Demystifying Instructional Design

S2E1: Lance Eaton Part 1 - I am a DJ and ...

January 17, 2022 Rebecca J. Hogue Season 2 Episode 1
Demystifying Instructional Design
S2E1: Lance Eaton Part 1 - I am a DJ and ...
Show Notes Transcript

Lance Eaton is the Director of Digital Pedagogy at College Unbound, a part-time instructor at North Shore Community College and Southern New Hampshire University, and a PhD student at the University of Massachusetts, Boston with a dissertation that focuses on how scholars engage in academic piracy. He has given talks, written about, and presented at conferences on open access, academic piracy, open pedagogy, hybrid flexible learning, and digital service-learning. His musings, reflections, and ramblings can be found on his blog: http://www.ByAnyOtherNerd.com

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REBECCA::

Welcome back to Demystifying Instructional Design podcast, where I interview various instructional designers to figure out what instructional designers do. I'm Rebecca Hogue, your podcast host. This season, I'm going to try something a little different. When I looked at my podcast statistics on Apple Podcast, I noticed that people don't listen beyond the 15 minute mark, which is a shame because the interviews are all very interesting. So this season, I'm going to break up my longer interviews into 15 to 20 minute segments and run them as multi-part series. I begin the season with a three part series where I interview Lance Eaton about instructional design in a higher ED context. And now here's part one. To start with, can you introduce yourself?

LANCE::

Sure. Thank you for having me. I am Lance Easton. I am director of Digital Pedagogy at College Unbound, as well as a part time instructor at North Shore Community College, a southern New Hampshire University, and a doctoral student at UMass Boston.

REBECCA::

Can you tell us a little bit about what I like to call your origin story? How did you get into instructional design?

LANCE::

I was six years old and I looked up into my dad's eyes and I said, I want to be an instructional designer when I grow up. No, whenever I get asked that question, I always joke about that because I almost feel like that will never be the instructional designer origin story. And that makes me think a lot about the work that we do. I again, like many other folks in my experience, I fell into it. In fact, six months before I became an instructional designer, I probably couldn't tell you what an instructional designer was. I was doing the full time adjunct in the late 2000s, so I was teaching. I think I tapped out nine face to face courses and two online courses in a semester. And so over this five or six year period, I ended up teaching over 80 85 sections, and within that about 15 different courses. I was using a lot of technology to keep my sanity, to keep the things moving about and figuring things out. And I started to share some of the things that I was doing. I was using a blog where my students from different courses would come to the blog to respond to different essays and depending on their discipline, they were responding in different ways. People were finding out or sharing about this. People, you know, would invite me to talk about what I was doing. And one of the institution's, North Shore Community College, I was introduced to the instructional designers there, and they took me under their wing and started showing me things. And then they ended up leaving and the position became open and people were encouraging me to apply for it. And at that point, there were two things going on. One, I was really interested because it felt like this interesting mix for me of thinking about the classroom and getting to help and support other faculty around how we we figure these things out. And also the adjunct shuffle is a hustle game, and you can only sustain it for so long. And it's easy to burnout, especially when you're doing between seven and nine courses a semester. I applied, and I, basically at the time, frame it as like I did not have formal ID experience, but I had designed 15 courses over five or six years, many of them from scratch, and I was teaching them using all sorts of interesting pedagogical and technological approaches, and they took me on. And then shortly thereafter, I ended up getting my master's in education and instructional design at UMass Boston.

REBECCA::

How do you describe what you do?

LANCE::

Yeah, it's the elevator pitch that is always an interesting challenge. I describe my role almost always as, I work with faculty to think about teaching and learning, typically through the use of tools and those tools include everything from pen and pad up to virtual reality and my goal is to find the right balance between the pedagogy, the technology and the students. And that involves a lot of different things based on what institution I'm at, what the student population is, what the instructors comfort level is. It often focuses on hybrid and online learning. But I do just as many consultations for face to face environments as well.

REBECCA::

What are the typical tasks in your day?

LANCE::

I'll go into the into my specifics, but somewhere within here, I'll talk a little bit more broadly about the 30000 foot view of instructional design in higher education that I've seen over the years. Because while what is typical for me is it's really going to depend on what kind of instructional design position you have at an institution. I'm usually involved in a mixture of short term, long term and medium term projects. And so it's shifting about in relation to when deadlines are, in relation to when faculty are reaching out to me or other people within the institution, or reaching out to me to move those different projects forward. But a lot of it is working in collaboration with a faculty member. Just prior to this, I was on a call with a brand new faculty member trying to understand our institution and our students needs and how to shape and frame. Of course, that's going to be largely online for them. After this meeting, I will probably jump into figuring out what are the deadlines and the markers that we need to put out and communicate out to our faculty for our courses coming up next semester and then shift to thinking about this larger project of how we're integrating the tools that we have students using to demonstrate their learning with the tools we want to use in professional development for our faculty as they're learning the different technologies in the class so that there's a mirroring going on, that they're learning these things and they're learning them in a timely fashion to be useful for when they're deploying them or our students are expected to be using them in the classroom. So it is a mixture of thinking about one to one, working with faculty, thinking about systems and kind of planning for different trajectories from what's this week to what's in six months to what's the larger picture of the institution on how we want to think about our LMS or what LMS we move into next, because that's a question we're thinking about right now. I enjoy it because you can be in the weeds and you can also be 30000 feet in the air.

REBECCA::

You mentioned you have this 30000 foot view of being an instructional designer in higher ED. Can you share a little bit about what that is?

LANCE::

Yes. So in my experience, what I'm seeing and I don't think often comes up enough is there is almost three types of instructional designers in higher ED. You don't always know this based upon the descriptions. You don't always know this based on the institutes. But one is the course designer, and this is the "Here's the content. Put it into the course." It's sometimes almost referred to as an assembly model. This is your role. This is your lane. Take the content, maybe give some feedback on it or tweak it as needs to be for either this cookie-cutter course or, this kind of, the instructor has given you all that you need to just implement it into that space. And so within that person may be putting it in there. They may be creating the various learning interactives, setting up all the assessment structures within the LMS, all of those things. Another version is the project manager who is working with a team, and they are the lead person of working with the faculty member to translate what the faculty member wants to the different people on the team. So maybe if they're looking for videos and interactives, they're hooking up with the multimedia designer or the multimedia creator to plan those out, record those with the faculty member. They're working with the accessibility person to make sure that all of that's working. They're working with the instructional technologist who just put the things in the course. And then there's the instructional designer who is more coach. And in those situations, you're not necessarily doing as much building. You're not necessarily needing to lean on or have mastery of a lot of technology, but more working with the faculty member to translate what they want to do and guide them in how they will do it and how they will put it in their classroom. And those are three broad buckets, I should be clear, like it is not always going to be perfect any one of those, but generally what I've seen of jobs, in positions, in the way they work, they typically fall pretty close to those three. And so my experience has largely been as the instructional designer, as coach, the instructional designer working with the faculty member. So yeah, there's tools that I know and I'm comfortable with for video content, I stick mostly to screencast-o-matic because it has everything I need. If I've got to learn Camtasia, I need a week two, three, maybe a month and to really get comfortable with that. But I've never really needed to use it because a lot of the stuff that we're building, like we're not making the Spielberg version of educational videos. We're making things that are can be made in a contained way and put out there pretty quickly.

REBECCA::

Efficiency is important.

LANCE::

Yes. In tools that I can use and also pass off to faculty to use in a way that they feel comfortable. that's a car, Camtasia is a tank. If you have faculty that are creating the content, they need, cars, tanks are going to overwhelm them. I'm. Pretty well versed in that tool, because I use it a lot for myself, and if I'm working with a faculty member who's going to make their own videos, what's the thing they're going to use and be able to very quickly pick up?

REBECCA::

What kind of projects do you find fun?

LANCE::

Collaborations! I absolutely love. I have this habit, and it's a little strange because of where I am now. It's a little harder, but whenever I arrive on a campus, the first people I seek out are librarians. First of all, because they're amazing people, they are wonderful people, they know all sorts of things or know how to find out all sorts of things. And they also help me abuse the library system and get all the books and audio books and great content. But there's this great Venn diagram between the work that they're doing and the work that we're doing. I find getting onto a campus, making friends with the library if the instructional design team is in a different space from the Center for Teaching and Learning or whatever your campus equivalent is, making friends with them and starting to think about collaborations there. And then with accessibility services, we're all trying to solve many of the same puzzles, and so I look quickly to connect with them and find ways we can mutually support and figure out programs together at different campuses. It's been getting to know accessibility services and starting to run, you know, workshop series with them so that we can have this rich conversation from both student and instructor perspective about how we are making sure our classes are inclusive. I think for me, in big picture topically, what kind of projects excite me are usually those that are that are focused on inclusion in many different ways, like how do we welcome students in, make the space more their own, and think about what demonstrating learning can look like in ways that are value added or asset based, as opposed to deficit based. In terms of how we think about the students in terms of how we think about their abilities, their backgrounds, ways, anything with open attached, open educational resources, open pedagogy, these things I present on, I work on, I do in my own classes because I think there's so much value in really freeing up, in creating a learning space as a space of negotiating or renegotiating traditional power structures. So anytime I'm able to work with faculty to be thinking about that, to be thinking about challenging our conceptions of learning materials, we have this default to textbooks or textbooks. But it's this antiquated thing because the only reason we ever went to textbooks in the first place is because it was easy to mass produce place to hold knowledge in the nineteen hundreds in the early 1800s. But we're in the 21st century, and so making a student read a tedious, boring 20 page chapter on a process that could take two minutes of really good video or just working through that process visually or orally, it doesn't make sense to me why we're not looking for those other wins, those other materials or creating those other materials that feel, that just feel more natural and organic than a book. And I see this as somebody who is a hard core reader and reads a couple hundred books a year. So it's not anti-book, but I'm anti- That isn't the mechanism that works well for learning many times. So it's those types of projects that challenge conventional education. That raise student agency, allows them to better contextualize or take what's going on in the course and bring it into their own world or bring their own world into the classroom.

REBECCA::

You mentioned this idea of asset based versus deficit based assessment. Can you talk a little bit more about what that means?

LANCE::

Yeah, we are very strongly a history of education that goes into the Freire model, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. That's the book Paulo Freire, but it's very much on the banking model, and the banking model is I am the wise person. The students are empty minded for lack of a better word, and I'm going to fill their brains like a bank account, like I'm going to deposit knowledge in their brains and they're going to store that up, and that's how they learn. And that frames so much of our education system, and it frames so much of our higher education system, like we have grades and we have grade point averages. We have all of these things that quantify, what does an A or B really mean. And of course, what does that really mean? But we somehow think it represents the amount of knowledge learned in a particular way. So all of that is based upon the assumption that the students come into the class empty minded. And that is a good example of deficit lens thinking about students. Not that they come into the course with rich knowledge and experience that can contribute to my learning and everybody else in the classes' learning. But they are. They are coming in with "less than" and therefore need to be filled up. And particularly when you're looking at education through a deficit lens, you are the one that has to fill them up. A really good story. Anecdote that happened a couple of weeks ago, I was buying a piece of furniture. I was engaging with this person who just through the conversation. We found out, like he also, he is also a teacher. He teaches history and as he discusses, I could never do online learning, like I need to be up there and I need to be sharing my knowledge. And it was very clear there was no trust. There is no view that the students added anything. It was all about how he could fix them. And I think to me, that's a deficit view, and for me, an asset based view is thinking about, we are going to be a community of learners. There are things I am more knowledgeable in. But the room is always going to be smarter than the individual, and so how are the ways that we can type the different knowledge is in that classroom that can enhance our collective knowledge even around a subject that I'm specialized in and that they are there to learn because even though I'm specialized in it, I'm specialized in it through my own experience, which is narrow compared to whatever topic is that we're learning, I can say, Oh, this is the pedagogy that works perfectly, or I can say this is the tool. And but it's always based upon research that is very particularly focused and narrowed. They all live in the real world. They all have to navigate a complex world like I do. They're going to bring in their own wisdom that can benefit all of us. So to me, that's how I think about this asset and deficit base is, am I coming into a space or am I... As an instructional designer when working with faculty? How do we encourage a space where they are, the students are valued and have the opportunity to feel like they are contributors to the course, to feel like they are able to be themselves and not feel less than because there's. Because of K through 12 learning, because of all these things, they're already coming in with a lot of luggage from these negative experiences and we don't in higher education, don't often try to remedy that or try to look at. OK, so you don't feel comfortable with math, but what are the ways that we can make math work for you or that are grounded in your life or that you're already doing? And I try to also think about that when working with faculty. When I talk about working with faculty, the image I always try to think about is how do I sit next to them as opposed to across from them? These are literally or metaphorically. And the driving metaphor that I've been using now for a couple of years is as an instructional designer and more of that faculty coach role, like I am a DJ and the faculty are this amazing record collection. And my goal is to highlight the different types of tracks in songs and mix and match them and share them back with all the musicians to show what is the power of when we interact and connect these different ways that people are thinking and teaching in their classroom. So it's highlighting and focusing on what are really great practices you're already doing in me serving as a mediator to help that happen.

REBECCA::

Stay tuned for part two of my interview with Lance, where he talks about the challenges instructional designers face, as well as providing advice for new instructional designers. 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 might 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 in the show notes blog post.