As I write this post, I am entering my last month at LaSalle University in which I will be completing my Master’s degree in Instructional Technology. I think I mentioned in my last post that I became unemployed in 2009 and shortly thereafter joined the ASTD Eastern PA Chapter Board. It was through this affiliation that I met Dr. Bobbe Baggio and was introduced to various graduate programs that LaSalle University offered. I became intrigued with the Instructional Technology program because at that time, I knew that technology was quickly influencing the way learning solutions were being designed.
As we all know, it is important to reflect on our experiences in order to appreciate the real learning that took place. One would think that since this was a program focused on learning technologies that my takeaways would consist primarily of those relating to technology; but interestingly enough this is not the case.
Having a decent amount of practitioner experience in the corporate workplace, I can honestly say that I never appreciated the theoretical aspects of learning. I never had the time for it, or quite honestly, the interest. Through this program, I was able to appreciate the role that theory plays in helping to build an effective learning solution and appreciate the influence theory can have especially in today’s world where the fundamentals can be so easily forgotten in light of the many technological options that are available.
Lesson Learned: I realized that understanding the theory and knowing how to apply that theory as well as knowing which tools are the best to use to achieve stated goals and objectives are all necessary if you want to design an effective learning solution.
Secondly, it is mind boggling to realize the many types of technology tools and resources that are available in today’s world. The options are endless. Although I can’t say that I am an expert using these tools, I can say that my awareness of these tools has increased substantially. For example, enrolling in an online program and becoming aware of the many facets involved in working with collaborative learning methods such as discussion boards, blogs, wikis, and podcasts has helped me realize the importance of designing learning opportunities to meet the needs of an audience. Being an introvert, it provided me with some wonderful opportunities to collaborate with my peers that quite frankly would not have occurred if I was participating in face to face learning events. Online learning helped me see that there are many options available to promote learning and that our job as learning professionals is to identify the best tools possible to reach our audience.
Lesson Learned: Be open to the many possibilities available to provide instruction to your audience. Think about whom your audience is and take the time to step out of the box and think about what would work best to achieve your desired learning objectives.
Finally and most surprisingly of all, I learned that we all have our strengths and that we all bring something to the table that can add value to the learning process. Whether it is being an instructional designer, a consultant or a great facilitator, the many pieces affiliated with the learning process must come together like a well-oiled machine in order to produce an effective product. Throughout the past three years, I was fortunate to be able to collaborate and work with some great people who have some amazing experience in instructional design. I learned so much from them on how to produce an effective learning solution especially when achieved in a collaborative environment. The learning profession has become so vast that we need to appreciate the talents we all bring to the table and have the insight to seek out those who may excel in those areas where we may not.
Lesson Learned: Appreciate the strengths of others and work with them in partnership to achieve desired goals and objectives. Your solution will be better for it.
It is probably safe to say at this point in my career that I won’t be venturing into instructional design, but I can say with confidence that understanding the theory and knowing the tools and resources that are available will enable me to be a better consultant to my clients. I believe the experiences I gained as I progressed through the program will benefit me and my business partners more effectively because I am confident I can have the conversations necessary to help them achieve the solutions they need in order for them to maximize performance. More importantly, I am confident that I will be able to reach out to my peers in instructional design and work in partnership with them to design a really great product.
In closing, I salute all of you out there whose expertise lies in doing instructional design and in particular to those of you who have the skills required to use the many technologies available to turn mundane training into spectacular learning opportunities. Without your partnership and your expertise, the rest of us wouldn’t be able to provide our clients with the exceptional products that you create.
Until next time….