Demystifying Instructional Design

S2E2: Lance Eaton Part 2 - Highlighting the importance of self-care

January 27, 2022 Rebecca J. Hogue Season 2 Episode 2
Demystifying Instructional Design
S2E2: Lance Eaton Part 2 - Highlighting the importance of self-care
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, a podcast where I interview various instructional designers to figure out what instructional designers do. I'm Rebecca Hogue, your podcast host. In this episode, I continue from where we left off. In episode one, where I'm interviewing Lance Eaton. What are the biggest challenges you run into as an instructional designer?

LANCE::

There's the how I have the privilege and the luck to be working in something I absolutely love. How do I make sure I don't burn out because it can be awfully hard not to be fully drinking from the firehose because there's always so much. There's so many different opportunities, so many different projects you can take on. This is my experience I've been able to take on like. How do I pace myself at the buffet? As somebody who really likes to eat and I think that is one realistic one, is that there's always so much to do, which is both job security and in certain frames can feel overwhelming or can lead to burnout. I think about COVID and I know a lot of instructional designers who this was so much burnout for a lot of different reasons. One being there was so much to do and they felt so the need to have to try to do all of it. And the advice in those contexts that I often gave was at the end of the day, particularly through the pandemic, we were doing important work, absolutely instructional designers within higher education are one of the unsung heroes within higher education that they did way more than their pay grade gives them credit for. But yes, we were doing more, but in my context, in what I reminded others of, as we were doing important work, but nobody was going to die because I didn't answer an email. And so I had to make sure for my own care to better serve everybody. I needed to shut off at a certain time and I wouldn't allow myself. So creating good boundaries for yourself to recognize, even if you love what you do, it doesn't mean you should be doing it all the time to the detriment of relationships, family health, et cetera. I think it's also a big challenge is balancing that knowing what is the right thing to do, knowing what is the efficient thing to do and knowing what administration is going to expect you to do and balancing those because those can be three different targets or they can have shades of one another. A great example is accessibility. Right? There is what we really should be doing all across higher education. And then there's what we're actually doing. And then there's what administration may ask us to do in different ways and those don't all line up in yet. We all know if we're putting video content out there without transcripts, if we are making these spaces inaccessible and then we're shocked that student, various students with disabilities have lower completion rates or don't show up to classes or spaces because you can't show up to a classroom. If you don't have a ramp and you're using a wheelchair like you just can't It is a big generalization, but nobody seeks out instructional design when they are a kid. But they do find it and gravitate towards it because it resonates with their own experiences learning. They're mostly not there just for a job, but because they're passionate about it. And so when you're passionate about it and yet you run into things that you feel like challenge your professional being, that is a hard thing to to navigate. That creates a lot of internal stress that there's not often really great outlets for besides being in community with other IDs and finding those ways to work around those things.

REBECCA::

Mm-Hmm. That's a really good point, and especially with just how much busier everyone got. Yup. Overnight, All of a sudden everyone got so busy, so quickly.

LANCE::

And it wasn't like we weren't busy when the pandemic started. Like we were already doing more. We were doing more with less, actually. Peter Shea, he's a colleague. He runs a fantastic Instructional Design in Higher Education Facebook group. Anybody listening? I strongly endorse it. It's like 12000 instructional designers in Higher Ed in education. And one of his quotes that I always think about is they're not asking us to do more with less. They're asking us to do more with nothing. And that was basically like the great pivot, as they say, is we were already doing more with less and then we were doing more with nothing. And yes, that is an exhaustive space to be.

REBECCA::

What skills do you find most useful in your work?

LANCE::

People skills. Really. I really think about my job as relational. It stems from my teaching background, but really thinking about I can't go into meeting a faculty, even if I've been told this faculty is going to hate everything you say, no matter what I'm being told about how resistant or whatever negative connotation like can't go in there. Holding on to that, I have to go in recognizing here's another human being and how do I connect with that person? And how do we problem solve together why they're there? Because sometimes they're there because they want to. And those are those can be great, and sometimes they're there because they're told because their job, like they're told you have to do this or your job depends on this. So being prepared to work with people knowing that they may be coming from an adversarial place for reasons beyond my control. And so how do I see this person as a human and how do I work with what their needs are, what their hopes are and find that common ground? So a lot of it is reading the person trying to reassure the person that I'm here to help. I'm not here to be a threat to them and I want them to succeed, even if it means we're taking these small steps or they're not going to do everything. Like here's one of those interesting challenges where I'm working with a faculty member and they have to go online. I want to be smart about what conversations or what things do. I really want to try to push or get through right now that need to be there in what might be a longer game. And so this is where its, accessibility ends up becoming one of those. If I can get them to do this piece with accessibility this time around, because if I try to do all of it at once, they're going to shut down. Or I can tell as I'm getting close to the line with which they are like, this is getting overloaded, like I'm seeing the reading the body language. So I think really that paying attention and really thinking about and hearing, responding, being present with that other person is a really important skill. Being self-directed, you're going to have a lot of different projects and some of them are very clearly time based. And some of them are like, once you figure this out and that may be months before they come back and check in. So thinking about how do you balance, they'll be constantly things at your attention and then they'll be bigger, broader plans to be working on and how do you carve out that time? Collaboration, I mentioned it before, but I'll reiterate, you can attempt to do this all by yourself, and that may be something you enjoy. But I find time and again working with others. Rather, that's other instructional designers or other people in the institution. Finding who you're, who you can collaborate with. It helps the work. It creates a better network of connections throughout the school, other people to call on for, I need some backup, I need another set of eyes, I need some insight and it just makes it a richer experience. Now have library friends at every school I've been at because but it's not just that, but here are people that I end up presenting at conferences with because we do this work together and then we reflect on it and say, Oh, I think other people should find out. These are some interesting things that we're doing together. So it's just it's wonderful positive feedback loops that I think is valuable to step into a space and to continue to nurture that. Beyond that, I think it's not so much having specific tech tools, but having a disposition to look at them and just think about how might that be used in different settings and along with that is lateral thinking, I think particularly lateral thinking as you're encountering faculty from different disciplines and how might X be applied to Y? Oh, here's this instructor doing this really interesting project within history. Is there anything within that might be relevant to science? Is there anything within that might be relevant or that we can draw upon or expand upon in this course or that in this discipline or that discipline? I think, yeah, I think those would be the big ones that come to mind.

REBECCA::

What do you wish you learned sooner?

LANCE::

I think one part is probably why I emphasize it was understanding the different types of instructional designer roles. It's interesting. I wish I knew I understood more. And again, I speak this as somebody whose entire instructional design experience has been within higher ed. I wish I understood the different structures of higher education more. One example, and me and a colleague, Danielle Leek, are writing about this a little bit in an article on digital service learning. Even something like where does the instructional department sit within the org chart? Not something I would ever think of at the beginning. Yet it does have implications for how, not always, but again, there are trend lines to understand, how instructional design has evolved at that institution. If instructional design sits within, say IT. It tells you that it probably evolved out of training. Out of here, we've got this technology. We've got to train folks on how to do it. And if it's within I.T. because there are certain tendencies in it to be more conservative, to be more restrictive, to have controls on things, rightfully so, because it is about information technology security. But that also means there's a possibility for mindsets in that space to be less willing to try new things or to be as flexible. And I've seen this around something like if your school is a Google institution, does your school allow you to create a YouTube channel? And I've been at places where that became a big issue in contention because it did not want YouTube to be turned on because while there was lots of different reasons, none of which really seem to hold water because so many other schools are able to have their YouTube channel on. But really just being aware that the position the role is situated in a particular place in the power structure. And then there's a history that will influence that there versus if it emerged out of, say, the academic side. They emerge out of the academic side and is attached to the Center for Teaching and Learning. That tells you there's a better likelihood that there was a recognized need to help and support faculty around teaching and learning, which means their approaches, their views, their history with the institution or with faculty may be categorically different if it arose out of the library. Very similarly, they came as a support system that's around knowledge, learning and openness. So that might mean you see different approaches understanding those structures and how certain pockets of higher education work. And I can say that at that point, I had already been teaching six years at different institutions. I had several degrees and I still didn't really understand the technical as much of the political dynamics that work across any given institution.

REBECCA::

And quite fascinating because I'm looking at it going, Yeah, I've taught at several different schools. And how were they set up, right? Yeah, it totally gets you thinking about that. Hmm. What advice would you give to new instructional designers?

LANCE::

I would again say think about what is the kind of work with instructional design do you want to do and where does that seem most relevant? I've now been an instructional designer for 10 years. I've worked my way up to director, I've done keynotes, I've published papers. If you asked me to, if I was offered a job in corporate, in the corporate realm for an instructional design position. I don't think I would be qualified, I don't think I would want it because I understand what my work is. Instructional design is by and large, not what I see most of these and from what I hear from folks who are in the corporate world like they are, they're different beast. And that's OK. Like, I'm glad my friends and colleagues work in those spaces, but I know that's not for me. So be thinking about or be willing to explore those different spaces to see which one feels right or to just understand what are the differences in how do they feel with the kind of work that you want to do? I think that's one of probably the most important is navigating that piece of it. The other would be always. And again, this would be more for higher ed, but really anywhere. Always try to be a continual learner. I don't think we can do this job as well if we're not continuing to be exposed to different learning experiences to be exposed to what it means to be in these classrooms, in these structures. For me, it also means teach whenever I can. Yes, I think people can do this well with limited teaching background, but I also think it's a harder sell to faculty. It's a harder sell for somebody who hasn't or has limited experience going in and teaching and working through these things that happen in real life. It's hard for a expert in learning to come in and be like, Oh, I understand your situation, even though I've never been in it, we always, as human beings, we always feel a little bit. Do you, though? And so the fact that I can say, Oh, I've tried this type of thing in my classroom or I tried this and it failed, but here's where I think it probably worked. Oh, I've had students that have those problems, too. It creates a lot of bond. It creates a lot of common ground. It eases a lot of tension because teaching is such an ego driven act, even in the best of circumstances where you're saying I'm going to lead a bunch of people and help them understand something on a deeper level that requires you to really feel like you can do that. That requires a lot of investment in yourself. And so it's really hard to place that both experiential and knowledge field that you have with yourself to have that and then hear somebody else that's never been in those spaces to be like, Oh, you're doing it wrong, which isn't how they would word it, but that's how they're going to hear it. So I would say that as well as try to continue to be a learner, try to continue to think about it, to have experiences in teaching. Mm-Hmm.

REBECCA::

Stay tuned for the final part of my interview with Lance, where he talks about what he looks for when hiring 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.