Demystifying Instructional Design

Terry Greene relates trains, mini-vans, and painting to Instructional Design

September 28, 2021 Rebecca J. Hogue Season 1 Episode 5
Demystifying Instructional Design
Terry Greene relates trains, mini-vans, and painting to Instructional Design
Show Notes Transcript

Terry Greene is Senior eLearning Designer at Trent University. He holds a B.Ed. in Elementary Education from the University of Alberta and a M.Sc. in Instructional Design & Technology from the University of North Dakota. He is interested in both the cutting and trailing edges of technology in education. Especially those uses that increase the human element in technology-enabled learning. Hint, hint, those are probably the more open ones.

Show notes at DemystifyingInstructionalDesign.com

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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. Welcome to Demystifying Instructional Design, a podcast that attempts to figure out exactly what instructional designers do. Today, I'm joined by a friend of mine, Terry Greene, and so first I'll ask Terry, Can you introduce yourself?

TERRY:
Sure. My name's Terry Greene. I am senior e-learning designer at Trent University at Trent Online partnered with Slash report to the same person with the Center for Teaching and Learning. So in that wheelhouse, I enjoy designing instructional experiences, so I'm happy to have this chat about demystifying it because it's a need. I think, especially with the surge in online learning, which is not the same thing as instructional design, but I think instructional design occurs much more in the online learning world than face to face offline learning. So it's good to demystify it.

REBECCA:
What is your, I like to call them origin stories, How did you become an instructional designer?

TERRY:
I did some coaching early as as a teenager where I enjoyed the lesson planning strangely a lot more than most. I always like to think of like what drills to do will help and aligning the drill with the skill. I like doing that. But then, you know, in university, I went off into forestry, then I was in environmental science, realizing this is not what I was interested in doing for my life. Meanwhile, still doing some coaching and enjoying the design part, I didn't know what instructional design was all the way through to getting closer. But I think, OK, I want to be a teacher. So I took a degree, an undergraduate degree in elementary education and then moved on to a graduate certificate in teaching ESL to adults. All this time, enjoying all the lesson planning and designing and thinking, but still not knowing or realizing what instructional design was until upon finishing a grad certificate in teaching ESL and starting to teach at the colleges and realizing I'm going to need a master's if I want to get a permanent job at this level. So I started looking around for master's in second language acquisition, but then I came across a master's of instructional design and technology from University of North Dakota, and I was like, That's what I love to do. I didn't know what it was until now, but that's it. I really enjoy that stuff. So let's do it. I looked around at other instructional design programs, but that the first one I saw kind of stuck with me and so did it. And they really did a great job of really authentic work for you to do that I really enjoyed and I think I still try to kind of emulate even now. So, yeah, that was me realizing instructional design, but the work I found was as more more the technology side educational technology for the last number of years. Where do some instructional design work as a part of it? But it wasn't until I came to Trent that the role was literally to do instructional design, and I'm going to keep doing this for as long as I can because it's so is very enjoyable.

REBECCA:
What aspect of instructional design do you enjoy doing the most?

TERRY:
I enjoy the part where you just get to the building itself because it starts to take shape. And I think I can relate it to something. Most people have experience of painting your house. You get that painter's tape and you got to take the time to lay down tarps or whatever on the ground and tape all around everything you don't want to tape. To me, that's like identifying learning objectives and outcomes and wordsmithing those and getting resources and blue printing the whole course, which is absolutely crucial and fun in itself. But the true fun comes when all that taping is done and you can be more free within the confines to paint away, and that's when you really see and feel the progress. So to me, after all that blue printing is done and agreed upon, and you get to just take it and build into blackboard or wherever you're working, whatever you're working on. And it just feels like you're going and you're getting stuff done and you're producing is that feels great. And to be honest, like many people in our field, all, I think, rightfully feel that the LMSes are very limited, not just Blackboard, but all of them are limited in ways. And so it does feel kind of great to come out the other end with something you feel good about and you think students will enjoy is a satisfying experience, I think.

REBECCA:
When somebody asks you, What do you do? How do you answer that question?

TERRY:
I guess it depends who's asking. But if it's a faculty member, I would say I partner with you to specifically, the instructional design I do at Trent Online is obviously to to build online courses. So I would say, you know, if you were interested or your department is interested in turning a live course or a new course, they haven't even done before into an online learning experience. We would partner to engineer the the space, build the space, the learning experiences and set things up for good, enjoyable, engaging human learning experience.

REBECCA:
And so what are the typical tasks that you do in your role as instructional designer?

TERRY:
Sometimes you end up being a bit of a project manager in a way because the things you need to do you the tasks are kind of driven by you as the instructional designer in a partnership with the, you know, maybe there's a multimedia designer, maybe there's like a technologist to help and the the subject matter expert or the faculty member, so you drive the progress. But in the beginning you do an analysis of what you're trying to do and really lay the train tracks for where you're going. Before you get the train and put it on the tracks and go, you decide on whatever the goals, the objectives, the outcomes and what are the assessments and as authentic as possible, what are you going to do to prove you've reached those goals and you align all that and then you decide on what learning materials and activities are involved in reaching those goals and allowing learners to succeed in the assessments and given them practice and stuff? So you write it all down before you, you build it and agree on it, and then you start to kind of prototype the building.

REBECCA:
Do you have any tips for working with faculty?

TERRY:
I think once you get a few more episodes out, I would maybe suggest, hey, listen to demystifying instructional design because sometimes honestly like the reason you're doing this, they really don't know what what it is you do and sometimes can't see the value in it. And it makes it tough, it makes it tough in the beginning. But usually by the end, when the trains on the tracks and you're going, it's it makes things all the better. But when faculty doesn't really see the the value of it, they don't want to do things differently than they normally would kind of thing. So it's it's a bit of a sales pitch at the start, but you can do that by. I like to call it taking them, taking an instructor shopping by looking at a few different courses we've built in the past or or just courses that are available that that look great. And you can see just as soon as you see it, you're like, Oh, wow, that is nicely structured. I could really use some of that.

REBECCA:
I like the way that you've position that as a shopping list, what kind of projects do you consider fun?

TERRY:
I think, you know, every project has fun and less fun parts. The projects where you actually produce something that students will you think enjoy are the most fun, which is most projects, but when it gets deeper than that and the project is, you know, developing your standards of practice, it's important work. It's not as kind of immediately fun to do, I guess, but you know, work's work sometimes.

REBECCA:
What would you consider your niche in instructional design? My students are often told to figure out what your niche is and how you differentiate yourself from others. And I'm wondering what would you consider your niche to be?

TERRY:
Trent Online's niche is that we really. And it's not we're not the only ones to do this, but we really put the humans first, and that human is a student, but also the human of the instructor. We want to make human online learning experiences, so ones that take into account people will follow different paths and have different needs for accessing the course and getting through it. And you know, we want an engaging, enjoyable experience that's not lonely like a lot of online learning is, I think. So I think that's our niche at Trent online and my niche myself is, I guess, through podcasting myself, I've been able to make quite a few connections across domains and spent time and not time, but space and good benefit. As you know, knowing the Rebecca Hogue's and being able to talk to you and talk to people like you about what we're doing and and what you're doing and how we might learn from each other.

REBECCA:
One of the biggest challenges you face as an instructional designer.

TERRY:
People not understanding the value add that we do is a challenge and also just that, it's getting the time to do it properly. Oh, let's build this course for fall. It's July 29th. Well, the process we've laid out takes 16 weeks. So are you talking about this fall? That's that's pushing it, obviously. And then you get rushed and then it's hard to get the quality assurance done. It's hard to do all the steps properly. So, yeah, getting yourself that wiggle room to have enough time to do it properly is a big challenge.

REBECCA:
What skills do you find most useful in your work?

TERRY:
I don't know. Just being collegial or something is very helpful and and welcoming. We had a team meeting yesterday with that center for Teaching Learning, and us an all like in-person. For the first time, we're sitting around a big fire pit. No fire, though. And one of the new staff, because the team has grown quite a bit throughout the pandemic, just made the point to say how welcome he felt and how how nice that was and how it didn't take him long to feel part of the team being like that is so valuable in setting off that partnership that you have with a faculty member to build a course like you're building something together that you hope lasts and causes hundreds of learners to enjoy a learning experience. It can be proud of it, and being easy to work with and helpful and collegial from the beginning is just goes a long way. As simple as that sounds.

REBECCA:
One of the things you mentioned earlier were different types of professionals that you work with, and so I'm wondering what is sort of the size of your organization? How many instructional designers do you have and who else do you get to work with?

TERRY:
OK, so our unit Trent Online has four e-learning designers. And very soon we'll have two e-learning technologists. So a kind of a two to one ratio there. The technologist is always partnering with a designer on a build. So I guess the technologists end up with twice as many projects they were working on then than us through the the recent funding from E-Campus. Ontario, which was a big funding for the virtual learning strategy across the province. We got some funding to hire a multi-media designer for the duration of the time so that that gives us expertize in creating slicker videos and stuff like that, which is going to be great. It has been great already. What's nice? There's this really great administrative worker who works for both us and the Sister Department Center for Teaching Learning, so she's like the glue that holds us all together and the boss.

REBECCA:
And how would you describe the difference between the instructional technologist and the instructional designer?

TERRY:
The simplest is that we with the subject matter expert, the faculty member, bring the pedagogy and the, you know, how, what are the activities, what are the assessments? What are the modules about, how will they work? And then some of us work differently with technologists. You can actually ask the technologist to take these module templates that we've worked out in Word take it to Blackboard and build it. For me, I can see things more clearly if I'm building it in Blackboard myself from our templates. And that's where I think I get the best feedback for what the instructor wants to do. So I build myself and then ask the technologists to follow behind with like an early quality assurance look and then fix from there so you can work with the technologists the other way.

REBECCA:
You mentioned that you use Blackboard, what other tools do you like to use?

TERRY:
For me, a big swing and a miss that learning management systems have always had is the lack of student to student interaction and the lack of kind of respect for the work of the student. Yeah, there's like two approaches that I think should always have a mix, you know, some of it should be. I'm not even sure how to say it because I've only read the words supplantive so we give content, we give instruction, we give this and then there should be generative stuff where the learner adds their experience, their thoughts, their their learning to the course. Learning management systems often don't have much space for that generative stuff. So discussion boards, yes, of course you can do those and you can have good learning experiences in there, but it's not enough. The LMS, I've said this before, but the LMS is like a 10 year old minivan. That's it. It works. It drives you to other places just like other, much nicer cars. But it's just a utilitarian thing that takes you. But it can take you to neat places. So use that van to get to you to the place. But don't be afraid to get out at the nice spots by pulling in other web resources or going out into the open web or so we use often Padlet, which is like a digital post-it board. Put little post-its here and there and with your thoughts, and everybody can see each others stuff, which is nice. So that's a good place to give students opportunity to to connect and see each other sites. Also, having a Microsoft Teams team or a slack or a discord as as I like more informal general class chat world that is like separate from Blackboard, the LMS is sometimes takes off as a as a good kind of community. It gets tricky because you don't want. You know, within your program, like one course uses Discord, one course uses teams, one course uses that, that just gets confusing and probably people will not even use any of them. I think of that as like a digital hallway, like the hallway chat space. It's nice to have some types. Another thing we've used it to enhance the kind of interactivity that a LMS provides is H5P, which is allowing learners to interact with content, not each other and not with the instructor. But it's nice to pop in quick little practice activities. And another great one for connecting students with each other and the content same time is hypothesis. We love using that. So you can socially annotate a reading, man, I wish I had that when I was doing undergrad so many readings, I wish I could have just highlighted a section and asked, Please someone. Tell me what is going on here, because I don't understand. And then other people might be like, Yeah, me too. Help me. It would have made that reading less scary and more understandable, obviously, which would be great and more of a social experience.

REBECCA:
What skills are do you think are critical for instructional designers to have?

TERRY:
What skills are critical? As mentioned before, I think just being collegial and easy to work with is huge, but also. You do end up being kind of half a project manager half the time, so organizational management skills are good. Be the one to discuss when the recurring meetings should be. Be the one to send the meeting invites. You're the host, kind of. It feels like half the time and the driver of it. So you end up, you're not a nagger, but you nag sometimes to get things going. As the designer, you are often the the motor that keeps things going.

REBECCA:
What do you wish you knew or learned sooner?

TERRY:
We shouldn't waste so much time in my life doomscrolling on a phone or a computer and use that time. To read and reread, I'm rereading my textbooks from my master's instructional design degree. Now I know much more than I did when I read it for the first time and now things sink in even better, and I wouldn't have ever thought I would read one of my old textbooks for fun. Before, but I got rid of my smartphone. I just have a flip phone now, so there's no ability to doom scroll, Twitter, Reddit, whatever. So I pick up a book because I don't check the thing in my pocket, so I wish I thought sooner and committed to sooner. Just turf in some people have much better willpower than me and can have the smartphone and also be focused enough to read articles and read books and reread. But I didn't. And that's how it worked for me, so I wish I did it sooner.

REBECCA:
What advice would you give to new instructional designers?

TERRY:
I would say if you want to have some work, contact people in Ontario because it's madly we're all trying to build this virtual learning strategy, 400 different projects. There's a lot of instructional design work in Ontario right now. What's cool about it is that if you haven't found that job or that permanent work, you're probably looking for an instructional design. You can do it and build something that maybe you could at least put out there. Slash. Maybe even, you know, offer your own online course, whatever, and build your CV, your portfolio, build your showcase material just by partnering with anybody, any of your friends and ask them what they're passionate about excited about. Build a course about that with them if you're really looking for for that kind of work. It could be build something cool and it might take off.

REBECCA:
The last question I like to ask is, what's your prediction for the future of instructional design?

TERRY:
It seems to be completely aligned to online learning now, not completely, but people think of it almost as the same thing or that you don't use instructional design so much in face to face learning, I guess. I don't know if that will continue to coalesce into people seeing it as almost the same thing or something, which would be not the best, I think, but because of the pandemic, it's been. A mad dash of a lot more instructional design going on in the world, I think whether it's kind of informal slash light slash, we have no time, no no resources, but let's do what we can. But there has been a lot more engagement with it. So hopefully it means there's a lot more people seeing it as a thing like everybody came to instructional design in a circuitous route. No five year old saying, I want to be an instructional designer when I grow up because nobody knows what is. But now that more and more people, especially when demystifying instructional design, goes viral, we'll know more about it and maybe more people will be interested. The field will grow and have. I hope more and more people see it as creative work and. I hope more and more people see it that way and are drawn to it.

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 DemystifyingInstructionaDesign.Com. If you enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe. Thanks.