Demystifying Instructional Design

Darlesa Cahoon - Literally walking on runways

November 05, 2021 Rebecca J. Hogue Season 1 Episode 8
Demystifying Instructional Design
Darlesa Cahoon - Literally walking on runways
Show Notes Transcript

Darlesa 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! 

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/rjhogue)

REBECCA:

Welcome to Demystifying Instructional Design, a podcast where I interview various instructional designers to figure out what it is instructional designers do. I'm Rebecca Hogue, your podcast host. Welcome, Darlesa, to demystifying instructional design. I'm wondering if you could start by telling us a little bit about yourself.

 

DARLESA:

Hello, Rebecca. Thank you so much for having me. It's really fun to talk to you. My name is Darlesa Cahoon and I work for the Port of Seattle at the Seattle Tacoma International Airport near Seattle, Washington. I've been in instructional design kind of the field of training and development for about 15 years, about 10 of those years has been at the airport.

 

REBECCA:

Can you tell us a little bit about how you got into instructional design?

 

DARLESA:

I guess I kind of fell into it as I think a lot of people do. You don't grow up thinking you're going to be an instructional designer when you grow up, but thank goodness we found it. 

 

I took a job in the training department at the airport and it was an entry level job because I had taken off eight years when my kids were small. So I was just going back into the workforce and I felt like I was starting all over again and I had always enjoyed training and those kind of elements of jobs that it had in the past. So I thought, what the heck? Let me try this. 

 

So I was the proctor in a computer based training lab for badge training in the aviation training department. They had just gotten a new learning management system for the port. And so for the first time, they had the capability of doing custom e-learning content like self-paced e-learning and housing that on a learning management system, it was a completely new thing. This was like in 2007. So it's a completely new thing for them, and no one else in the department wanted to go learn the tool. 

 

And I had had a past life in marketing and some graphics and stuff, and so I said, Hey, I'll do it. So I went and learned the tool, and I'll never forget really. It was articulate. The studio was a very different version than what we have today, of course. But I remember going to class the first day and then going back to my hotel room and just I couldn't leave it alone. I just thought, This is this is so cool, and I could just see all the possibilities. 

 

And also, I've got a history of also being in theater, and I was a vocal performance major when I very first went to college. And so I have all these goofy little skills that I had never really been able to use that much at work that I thought all of this stuff is going to come in so handy. So I just kind of fell in love at that time. But what is kind of funny too, though, is I learned to tool and I didn't have any formal education in instructional design at the time. 

 

I went back to work and was put on several different projects with people who were learning specialists or instructional designers. And what did they do? I think you probably can guess [RJH1] people brought me PowerPoints and said, Put this in your magic box and turn it into e-learning, basically. So that was when I realized that I needed to really start learning about instructional design. And then as the world opened for me in that way, then I just wanted to learn more and ended up going back to school. And the rest is history.

 

REBECCA:

A very typical origin story of how you came in to instructional design. A lot of people have very similar stories. When you say you're an instructional designer and somebody asks you, How do you describe what you do as an instructional designer? 

 

DARLESA:

Yeah, I think that the way that I usually describe it is I try to describe it as simply as possible and say I create training products, training or training experiences for people at the airport for all airport employees to help improve their performance or for compliance purposes and all kinds of stuff. And I mean, if people want to know more, it is hard because I do a real variety of things. I'm kind of like a one man band. At times I make videos, I make animations. I can do instructor led classes. I do a lot of different things.

 

REBECCA:

What kind of tools do you use in the work that you do today?

 

DARLESA

Oh, I use let's see primarily. So for self-paced e-learning, I usually use a combination of Articulate, Camtasia, Veyond is when I've been using lately, that's really fun, probably mostly those and PowerPoint. Still, I'm so lucky that I have for the first time I've got a college intern who is a recent graduate from a media program, which has been so fantastic. She's wonderful and so she is taking pictures and doing really professional quality video and photo work for me and using Photoshop and things like that. Those are the main programs I would use.

 

REBECCA:

So when you say articulate which, which articulate 

 

DARLESA:

360, but I've also created things in Rise, that's fun for a quick off. And also the combination of the two too how it always happens. You start with one thing and you end up using it, going and finding another tool and creating something in that and pulling it into your e-learning platform. So I've certainly created a lot of rise that was really a hybrid of articulate 360 pulled into rise to make it more interactive.

 

REBECCA:

You mentioned that you've got this new student, which is awesome. What other professionals do you work with in your job?

 

DARLESA:

Well, in my department, and I'm guessing that there's probably other departments out there like this somewhere, but we are kind of an old school department. We've got a senior manager who does more of the strategy of deciding how we're going to use our time and what we're going to be involved in. And then we have a training manager who is really he does a lot of manual kinds of things like manuals and structured on the job training programs like that for some groups. And then we have a LMS administrator and then they are hiring a new learning specialist. So I'm hoping to get somebody else who will be doing more of a breadth of things. So I'm the only person in my department right now who really does any of the online.

 

REBECCA:

And so what's your title? You said learning specialist is something you're hiring. What title do you use?

 

DARLESA:

Learning technology consultant? It's what my title is, so I don't know that it's completely descriptive of everything that I do, but because I am the person who does learning technology and tries to get other people to do learning technology, then that's my title.

 

REBECCA:

It's kind of funny, but it is true. It's like 10000 different titles that instructional designers hold me. It's like which one? Which, what? What is it called there? And so what types of projects do you consider fun?

 

DARLESA:

Oh boy. Working as an instructional designer at an airport is so awesome. I can't tell you it's it really is cool because it's such a variety you can imagine. I mean, an airport is like a city. We've got a police department, a fire department, emergency preparedness department, two hundred other businesses like restaurants and airlines, of course. And not only that, but we've got airplanes and jet bridges and all this cool stuff. Huge pieces of machinery that clear the snow off the runway when we need to. So I have done a huge variety of different types of training classes I've done. I learned to run a jet bridge. I had to do jet bridge training at some point. I've done. We also have. We have wildlife biologists who keep the birds off the runway and all the wildlife. So we've done I've done wildlife training and obviously customer service and just everything in between. So I really enjoy the variety. Oh, I've even done pest management, who would guess all of the things that go on to keep an airport running? So it's a lot of fun and it's really fun to when you're doing something where you can, you know, get out on the runway or just be one with the airport.

 

REBECCA:

Because when you say get out on the runway, you mean literally get out on the runway.

 

DARLESA:

Exactly. I have been on runways. It's good to have fun.

 

REBECCA:

One of the bits of advice my students are often given is to figure out what their sort of niche is within instructional design. And I'm wondering, what would you consider your niche to be? 

 

DARLESA:

I don't know. I mean, that's kind of hard because I think sometimes your niche can also be sort of put on you by others, depending on what needs to be done. I think that my best niche is that I'm a Swiss Army knife of training that I can do anything. But in my department, I do a lot of virtual instruction and a lot of self-paced e-learning and synchronous virtual instruction just because a lot of people are a little bit afraid of it. But like I said, I'm not sure how common that is. It might just be that we're kind of we have kind of an old school training department, you know, you'd

 

REBECCA:

be surprised at how common it is actually 

 

DARLESA:

what I mean. Really feel like [RJH2] my biggest niche is my goofball background that I love to create things that are different and fun and like think of a game to create to teach some people something or to just make something kind of wacky and put in music or crazy sounds in my e-learning. And I think that's that's something that is really personal that I bring is just kind of letting my freak flag fly and other people. And that's unique to me. It is my job and and it works usually, and

 

REBECCA:

that's kind of fun, actually. It sort of brings out a level of engagement that you otherwise wouldn't get. Many of us have done the most boring ever compliance training and have had that experience. And so wishing that there was a decent instructional designer behind the scenes creating decent compliance training.

 

DARLESA:

Yeah, I used to always say that my job was to create painless compliance training. Back when I used to do a lot of compliance training, but yeah[RJH3] , I would always try to cover what the regulator wants the FAA, the EPA, whoever it is, but then also add that layer of. Really, problem-solving and performance improvement on top of that, as well as the fun and the games, hopefully.

 

REBECCA:

Yeah, cool. And so what are the biggest challenges you face in your job?

 

DARLESA:

Oh, boy, I think that one of the biggest challenges probably we all face in in a corporate setting and maybe I don't know, maybe it's true in all settings too in our training department is, I think, six people out of there's 25000 people that work at our airport. So you can imagine that we're not doing all the training that's being done at the airport training like air quotes, you know, training. So I think one of the challenges is convincing people who they just enjoy doing what they call training that there's something better that we can do other than just a presentation, basically. I think that so often if if I am able to work with people and say, Hey, what about we try this and, you know, add in an activity here, do something different or let's try this, this other thing. Wouldn't this be cool? And a lot of times they get really excited about it and they want to do something different. They want to do something better. But there are a lot of people that just really enjoy standing up in front of a room of people and doing the information. So I think that's a challenge. And I think that even it's sort of anybody can be a trainer, right, because we've all we've all been to. K through 12 education, at least, and that's what people think sometimes, so just sort of explaining that there's really more to it than that, that we go through this. All of this needs analysis and really designing things. So we will really get a certain outcome out of what we're doing that we're not just telling people something.

 

REBECCA:

Mm hmm. Yeah, it's somebody who I interviewed recently. One of their bits of advice, I think it was Karen actually make her the way she explained it. She said when she talks to a subject matter expert, she explains to them, the time you spent to become an expert in your field. I spent that time to become an expert in training and learning or teaching and learning. And that model, I'm like, That's brilliant. That sort of gives them a sense that, yeah, you know, you've spent all that time becoming that expert. I have expertize, too, and it's just in this area, which is kind of interesting. I thought that was a neat to a neat way to say it.

 

DARLESA:

That is interesting. Yeah, I mean, I think that it is so much of what we do is a lot of times just trying to educate other people about what our process is and what we do and why we do it maybe differently than they've seen in the past. I mean, I love to use Allen interactions, the CAF model, because I think it's just so simple and people can really understand and that is context challenge activity and feedback. It's like the simplest way to explain to people something that's a little different than the information and said that a very basic level. But then it is also interesting, too, that I think people surprise you, that sometimes somebody from the accounting department that will create some fantastic program that's really engaging and interactive just because they they care enough and they they just have an imagination about it. So it is really cool and sometimes they surprise you. Yeah, definitely. Definitely.

 

REBECCA:

Yeah, some people have that knack, right? Like, there is an art to it. And so some people have that ability without necessarily the backup science. And I think that when you do run into that, which in some cases makes it even more difficult to convince people that not everybody can do it, it's true. What skills do you find most useful in your work?

 

DARLESA:

Well, I think. I always say that, like [RJH4] my best skill and instructional design is just being a beginner, not knowing anything about something or being able to, I think sometimes that's the hardest thing and certainly [RJH5] one of the hardest things for subject matter experts is trying to remember how it was when you didn't know what you know and being able to take a complex subject and kind of go back to the beginning and realize what people need to know. So I always say my my biggest skill is just not knowing anything. That's an interesting way to put it. So I say, teach me and then I'll I'll help you figure out how to teach the other people in that beginner mindset, I think is super important.

 

REBECCA:

What do you wish you knew or learned sooner about instructional design? 

 

DARLESA:

You know what I wish that I knew sooner was that it's always a messy process a bit. I think that it was really frustrating when I first started learning about instructional design, about reading and about learning about different processes in adult education theories is that I really thought that things were going to go a certain way. And when they didn't, I would get really frustrated. That's one thing that's so great about talking to other instructional designers is that you realize that everybody's world is like that. Understanding that every project that you do, you're going to approach a little differently and it's going to have different challenges and it's OK and it's OK. If you get to the middle of what you think, you're in the middle and you end up having to start over again with something different or change tax or whatever, it's OK as long as you come out in the end, in a great place, because that's what it's all about is about that evolution of something that is getting closer and closer to a really good product for the learner.

 

REBECCA:

I like the way you said that messiness. It's all messy. It is actually something that I am challenged with with my students is that they want the process and the like. Well, how do you do this? Exactly. How do you do this is if there's like one way that you do it and I'm like, No, no, no, it's not that clear. It's much more complicated than that than having one solution, right?

 

DARLESA:

One thing that I find really interesting, too, that I didn't realize is that we have as a corporate trainer, and I suppose it's the same to it to a degree in education, when you're working with other subject matter experts, especially, we find so often that when I go in and somebody asks me, we need people to improve their performance. They're not following the process that we have or they're not doing the right thing or they're doing something that's unsafe. This is why we want training is because we want them to improve what they're doing. 

 

So [RJH6] often we find that it's not necessarily that people just aren't trained, that they don't know what to do. It's that the process is broken somewhere. I feel like in the train department, we have a lot bigger impact to the organization than probably we often even realize because we're in there. When we're doing needs analysis, we're bringing problems to the forefront anyway. Not that we necessarily have the ability to fix them, but we're at least exposing problem. You can't tell somebody they need to use use this certain tool if that tool isn't really there, when the employee goes to use it and then just try to fix their performance based on that. So I feel like we're always uncovering problems with process or problems with even employees knowing the expectations. And so there's a lot of things that we help with that communication so often between management and employees and a lot of other ways that we really have an impact.

 

REBECCA:

Yeah, I think you describe that really well because one of the first things we teach us, you do the needs analysis because number of times somebody says, I need training for this and now training is not the problem. You don't have the tools right or you don't have the whatever it is, you know. So what? What advice would you give to a new instructional designer?

 

DARLESA:

I think that probably one big piece of advice that I could give is to always think of the learner. And one thing that I always think about is I think I work for the learner. I mean, I may work for my boss. I may work for the organization. But [RJH7] when it comes right down to it, in order to create really good products, I'm working for the learner and I'm trying to make things as easy for them to understand and as easy for them to learn and to improve themselves as I possibly can. So always starting with that learner, and then there will be times when you are deep into something that you recognize, Oh, I'm not really working for the learner, am I? And you've got to back up and say, Wait a minute, let me remember who my who my learners are, what their person is or what their challenges are, and make sure that I am always working for them first.

 

REBECCA:

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

 

DARLESA:

Well, I would love to think that, first of all, that instructional design will become something that's more and more accepted in organizations as something that's really necessary and needed. There still are organizations out there that really don't think they need trainers, don't need instructional designers. They just need the manager to go out and tell people how to do things. And that's really all that's needed, and the rest is just a waste of money. The difference between somebody doing a presentation and somebody really designing something that's really well thought out and goes through the whole process that we go through. So it's still out there. 

 

But I think it's also interesting that as much as we try to predict what the future of instructional design looks like or training products or learning products look like, I remember maybe five years ago everybody was saying e-learning is dead, it's it's going away. And I kind of thought that especially self-paced e-learning that I had done quite a bit of that. Maybe we wouldn't be doing that anymore, that it all be performance support or virtual reality or something else. And I still have a big call for self-paced e-learning because I work in a 24 hour organization. It's always going to be that there will be people that are just hard to get to. We are just going to continue to have more and more tools that we can use in ways that we can deliver learning and training products to people. So I think it's just super exciting. All the things that are happening, but I can't really predict the future. Sorry.

 

REBECCA:

Thank you very much, Shirley said, this has been an excellent conversation, I've really enjoyed it.

 

DARLESA:

Well, I have to thank you so much, Rebecca.

 

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. If you or someone you know would like to be a guest on demystifying instructional design, please complete the. Be My guest form available on demystifying instructional design dot com. 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 on the show notes blog post. Thank you.


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