you can be anything. You can really make your life what you always imagined it to be. You don't have to just have one full time job. You can have all sorts of different contracts happening and different things that make you feel inspired. Instructional design is an evolving, growing field where you can do anything. And I just I love learning and I love meeting people like yourself. Darlesa, thank you so much, Rebecca, for doing this for people. I just feel like it's making a difference, where it's just this huge scale where before I was just in one little tiny box of aclassroom, but with instructional design really make a difference in the world. That's important.

Darlesa Cahoon:

I totally agree. I love that... it is so cool! And your students just having the chance to choose, they can choose what they want to do. That's the coolest thing about instructional design. If you're really excited about technology, you can go in that direction. If you really love getting in front of a group and entertaining people or figuring out ways to make people learn through fun experiences, you can do games, you can do whatever you want. So I totally agree. I just think that's really that instructional design is an awesome career.

Rebecca Hogue:

Excellent. Thank you both very much. I think this has been a fascinating conversation and I really enjoyed hearing your perspectives.

Janet Lee:

Thanks for having us. Appreciate it.

Darlesa Cahoon:

Thank you. It's super cool meeting you, Janet. I was I looked at your website a little bit and I just think that you're a fascinating person. You've done so many really cool things.

Janet Lee:

Thank you for that. Thank you. I'm constantly learning and it's so good to meet somebody like you and...

Speaker 0:

just inspiring!

Janet Lee:

So thanks for today.

Rebecca Hogue:

I think you're both inspiring. This has been awesome. You've been listening to Demystifying Instructional Design. A podcast where I interview instructional designers about what they do.

Speaker 0:

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.