Demystifying Instructional Design

Matt Crosslin - Thinking About Pedagogy and Technology

September 12, 2021 Rebecca J. Hogue Season 1 Episode 2
Demystifying Instructional Design
Matt Crosslin - Thinking About Pedagogy and Technology
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode I interview Matt Crosslin. Matt Crosslin, Ph.D. is currently an Instructional Designer II at Orbis Education, where he works with faculty to create student-centered, active learning-based courses. He is also part-time faculty at the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley, where he teaches Masters and Doctoral courses in Educational Technology and Instructional Design. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include learning pathways, sociocultural theory, learner agency, heutagogy, learning theory, and open educational practices. Prior to working at Orbis, he spent nearly 15 years at the University of Texas at Arlington as both a Learning Innovation Researcher and an Instructional Designer. He also blogs occasionally at EduGeek Journal, watches or reads a lot of SciFi and Fantasy, and occasionally paints or draws something.

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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. Can you introduce yourself?

MATT:

Hi, Matt Crosslin, I am an instructional designer, too at Orbis Education, where we create hybrid courses for health degree programs like nursing and medical and sciences, partnering with universities to create courses that are offered to their students. And also, I am part time faculty at the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley, where I teach in their masters, in doctoral program, in instructional design as well. So I teach about two courses per semester, depending on the semester. Various topics in that, and I currently live in the Dallas, Texas, Metroplex area. I’m someone who is about to turn 11 and start middle school, and that is causing me all kinds of stress. And so that’s kind of my life in a nutshell.

REBECCA:

Can you describe what you do as an instructional designer?

MATT:

You know, it ends up being a lot more counseling. A lot of people realize you talk with professors and faculty who are often new to online learning, and you convince them that yes, you can do it and it will work out great for you. Some of them are often not used to teaching online, so they’re very frightened of it. So I’m not surprised at how much, you know, interactions that I have, helping them to feel OK about this, this new world that they’re about to embark on, and that it’ll be OK and I’ll be there to help them. So it’s a lot of that. It’s a lot of talking through with them what they want to do with their online courses and kind of pulling out the really good ideas and helping them focus on the things that will be more beneficial to the students and pulling them away from the things that won’t be very helpful for them or their students. And then talking through them the options that they have to create a good online course and then, of course, helping them to actually design and create that course. Once we get that phase now, then that’s kind of what I basically do on the instructional design side in nutshell.

REBECCA:

And so how did you get into that?

MATT:

I started off in education. I started off as eighth grade science teacher and learning about that, I learned about educational technology. Of exploring the educational technology side of education. A bit more, mixing that with my 8th grade courses. And then I discovered through that really a degree. What I thought was an educational technology was really more in instructional design, and I enjoyed that factor of it a lot more. And that was when I got my master’s degree through the University of Texas at Brownsville, which is now the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. And that’s kind of where I discovered this whole world of instructional design pursuing kind of more the technology side and realizing that it was more important to face to focus on the design side than the technology side.

REBECCA:

What are your typical tasks in a day?

MATT:

it’s usually get up answering the email that I need to. For that day, I start having Zoom meetings as my job is remote. So having Zoom meetings with professors, with other instructional designers at my company that are working with me on the program, team meetings to plan for the program will have individual meetings with the subject matter experts or the professors to talk through the course. And then also work on whatever aspect of the course that I’m currently working on at the beginning of the course. Build, of course. Design process. We’re working on module outcomes and objectives and those kind of things that we start working on content and the activities that suit the students to be doing. And so, you know, whatever is coming from the instructor, I’ll usually look through that and give them a lot of feedback on that. Some thoughts and some ideas and some questions for them. And then there’s always a lot of paperwork involved in instructional design. Make sure that I have all that done and try to do some readings on the research or blog post or current event type things. What’s going on now in the world of education? Try to keep up with that as much as I can as well. And then after the day job kind of shuts down and I’ve had time to go, get my son from school or talk with him to see how things are going. Then during the semester, then I usually have to open up the email for my course and start interacting, answering questions from my students. The courses that I teach, that’s also a lot of feedback as well. So they’re asking me a lot of questions. So I’m giving a lot of feedback on the different projects working on because the program I teach in is mostly all project based, authentic learning that I haven’t given a test and 10 years helping. So it’s all just project. Yeah, that’s my typical day.

REBECCA:

You mentioned that you work with other instructional designers who else do you work with?

MATT:

The company I work with there, I’m on one of three instructional design teams and there’s usually about six to eight instructional designers on each team have a good 20 to 30 instructional designers at our company. Either be my team will be we is called took. Our river is basically just a copycat of Slack, but so we’ll use river interact a lot back and forth asking questions, you know, hey, we have ideas for this or how can someone help me on that in a very collaborative environment? And then we have the larger group where there’s all three of the instructional design teams that we have bigger questions about, especially things to deal with, accessibility and things like that. Copyright. We want to make sure we get those things right. Last kind of bigger questions of the bigger teams. So those are the people that I’m usually interacting with on my team. But there is so for a company, there is a department for everything. A lot of instructional designers, especially I was instructional designer before, as you know, at the University of Texas at Arlington for about 15 years, either instructional design or on the research side as well. A lot of times the structural designers are kind of a jack of all trades. They have to do all the all the parts. There’s a video they’ve got to make it, you know, the graphic they got to create. It’s kind of things. Working for a company is kind of different as we have departments for all that. We have a graphics department, we have a video department, we have a virtual reality department. We have there’s there’s all these cool departments that you can kind of just interact with as well to get them to create the different components of your course. So we’re just kind of nice that I focused mainly on the theory and pedagogy side of things.

REBECCA:

So you can in essence, say, Oh, hey, this would be really good activity done in virtual scenario, virtual reality scenario or whatever, and then pass that off to the VR team to build you something.

MATT:

Yeah, we have created some 3D animations that are pretty cool, that I’ve been talking instructors and do so that’s pretty cool.

REBECCA:

And so what is your niche? Because you mentioned you have a bunch of instructional designers on your team, sort of what, what, what differentiates you?

MATT:

We’re all assigned to work with a specific school or specific college or university, and that’s  kind of how I work with my specifically working with a medical lab sciences degree, a specific school. Most of our company works with nursing or health care in some way, but it’s mostly nursing. But I’m working on medical lab sciences program. That’s kind of what differentiates me from other instructional designers.

REBECCA:

What kind of project do you find excites you?

MATT:

You know, anything that is more open ended or project based or authentic, something that’s not just read the book, watch the video, take the test. There’s a lot of that and that can be done well in online courses. But for me, if we get something that is not necessarily sincere a pathway, students can choose different options, choose something that they want to customize their personal interests or their personal needs for whatever the degree is something that’s maybe has less defined endpoints, something that sometimes are called branching scenarios, a choose your own adventure kind of things, those kind or gamification. I guess some people call that. There’s lots of names it goes under, but it’s really, really hard to think through how to create this scenario or events or something that students then kind of feel their way through and kind of think through things a bit more in depth rather than just memorizing answers. It’s kind of open-ended to answer as well.

REBECCA:

I think about that and I think about how much more difficult that is to think through, how much more difficult it is to design. It’s just part of the fun of it.

What is the biggest challenges you face as an instructional designer.

MATT:

Oh, it’s always the deadlines. These courses have to go live on a certain day. Usually the school has put them out, of course, calendar and enroll students and all that kind of stuff. So that that just puts those deadlines on you and working with faculty that are very busy have a lot on their plate. And so that’s always the challenge to keep them moving forward without like you don’t want, you don’t want to be the mean person that’s coming in and saying, get this done or else always works better to encourage and to support rather than to scare. So that’s always the tactic that I’m trying to lean towards is it’s how do I encourage them to move forward without making them feel like I’m just breathing down their necks and just trying to micromanage them as well? So. Hmm. But you can you can to strike a balance there because you don’t want them to think that they can just put things off till whenever there has to be some kind of urgency to get it done or else you have much your students without a class.

REBECCA:

Yeah, if the deadline doesn’t go away. What skills do you find most useful, really?

MATT:

The ability to think through sometimes kind of a half formed or structured idea and then take that to a actual activity that students can do. Faculty and staff will have these often ideas of what they want students to do, but then how to get that to an online activity that students can then complete, especially when we do online labs and things like that. But it takes a lot of problem solving skills to think through that. But it has to be not just on the design side. It does have to be on the technical side as well. You have to be able to think through different technology solutions because even though you think about the pedagogy first, you still have to have that technology piece that actually works and doesn’t like drive students. You just up the wall trying to figure out how to use it or that even worse in our world, there’s these proctoring solutions and turn it in and things like that that offer very easy solutions for giving tests. But then there’s all these problems that they’ve caused with students, not just the stress, but the bias and the discrimination in those tools. So you have to think through the technology as well in a way that creates this online lesson without driving the students, like I said, up the wall. It’s worth it if they can’t figure it out. So the ability to quickly figure out technology things on your own or at least be able to google it and figure out how things work as well. So you’ll be able to see it from the student perspective. Very helpful skills.

REBECCA:

And so what do you wish you knew or learned sooner?

MATT:

All of it. No, it’s kind of a long process of trial and error for me to get to instructional design. But the things that I wish I had learned earlier are things like the community of inquiry framework. Humanizing your instruction, kind of the pedagogy of care kind of stuff. That was stuff that kind of came along. I’d be an instructional designer for five or six years, really before I kind of started stumbling on those things. And some of it was stuff that I was already just kind of doing because I was trying to be a good, good instructional designer. But learning that there’s this whole world out, there are people who researched that and looked into it and come up with ways to do education a little bit differently, whether it’s on grading or speed of inquiry framework or people who’ve looked to put a bit more human centered approach to education, rather than just kind of the dehumanizing approach of grading and tests and just kind of numbers and numbers and numbers and quantity quantitatively figure everything out of education, just which I discovered that earlier that there’s this other side of things.

REBECCA:

What advice would you give to new instructional designers?

MATT:

Oh, that’s a good question. I would say that’s probably one of the more important things you can do is forming your professional network of people that you can go to for help, for answers or feedback. Hopefully, you have some of that where you’re working. But for me, that bigger community tapping into that bigger community of people can be very, very helpful, especially with uncertain times have when you need to reach out personally, really need help with maybe lost a job. Or maybe things are a bit shaky at your current position and need some help and advice you can reach out to people and networking or not just this random person that popped up out of nowhere. You know, there’s someone that people know and people will be willing to to help. And you know, that’s how I got my current job, which is reaching out on Twitter and saying, Hey, my university’s about to shut down my whole research lab and I need a job. And that tweet somehow got tweeted around. It got in front of my current company, and they reached out and said, Hey, we’ve got a position for you if you want to apply for it and applied for it. And they liked me and they hired me. So that professional network, as is often been a lifesaver for me in this field, especially. And it doesn’t have to be these big things like saying your job or whatever, but it can be a little things as well. There’s. Of times, I don’t get a whole lot of time these days to really engage with Twitter like I used to, but so pull it up occasionally during the day and look at the different things that are floating by in the feed. And I was like, Oh, that’s a cool idea. I need to look into that. And so you also get a lot of ideas as well, just kind of as even just kind of glance at it every once in a while, people, as long as you find people that like to share, they’ll get these good ideas will flow by, they’ll help you.

REBECCA:

It’s a good point about the network because it’s one of those things that if you’re looking for work, it’s too late. Right? You kind of needed to have set that network up while you. It takes months to set up a decent network, right? Yeah. And so trying to do that, trying to make it instantaneous. You never know when you’re going to need it. Yeah. So the last question I have for you is what is your prediction for the future of instructional design?

MATT:

OK, so I actually did some thinking on that one. You know, I came up with a few things. I mean, if you will think about on that issue, but it may not be along the lines of what people were initially thinking out. But I’ll go and share what kind of came to mind when I went people when people ask that question. And the first thing in the immediate here and now, what’s happening in the next few years? I think you’re just seeing that a lot of universities are not supporting are not funding and hiring in the academic support realm. As much so you’re seeing instructional design jobs at academia. People are losing their jobs. The support partners are kind of drying up and disappearing or they’re just not creating new positions, even though the work is increasing. But on the flip side, what you’re seeing is that the companies like I work for are coming in and hiring all these people that aren’t getting jobs or who are losing their jobs. So you’re starting to see a shift a little bit towards more towards the corporate, into things. And they’re they’re either companies like mine that come in and work with universities and create programs in degrees, or they’re just companies that just have training and they’re hiring sexual designers through their internal training as well. But so I think that’s where you’re starting to see a lot of the good instructional design work shifting is towards those entities. Some people call it an online program. Management companies are OPM companies. And then there’s also there’s there’s a lot of pushback to that. A lot of people in academia are saying that the OPM’s are coming to take your people, to take your money, to take your jobs and stuff. And in general, that’s actually not true. They’re not taking anything. It’s they’re picking up what academia is throwing away. A lot of times they’re hiring people to academia, aspiring. They are trying to create programs and programs and courses where none exist right now, and universities and colleges are passing up the opportunities in general. So for, you know, a few obvious examples in general, the OPM’s are not trying to compete with existing programs or it’s just not good business sense. It’s hard to crack into those markets. They’re trying to find the places where there’s a need for students and for training and then create programs there. And then there. Even the good OPM’s are actually paying the people that they work with. So they’re paying the faculty stipends to come in and create courses unlike the universities, or just keep piling on more and more courses and not increasing pay. So I think that’s what you’re going to start. Yeah. So you’re seeing already is going to keep going. One thing I say that you don’t want to look at here, a lot of people say this. I’m not picking on anyone in particular, but a lot of people will say that for the final future education, follow the research and grant money. That’s where education is going. And for the most part, I’d say that’s probably not true. Never really has been. Research and grant dollars are often controlled by gatekeepers and people with power. And for the most part, if you want to know who’s in control, it’s good to say follow the money. But if you’re wanting to see what’s actually happening and going to happen a future education, I wouldn’t necessarily follow the research program at the Gates Foundation’s people like that. They’re big into virtual reality and artificial intelligence and learning analytics. All these things. And yeah, there are some interesting things happening in those fields. You’re not saying they’re necessarily bad fields, but it’s so, so seldom that you actually see those things actually in real classes on the ground. It’s just they’re expensive. They take forever to develop and it’s just not practical. You know, three to four thousand colleges of universities here in the United States alone, with tens or hundreds of thousands of courses that are out there. And you just can’t scale things that cost huge dollars to all those courses. You’re just going to you’re going to you’re going to continue to see the research and grant money because funding kind of fringe things that people with money will be able to afford. So I would just look at this, just look at the things that people who are actually on the ground are interested in or fighting for or against. One of the things we see people fighting against a lot are the proctoring services, right? I think that’s another thing you’re going to see. The future is just a continued battle between the proctoring and plagiarism detection services and those teachers and instructors, because for the most part, students don’t like those services at best and at worst they’re being abused by those services. So but they’re being pushed more and more by the people with the money, the gatekeepers, the people at the top who have it, and even the faculty and staff are. For the most part, I see that the most of them are skeptical of those tools, even if even if they want someone watching their students are skeptical of how well the tools will work out. So I foresee that continuing to be a battle that may even get a little bit uglier and a little bit more contentious in the future as well. But it’s probably going to have more of a effect on education than what some of the research and grant money is researching. So that’s my two cents. I could be totally wrong.

REBECCA:

You’ve been listening to Demystifying Instructional Design, a podcast where I interview instructional designers about what they do for show notes. Go to demystifying instructional design dot com. If you enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe. Thanks.